f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Ratings

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


In yesterday’s post and the comments, the notion of a ratings system has been bandied about. I’d like to dwell on the idea a little longer, not because I support the notion, but because I think it gets to the heart of what we’re trying to figure out in this industry. And also because I haven’t any other ideas for things to write today.

I visited the MPAA site for a little research on movie ratings. Without getting too deep into the history of the thing I found these snippets from their website interesting:
By summer of 1966, the national scene was marked by insurrection on the campus, riots in the streets, rise in women's liberation, protest of the young, doubts about the institution of marriage, abandonment of old guiding slogans, and the crumbling of social traditions. It would have been foolish to believe that movies, that most creative of art forms, could have remained unaffected by the change and torment in our society.

The result of all this was the emergence of a "new kind" of American movie - frank and open, and made by filmmakers subject to very few self-imposed restraints.

In 1968 after the old “Production Code” self-regulation proved fruitless, the MPAA launched their first ratings structure—at that time G, M, R, and X. Its self-proclaimed purpose:
The basic mission of the rating system is a simple one: to offer to parents some advance information about movies so that parents can decide what movies they want their children to see or not to see. The entire rostrum of the rating program rests on the assumption of responsibility by parents. If parents don't care, or if they are languid in guiding their children's moviegoing, the rating system becomes useless. Indeed, if you are 18 or over, or if you have no children, the rating system has no meaning for you. Ratings are meant for parents, no one else.

“Won’t somebody please think about the children!?” shouts Helen Lovejoy in The Simpsons.

Ratings in music (Parental Advisory, Explicit Lyrics) and video games (ESRB has seven of them including breaks at 3, 6, 10, 13, and 17 years!) soon followed.
Where I think we find ourselves today (to look back at the MPAA history) is that, while not an abandonment, there is a questioning of old guiding slogans. And there are writers out there looking at producing a “new kind” of Christian fiction—frank and open. (This isn’t actually new at all. But pursuing it within the CBA industry is.)

Whether we want to admit it or not, in years past, simply being published by a CBA publisher was its own form for rating. Dr. Jonathan Cordero has written a academic paper on the industry’s self-refereeing tendencies in the past. (Thanks, Mick Silva, for the link.) What is up in the air is how well those self-policing tendencies will work. And whether greater external controls are going to be sought by consumers looking to return to the days when “such-and-such a brand meant ‘safe for my kids.’”