10 May 2011

The Social Network vs. The King's Speech

I'm starting to look at summer projects to keep me busy. The last ten years of my life (at least) I've either traveled or been involved with theater during the summer and this year I won't be involved in either. (Don't worry. Next year I intend to make up for lost time by finding a way to split my body in half and spend half my time on stage and half my time exploring Europe.) So I've been looking into things to do that are not just for work. I need something for me. I need something fun. Something snarky.

Lo and behold: the friend's ex-boyfriend of dogmatacism. Said individual enjoys finding ways to spread his firm faith all over the interwebs in one way or another, typically in a way that is not to promote conversation but to promote supreme righteousness. (It's all said with a smiley-face, though, so it's ok.) (Sarcasm sign.) And the idea comes: I should DO something about this.

After talking with another friend of mine, the plan was formed and a super cool project is in the works to examine the EFFECT of media instead of just focusing strictly on the content of media alone. It's a topic I feel strongly about, one I know more than a little bit about, and one that I'm more than a little excited to talk about.

One such facet of this project will involve movie reviews.

See, here's the thing. It should be no secret to anyone by this point that I don't necessarily worship the ground the MPAA walks on. I don't think they're evil or unnecessary or in any way detrimental to society. But they're not a moral organization. Not that the people involved aren't moral, but that isn't their purpose. The MPAA is like the standardized test center of the film industry. They have to be objective. They have to have a checklist of qualifications to back up their ratings because they serve a population with a huge range of moral standards. So they can't look at something morally. They have to look at it based on content alone - not the effect of the content or the purpose of the content.

But this doesn't mean that we as a people shouldn't judge the effect of media. Not just movies - books and music and television and theater should all be judged not just for their entertainment value, but for the moral values they promote or encourage, whether because the media itself involves the actions of moral people, or because the media involves immoral actions that in turn promote discussion and debate from those that view/read/listen with that intent.

Now sure, there are plenty of people out there who watch/read/listen just to be entertained, but I'm not one of those people. And I'm certain that there are other people out there like me. So I think it's time the moral implications of media were addressed more openly - particularly in this corner of the world.

Take, for instance, The Social Network vs. The King's Speech. Both movies were hugely popular in the 2010 awards season and deservedly so. They were well filmed and written. The Social Network was relevant and punchy - filled with great acting and a quick, ruthless plot. The King's Speech was more typical of the Oscar winning set - a classic (British) story with big name actors and somewhat controversial content. Social Network was PG-13, King's Speech was R (though they've released a PG-13 version now.)

Many members of the LDS community would refuse to see King's Speech simply because of the rating. They would hear good things about the film, but the language (and the rating) of the film would scare them away. Those same people would probably have no qualms about seeing The Social Network. With it's wonderfully safe (and ambiguous) PG-13 rating, it would be a much more kosher film to see.

But look for a moment at some reasons why the films were given the ratings they were:

As far as I can tell (via. IMBD), the MPAA ranks films based on five different categories. Films are given scores out of ten for each category to help determine the rating. Total ratings of films are not necessarily based on the total "score", however, as there are certain areas of content that will push a film over the edge regardless. Keep in mind that PG-13 and R movies can have all the same things, they just can't have too much in any one category. (So a PG-13 can have more total content in each category combined than an R movie, but not so much in any individual category to push it over the edge.) You can read more about why movies get ratings they do here, though if you look for specific movies, the MPAA will refer you to the parents guide on IMDB.

The following information, then, is taken from imdb.com:

The Social Network
Sex and Nudity (6/10)
There are scenes involving strip poker, women in their underwear, implied sex and brief implications of nudity, there's a scene with oral sex, several scenes involving sexual innuendo and a scene where two women make out.

Violence and Gore (3/10)
One character seeks revenge on another by starting a fire, police draw guns on a large party, riotous party scenes where objects are smashed and thrown, one character destroys the laptop of another character, and a character is seen vomiting.

Profanity (6/10)
Two uses of the "F" word, and many uses of other forms of profanity used throughout the film.

Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking (6/10)
A character sniffs cocaine off of another character's torso, nearly half the movie involves characters drinking, several characters smoke and many characters get arrested for excessive (illegal, if I remember right) drug use.

Fighting/Intense Scenes (3/10)
Two characters fight near the end of the film.

Total Score: 24/50

The King's Speech (R version)

Sex and Nudity (3/10)
Two characters have an affair, but nothing is shown (only discussed). A married couple hugs and kisses (all brief and chaste), but nothing happens.

Violence & Gore (3/10)
A character works to control his temper but struggles, there is a theme of war but nothing is shown, a man mentions abuse from a former nanny.

Profanity (6/10)
Several (approximately 17) uses of the "F" word used all at once (in the context of therapy, and primarily in one scene), several uses of the "S" word (mainly in the same scene), 1 use of the word "b-----d" and 3 of the word "d--n". (Note: in the PG-13 version of the film, the only language that is changed is the "F" word, which is only used once. I have not seen this version of the film, so I don't know which scene it is in.)

Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking (No score)
Some smoking shown, but is openly frowned upon (and discussed) for causing cancer. Alcohol is consumed in some scenes but not to excess.

Frightening/Intense Scenes (No score)
The opening scene of the movie involves the main character giving a public address which highlights his speech impediment and is very embarrassing. The same character addresses his difficult childhood in another scene.

Total Score: 12/50

One movie got half the score of the other. One movie is about the greedy, backbiting, selfish lack of communication in the business world and one is about triumph over personal weakness and the importance and power of good communication. But the MPAA can't show that in one to four characters of rating systems. That's for viewers to determine.

And this viewer is far more offended by movies that encourage people not to think at all (mindless entertainment), movies that glamorize and promote immoral living, and movies that are just bad. I don't think the MPAA is without its place in our society - but I do think that our society would do well to start approaching life with the attitude of "what can I learn from this" instead of "what am I going to have to run away from".

. . . but this post is far too long now - and that's a post for another time.

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