Very few people understand how the MPAA works. And by that, I mean, there’s very little consistency in the ratings board’s actions. So when they hand down an R rating for a movie, they might explain why the film is getting the restrictive rating, but it doesn’t make much sense. Like here, where Kevin Smith explains that his latest comedy Yoga Hosers has received an R from the MPAA because of a drawing of testicles on the cover of a book.

The #MPAA gave my kids movie @YogaHosers an R rating for a cartoony drawing of testicles on a book cover. So now, for the 4th time in my 22 year career, we will hold an appeals screening with the Motion Picture Association of America's ratings board and try to get the R overturned for a less severe (and far more appropriate) PG-13. I also ran afoul of the MPAA the first time I made a movie set in a convenience store, when they initially slapped Clerks with an NC-17 rating for language. Back then, Harvey Weinstein hired mega-lawyer Alan Dershowitz and turned our rating appeal into a Free Speech case. But on the day of the actual appeals screening, it was just me and the Miramax lawyer getting up in front of the appeals folks to argue for a less restrictive rating without having to change or trim any shots. We won that day and Clerks received the R rating without a single cut. The next two occasions I fought an MPAA rating was on Jersey Girl (won a PG-13 instead of the R they gave us) and Zack and Miri Make a Porno (which went from an NC-17 to an R, without cuts). I don't mind doing this dance with the MPAA a fourth time (hey - at least they even OFFER an appeals screening) but this #YogaHosers R rating is riDONKulous. The core audience for the flick is tween girls (it's Clueless meets Gremlins!), so I refrained from salty language to make a totally kid-friendly movie. And while it's a "horror" movie, there's no blood on display: when our Bratzi bad guys get killed, concentrated sauerkraut explodes everywhere - not guts or entrails. Honestly, this movie is TAME (or "lame" according to some reviews). Even so, next week I'll screen the flick for the MPAA appeals audience and, lawyer-like, plead my case for why the film is really PG-13 - all so that I can keep the graffiti drawing of nuts on a fictional library book in my goofy girl-power monster movie. Weird life. Mind you, this is NOT a First Amendment issue at all; instead, it's the very definition of a First World Problem. But before I can tour the movie in June & July and release it in theaters this August, I'm gonna have to win #TheBattleForTheBalls! #KevinSmith #harleyquinnsmith #lilyrosedepp #johnnydepp

A photo posted by Kevin Smith (@thatkevinsmith) on


As Kevin Smith explains in this post, this is his fourth "dance" with the MPAA, dating all the way back to his first release, Clerks. And he won every time, on Clerks, Jersey Girls and Zack and Miri. More important, Smith claims that he was able to achieve the ratings that he preferred for his films without having to make a cut. The way that he phrases it, he sounds pretty confident that he’ll prevail in his battle with the MPAA on this one. And for a very good reason. As Smith puts it:
The core audience for the flick is tween girls (it's Clueless meets Gremlins!), so I refrained from salty language to make a totally kid-friendly movie. And while it's a "horror" movie, there's no blood on display: when our Bratzi bad guys get killed, concentrated sauerkraut explodes everywhere - not guts or entrails. Honestly, this movie is TAME (or "lame" according to some reviews).

But the battle needs to be waged. The common understanding about the MPAA is that they have certain guidelines set in stone that will affect a film’s rating. You can’t say "Fuck" more than once, for example. And nudity, in general, is a great way to turn your PG-13 movie into an R. The double standard that many complain about is the level of violence and bloodshed that the MPAA allows to stay in PG-13 movies. They tend to be overly concerned with the color of blood in a particular splatter, or the site of cartoonish testicles in a drawing. But if your hero wants to shoot 100 bad guys in the name of justice, well, kids over the age of 13 can see that without a parent being present.

Kevin Smith isn’t bringing this up to whine. He defines it as a First World Problem, and he fully intends to appeal the MPAA’s decision so that Yoga Hosers can reach his intended, teenage audience. Smith’s Yoga Hosers sounds like the Canadian Clerks, with his own daughter and Johnny Depp’s daughter playing convenience store workers who get caught up in some mysterious happenings. It’s a weird sort of spinoff (though not really) to Smith’s Tusk, and it’s part of a Canadian trilogy that Smith wants to do. He’s so wrapped up in his podcast nation, though, so filmmaking takes time. But will he get the rating that he wants from the MPAA? We’ll find out how the appeal goes.

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