I’m constantly hearing people say “They don’t make movies the way they used to”. But I never knew why. It seems the film rating system these days has also changed the actual content. Not to say that it’s better or worse. Just different.

In 1968 a voluntary movie rating system was put in place to help parents determine the content a particular movie contained. The Motion Picture Association of America screens movies for objectionable content and places a rating system on each one so parents can determine for themselves whether the movie is okay for their kids to watch.

One set of parents may think a movie with some violence is okay for their kids to watch, where for another set of parents it may be too much. The MPAA lets the “average American Parent” decide the ratings through their Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA).

I always thought CARA was a censorship organization, but it’s actually a parental guidance board. It was established to replace the Production Code Administration, which required all movies be viewable by all audiences. The Production Code came about because, after films began to have sound and color, the public demanded stricter censorship of movies.

Movies that didn’t pass the PCA’s strict code simply didn’t get released. They weren’t rated for different ages, so there weren’t any movies for adults only. The new MPAA ratings aren’t based on moral values, but on the content alone. The Production Code had strict moral codes written in. For example, a film had to have “moral obligations”.

One requirement was that a film couldn’t present evil “alluringly, even if later on the evil is condemned or punished.” It stated that at the end of the movie, evil had to be seen as evil and good as good.

When it comes to crime, the film “must not throw sympathy with the criminal”. And “the courts of the land must not be presented as unjust”.

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