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 What Ratings Mean:  


A G-rated motion picture contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture. The G rating is not a “certificate of approval,” nor does it signify a “children's” motion picture. Some snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation but they are common everyday expressions. No stronger words are present in G-rated motion pictures. Depictions of violence are minimal. No nudity, sex scenes or drug use are present in the motion picture.

A PG-rated motion picture should be investigated by parents before they let their younger children attend. The PG rating indicates, in the view of the Rating Board, that parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, and parents should make that decision.

The more mature themes in some PG-rated motion pictures may call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity. But these elements are not deemed so intense as to require that parents be strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance. There is no drug use content in a PG-rated motion picture.

A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning by the Rating Board to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suited for them. A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category. The theme of the motion picture by itself will not result in a rating greater than PG-13, although depictions of activities related to a mature theme may result in a restricted rating for the motion picture. Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity in a PG-13 rated motion picture generally will not be sexually oriented. There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence. A motion picture's single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context. The Rating Board nevertheless may rate such a motion picture PG-13 if, based on a special vote by a two-thirds majority, the Raters feel that most American parents would believe that a PG-13 rating is appropriate because of the context or manner in which the words are used or because the use of those words in the motion picture is inconspicuous.

An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.

An NC-17 rated motion picture is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under. No children will be admitted. NC-17 does not mean “obscene” or “pornographic” in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense. The rating simply signals that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience. An NC-17 rating can be based on violence, sex, aberrational behavior, drug abuse or any other element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children.

No one under the age of 17 will be admitted to films receiving an NC-17 Rating.


Who Rates the Movies and How Does it Work?


Parents Rate the Movies:

The ratings are decided by a full-time Rating Board located in Los Angeles. There are 10-13 members of the Board who serve for periods of varying length. They work for the Classification and Rating Administration, which is funded by fees charged to producers/distributors for the rating of their films. The MPAA Chairman chooses the Chairman of the Rating Board, thereby insulating the Board from industry or other group pressure. No one in the movie industry has the authority or power to push the Board in any direction or otherwise influence it. One of the highest accolades to be conferred on the rating system is that from its birth in 1968 to this day, there has never been even the slightest jot of evidence that the rating system has deliberately fudged a decision or bowed to pressure. The Rating Board has always conducted itself at the highest level of integrity. That is a large, honorable, and valuable asset. There are no special qualifications for Board membership, except that the members must have a shared parenthood experience, must be possessed of an intelligent maturity, and most of all, have the capacity to put themselves in the role of most American parents so they can view a film and apply a rating that most parents would find suitable and helpful in aiding their decisions about their children and what movies they see.

No one is forced to submit a film to the Board for rating, but the vast majority of producers/distributors opt to do so. Any producer/distributor who wants no part of any rating system is free to go to the market without any rating, or with any description or symbol they choose, as long as it is not confusingly similar to the G, PG, PG-13, R, and, NC-17. The rating symbols are federally registered certification marks of the MPAA and may not be self-applied.

The Board Votes on Ratings:

The Board views each film. Each member estimates what most parents would consider to be that film and appropriate rating. After group discussion, the Board votes on the rating. Each member completes a rating form spelling out his or her reason for the rating. The rating is then decided by majority vote.

Ratings Appraisal:

There are many factors considered by the ratings board when assigning ratings to a movie including sex, violence, nudity, language, adult topics and drug use. The ratings board watches the film and as a parent would and determines in the end which rating the movie should have in accordance with the depiction of these elements in the content of the movie.

If a film is assigned a rating that a producer/director does not want, he or she may edit and re-submit the film for another rating.

The Public Reaction:

We consider it crucial to make regular soundings to find out how the public perceives the rating program, and to measure the approval and disapproval of what we are doing.
Nationwide scientific polls, conducted each year by the Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton, New Jersey, have consistently given the rating program high marks by parents throughout the land. The latest poll results show that 78% of parents with children under 13 found the ratings to be "very useful" to "fairly useful" in helping them make decisions about what movies their children see. The ratings board will continue to strive to rate movies in a way that they as parents would approve of when making choices about films suitable for their families.

Appeal of Ratings:

A producer/distributor who for any reason is displeased with a rating can appeal the decision to the Rating Appeals Board, which sits as the final arbiter of ratings. The Appeals Board comprises 14 to 18 members who serve terms of varying length. They are men and women from the industry organizations that govern the rating system.

The Appeals Board gathers to view the film and hear the appeal. After the screening, the producer/distributor whose film is being appealed explains why he or she believes the rating was wrongly decided. The chairman of the Rating Board states the reason for the film and rating. The producer/distributor has an opportunity for rebuttal.

After Appeals Board members question the two opposing representatives, they are excused from the room. The Board discusses the appeal and then takes a secret ballot. It requires a two-thirds vote of those present to overturn a Rating Board decision. By this method of appeal, decisions of the Rating Board can be examined and any rating deemed a mistake set right. The decision of the Appeals Board is final and cannot be appealed.

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