MPAA Announces New “Check the Box” Ratings System

By  · Published on April 17th, 2013

At this year’s CinemaCon, MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd announced his organization’s new ratings system that looks a lot like the old ratings system. The key difference is that they’ll be more prominently featuring the reasons that each film got its rating in an effort to give parents as much information as possible when choosing the right movies for their children. Appropriately called “Check the Box,” the program hopes to get parents to look beyond the incredibly easy, shorthand letter rating in order to see whether a movie is PG-13 because of “implied Medieval violence” or “spectral glimpses of sideboob.” For example.

As Mark Deming points out, the increased visibility of specific judgment calls comes on the heels of the MPAA’s meeting with Joe Biden following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. During the loudest calls for censorship, Dodd repeated the MPAA’s “vehement” resistance to any kind of content oversight for filmmakers when it comes to violence.

Of course, it’s important to remember that the MPAA 1) doesn’t feel as strongly when it comes to nudity and sexual content, regularly giving the kiss of death NC-17 rating for uneven reasons and 2) is funded by the major studios, having a de facto investment in their best interests.

The new campaign comes with PSAs, and it seems reasonable that offering more information is always better than the alternative, but it also feels a bit like thin gruel. The MPAA has been increasingly showcasing the rating reasons (often with incredibly creative phrasing) for years now. Is doubling down on that really going to make much of a difference? Or did they simply have to show up to school with something to appease those calling for more content regulation?

Granted, if it does achieve that second hypothetical, all the better. Now if we can only get the MPAA to safeguard all kinds of content.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.