Friday, February 04, 2011

The Hobgoblin of Small Minds

Judgment and discretion are essential elements in any activity. Arbitrary limits and “zero tolerance” policies don’t accomplish anything except to give their perpetrators the appearance of toughness. Rarely is any good accomplished. rather, these policies are more often counterproductive.

Case in point: The King’s Speech and its R Rating by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some language.”

The language in question is the word “fuck,” as it almost always is. Part of the king’s therapy is to break down the reservations that cause his stammer, leading to an outburst of several “fucks” in a row, in two separate scenes. The effect is pitch perfect: the first instance shows Lionel Logue’s methods; the second shows the king’s gradual acceptance of them. That’s as racy or violent as the movie gets.

This is from the MPAA’s web site:

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.

Jesus Fucking Christ. Not only should children under the age of 13 not be discouraged from seeing the film, they should bring it into speech therapy classes for kids who stammer. It’s A Beautiful Mind for stammerers. Here, kids. Don’t be intimidated by your speech impediment. Even a king can stammer, and look how he overcame it. It’s not part of you; you can get past it.

The ever-vigilant MPAA doesn’t see it that way. In their zeal to protect these delicate psyches from the undue influence of dirty words, they have ensured that the kids who most need to see it will be barred. Enlightened parents will take these fucking outbursts in context, weigh their value, and take the kid, anyway. The children of less open-minded parents will not get the opportunity to hear such smut. They may be chided over their impediment as a way to toughen them up, which works approximately never.

Thanks to the MPAA, guardians of all that is decent and good, in their zeal to protect impressionable minds from “piss, shit, cunt, fuck, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.” Violence, cruelty, and dark content pass PG-13 muster (Spartacus, The Dark Knight, X-Men, Quantum of Solace, for examples), as well as the considerations involved in assisted suicide (Million Dollar Baby). They have no problem with unescorted minors in any of those movies.

Don’t cross the fuck threshold, though.

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