This week I saw Motorcycle Diaries. It's a film based on Che Guevara's partial autobiography of the same name. Shown at International Cinema here at BYU.
Despite the historical inaccuracies, I thought it was a fantastic film. I actually walked out feeling I'd learned a lesson about missionary work.
Online later I found out it was rated R.
I double-checked my screen a full seven times before I believed it.
Really? R? It was less graphic than most PG-13s I see. Probably less than some PGs too.
Suddenly I felt sacrilegious. I learned about missionary work! Oh no! That's not allowed. Rs are evil...right?
Then tonight, in beginning The Fall with Scarlet, I realized that film was rated R too. It DID contain more blood than I expected. But it all had the super-saturated quality of Monty-Python blood and it was too unnatural in color and behavior to be disturbing. It was used for style more than anything.
The film was gorgeous throughout. The style followed Alexandria's imagination: intoxicating color, gorgeous scenery and fantastic costume design for each of the characters. The commentary on life, living and love was very very powerful. It really makes you think too. I loved it.
Which leads to my confusion. Why R? Because it's deep? Because of the violence?
Anything with Bruce Willis, most super-hero movies and any Bourne film is much more violent. The vast majority of romantic comedies (or action flicks - they apply too) are more sexually explicit. Will Ferrel (pick the movie) is ten times as crass and vulgar.
You're telling me it's more harmful for children to be exposed to a philosophical view of life and the reasons for living than it is to hear Ferrel spout expletives and crude sexual references for an hour and a half?
For practically my entire life I've considered Rs off-limits. Bad. Evil. Dangerous.
I remember being 14 and utterly mortified that a family I babysat for owned a couple R-films. I instantly judged them to be on the slippery slope.
But here I am facing my own movies and realizing that their ratings are completely invalid. Staying away from R-movies doesn't keep you safe. There's just as much garbage in PG-13s. R-movies aren't all safe and innocent, of course, everyone knows that's not true. But there are good, valid, wonderful things in Rs. Their rating isn't an accurate measure anymore.
Maybe I'm just spouting stuff you already know. According toJordan, this skewed rating has been going on for a while. But it was new to me. I didn't want to know, I suppose. It's harder to judge when you throw the standard ratings away - easier to take them as a given and feel safe within their diction. But to watch without thinking - trusting an ambiguous third party's recommendation- THAT may be more dangerous than any film.
So...I don't plan on renting every R at Blockbuster because of this realization. But it does give me some perspective on those who do watch R-movies consistently and it's prompted me to more critically analyze my films before I watch them. Not all that glitters is gold.
Thoughts from the Animation Program
UPDATE: It was pointed out to me that Motorcycle Diaries was rated for language not graphic-ness. I didn't really acknowledge that, but it's true. They had pretty dirty language. I censored it for myself since all of it was in Spanish (i.e. subtitles for me) anyway.