What Movie Rating Does Real Life Get? (G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17)

If your life was a movie, what would it be rated?

I recently watched a documentary questioning the secrecy and allusiveness of the MPAA movie rating system, called “This Film is Not Yet Rated”. While I’m not opposed to the American movie rating system because I see it as a decent way for parents to decide which movies are more suitable for their children, I also admit there is some humor in the way that movies are arbitrarily given ratings.

In general, more than one f-word grants an “R” rating. “Artistic or comic nudity” can land with “PG-13” or even “PG”, but if the nudity involves romantic or sexual content, then the movie will be an “R”. A panel of judges make a living off of making that call.

By now it’s pretty obvious that most studios want the majority of their films to be rated “PG-13” because more people will be able to see it. “PG” is for young kids and “R” weeds out the kids who are not smart enough to pay for one movie but walk into another.

The thing that most stood out to me from watching the documentary was this:

Compared to Europe, America has it backwards when it comes to sexuality and violence in movies. In Europe, sex scenes are portrayed in a more matter-of-fact/this-just-part-of-life manner. An absence of chiseled abs, large breasts, and steamy music. Not glamorized.

But when it comes to violence, Europe leaves a lot more to the imagination. They’re more offended by violence and less worried about sexual content.

In America, our movies are infiltrated by sex any time there’s a slight opportunity for it. But it’s so fake. Women have the sex drives of men. The atmosphere is perfect. The lighting is just right. And of course both participants have perfect bodies that could be (and often have been) featured partially nude on a health magazine cover. For me it’s just not believable.

Yet despite our obsession, compared to Europe, we’re much more offended by sex in movies. Culturally, America is a Christian nation. So we’re much more likely to be bothered or affected by heavy sexual content in a movie.

So we shy away from sex in movies, but indulge in violence. And not just grotesque stuff like the Saw movies.

We love war movies. We just do. Because there’s nothing more American than seeing the good guys kill the bad guys.

Like any James Bond movie for example. Loaded with countless murders by gunshots. Yet a lack of blood. Therefore, James Bond movies aren’t rated “R”, but “PG-13” instead.

The theory is that violent movies have this undertone that speak to teenage boys and young men: “Just imagine, if you fought in the U.S. military, you could be the one with the gun. Protecting our country. Killing and defeating the enemy.”

The regular presence of violence in American entertainment desensitizes us to it. The more we see it, the more we’re used to it. And it’s not really a moral issue to us.



While we may not be willing to be part of the firing squad that executes an American criminal convicted of murder and rape, our conscious doesn’t bother us as much about killing the enemy in a war who happened to be born in the wrong country with a dictator who is forcing him to fight against us. Yet he may have never killed or raped anyone. Until now, he could be just a another normal family man. But if he doesn’t fight for his corrupt political leader, his life will end anyway.

Both the sex and the violence are fake. We know this. But our conscience doesn’t really bother us about watching Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers (which neither really contain any sexual content).

I’ve noticed that Baptist preachers can mention Saving Private Ryan during a sermon to drive home a point and no one in the congregation thinks twice. We’ll overlook the vulgar language and bloody deaths in the name of war. Yes, it’s violent. But it’s war.

The point: Even Baptist preachers don’t mind violence, as long as it’s associated with war. I know this because I’ve been in the congregation enough to hear it. But if a movie was rated “R” for any other reason than war violence, it would be taboo for the preacher to admit he even saw the movie.

I get it. It makes sense.

America excuses violence. But has a tough time with the other stuff.

Now that I’ve established that America is okay with violence, I will quote Michael Tucker. He is the producer of the 2004 war documentary film, Gunner Palace, which shows the everyday lives of soldiers fighting in Iraq. This film is unique in that it received a “PG-13” rating, despite it’s 42 uses of the f-word and brutal violence and imagery. Tucker had to appeal the MPAA because of course they originally rated his film “R”:

“When a little girl was running down the road in South Vietnam, burnt by Napalm and she’s naked, is that PG? Is it PG-13? Is it R? You can’t rate reality.”

Great quote. I’ve seen the exact photograph he’s referring to. It’s awful. And I’ve seen even more hellish pictures from The Rape of Nanking during World War II, when Japan occupied China, raping all females and killing all men they could find in that city.

That can’t be rated. It’s so worse than “R”. Worse than NC-17. Yet those photographs can easily be found in Wikipedia or in any History section in a Borders or Barnes and Noble. It’s not fiction. It’s not art. It’s reality.

Michael Tucker is right: You can’t rate reality.


In the back of my mind I’ve always wondered what my life would be rated if it were a movie. The question is, how would my life not be rated “R”? Just considering an average workday. Even on a tame day, I know the language I hear around me would be rated “R”. As it definitely was in high school.

I guess I’ve always thought it’s ironic to hear a handful of f-words in a movie and know the movie is rated “R” because of the language itself. Hearing that language has become normal to me. Which of course defeats the whole idea of certain words being vulgar. When they’re common, they can’t truly be as vulgar as we let ourselves believe.

One of my biggest reasons not to use profanity is for that very reason. It just seems cliche to me. I can’t bring myself to do it.

Yet watching a movie than contains a few f-words is at least a little bit offensive and shocking. Why? Because it’s not in real life? Isn’t there a double standard somewhere in there?

Why, in real life, is it not a big deal to us?

Because it’s not real. Watching it happen to someone else in a movie makes it worse. It’s magnified. We pay closer attention. We’ll except it in real life, though.

It’s a funny thought.  To give a movie rating to real life.  Especially your own.

Related post by the same author:

Mixed Reviews  http://wp.me/pxqBU-2y

The Ball  http://wp.me/pxqBU-fv

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on this, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

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Jenny Slate Will Not Be Fired from SNL for F-Word Accident

That may not be official yet. It’s just my educated prediction.

I am a black-and-white kind of person. Either it is or it isn’t. That’s why the idea of censorship on national TV intrigues me. Because the rules of the game aren’t always in black-and-white. After all, there are actually no official guidelines regarding which words can and can not be used on TV- instead each network sets its own limits in an effort not to lose sponsors.

In a faux pas that wins the prize for irony, last night on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live there was a skit about “biker chicks” that made fun of them for having potty mouths, as the actors used the word “frickin'” as a form of self-censorship. New girl and Jewish comedian Jenny Slate, very early on in the skit, slipped the real word by mistake, puffing up her cheeks immediately after, as a sign of recognition of her accidental crime.

Instantly I was shocked by what I had just heard. Not offended, since the movies I choose to watch are loaded with “f-bombs”. Just very surprised, like a 2nd grader hearing the bully say a Bad Word, gasping that the Rule was just broken, wondering if anyone will “tell on” him to the teacher.

Knowing pretty well she said what I thought she said, this was confirmed right before the credits rolled at the end of the episode as fellow actor Seth Myers hugged her in a fashion that expressed, “Hey don’t worry about it- it was an accident. You’ll be fine.”

My favorite song my 8th grade year was “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” by REM. While a line of the chorus is “I never understood the frequency”, sang several times throughout the song, at the very end of the song for the final chorus the line changes to “I never understood, don’t f— with me.” I think I was the only person that caught it when in 1994 REM performed the song on Saturday Night Live. It went uncensored. The funny thing is, Comedy Central continues to air it as a rerun, still not editing it out.

Right now every article that has popped up on the Internet about this recent incident is going on to tell that in 1981 SNL actor Johnny Rocket was the first person to say the F-Word (unapologetically the moment he did it) on national television and that he was fired for it. And now the question is if  Jewish comedienne Jenny Slate will have the same fate. I have an answer.

No.

Last season SNL did a hilarious skit called “Sofa King”. That pushed the envelope for F-Word censorship more than anything they’ve done in the past. The skit was a fake commercial for a furniture store called Sofa King, in which the characters used the name of their store to describe how great everything is there. It took most people, including the audience, a minute or two to realize why the skit was even funny.

And once it clicked, it was genius. The actors were saying “sofa king” as a huge logo with the phrase popped up on the screen, but it phonetically sounds exactly like something else. It was a clever way to get around the censors while still saying the F-word multiple times. They totally got away with it. And what they did was completely intentional. And it wasn’t an issue with the censors. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NqXSbh5Ns

So to fire the new girl for an obvious accident during late night hours would simply gain too much negative publicity for NBC. Being that they are the #4 network, if anything this will improve ratings for SNL and the network itself. More people will be tuning in to find out who this Jenny Slate girl is, hoping she will slip up again.

Obviously, as hundreds of people right now are Googling and YouTubing the incident, they are clearly not offended by what happened. If they were, like so many were with the Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson Super Bowl Fiasco, then it would be a different story.

While most people don’t approve of the word or use it on a regular basis, everyone slips at certain times. I know I have. Even if no one was around to hear it. Or even if I wasn’t on a live show on national TV.

This will turn out to be a fortunate accident for her. An instant transformation from New Girl to Jenny Slate, a name we now all know and recognize.

The Slip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJOvVdl0DXU

The Hug http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoSmGfJCEAo

sofaking