You've probably heard about the controversy surrounding the new documentary "Bully" and the MPAA. In short, the MPAA wants to give the movie an R-rating because of six uses of the F-word. The Weinstein Company, the film's producer, wants the film to be lowered to a PG-13, but the MPAA has refused to budge. This is unfortunate for the film as, with an R-rating, it couldn't be screened in schools where it could potentially do the most good (they've since decided to play the film unrated, so if schools wanted to play the movie, they'd just have to get parents to sign permission slips).
This issue has been teased out and examined from every different angle, as the internet is known to do, including the angle that all this press is actually great for the film, not limiting, and that maybe the movie isn't that great anyway.
What it made me think about is the fact that I'm so glad there is no MPAA equivalent in literature. Every once in a while, I read a YA book review on a blog that trashes a book for having content that's too adult. Speaking very broadly, it's often parents who write these reviews, and I understand their outrage. I'm a teacher and I can acknowledge that some content isn't suitable for all kids. But what I disagree with is the inevitable jump to "We should have a rating system for books!"
No, no we shouldn't, and the situation with "Bully" is exactly why. See, the MPAA has blanket rules about appropriateness that apply to every film equally, without discourse, without considering the context. These rules were created by a group of people who clearly are guided by very specific moral compasses, and their sense of what is appropriate doesn't match up with every moviegoer.
People who know movies will frequently acknowledge that the MPAA is seriously flawed. They are known for giving violence a pass, while profanity and sexual situations are judged much more severely. How are six F-bombs more inappropriate than Cato in The Hunger Games movie snapping a kid's neck? Never mind the fact that most teenagers hear, if not say, six F-bombs before lunch.
The fact that the MPAA adhered so stubbornly to their blanket rules without consideration for the significance of the film, or the fact that their rules may be outdated or inapplicable in every situation, solidified in my mind that we are lucky to live in a community that isn't held to such arbitrary standards. Reading is the definition of freedom. The idea of books being restricted, even by people with good intentions, would reduce that freedom considerably.
I know lots of YA readers really disagree with me on this. What are your thoughts?