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'It's Complicated': Why the MPAA prefers smoking guns to smoking pot

The MPAA has embarrassed itself an untold number of times over the years for its prudish attitude toward sex and its wildly permissive attitude toward violence. But what's it's done to Nancy Meyers' upcoming comedy, "It's Complicated," is perhaps the ratings board's biggest boneheaded move yet.

Its_complicated_ver2 According to a story by my colleague, Steven Zeitchik, the MPAA has given Meyers' fluffy comedy about a middle-aged love triangle an R rating because Meryl Streep and Steve Martin's (who star in the film along with Alec Baldwin) characters are seen sharing a joint while on a date.

The problem, according to people involved with the board's hearing on the issue, isn't that the actors are seen smoking pot -- it's that the scene "features pot-smoking with no bad consequences." Apparently, everything would've been fine if only the characters had been killed in a gory car crash because their reflexes were slightly impaired after sharing the joint, which surely would've served as a stern warning to kids not to ever touch the evil weed.

In other words, you can score a tidy amount of pot at hundreds of marijuana clinics across Los Angeles, but if you take a puff on a joint in a Hollywood movie, you immediately get walloped with an R rating, whether you're a gangsta rapper like Snoop Dogg or a genial white-haired Oscar host like Steve Martin.

It's another outrageous example of the lunatic priorities of the MPAA, which claims to serve the interests of parents but actually dances to its crazy drummer, happily handing out PG-13 ratings to unbelievably violent movies like "Terminator: Salvation" while whipping out the R rating at the first sign of a few naked breasts or, God forbid, an unsheathed penis. In Rob Marshall's upcoming film, "Nine," Daniel Day-Lewis smokes non stop through the entire film, but since it's only cancer-causing tobacco, the MPAA had no problems giving the film a PG-13 rating. That's a travesty. If you're going to restrict kids from seeing a movie because of pot smoking, you certainly should apply similar standards to heedless cigarette smoking. 

The R rating for "It's Complicated," which hits theaters Christmas Day, is especially ludicrous. It would be one thing if we saw Kristen Stewart smoking weed in "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," since the movie is right in the sweet spot for teens and tweeners. But if the MPAA is really sticking up for families everywhere, it hardly seems to be a parental concern that impressionable kids are going to be flocking to see a romantic comedy featuring actors who are -- in the case of Streep and Martin -- even older than some of their grandparents.

I've been ranting and raving about the MPAA's nutty priorities for years without any discernible effect. I think it's time that filmmakers and actors start sticking up for their peers, in this case Meyers, who is getting the shaft from the MPAA for a totally harmless comedy scene. Since George Clooney (and I mean this with no offense) seems to weigh in on every pressing foreign policy of the day, maybe he could spare a little interview time to take the MPAA to the woodshed, which might serve to embolden some of his more cautious brethren to speak out against an organization whose moral compass has clearly gone haywire.

Here's the trailer for "It's Complicated," where you can actually see, toward the end, the giddy after-effects of Streep's and Martin's characters' marijuana indulgence:


Comments () | Archives (25)

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America is an extremely violent country, from its origin until today. Marijuana discourages violence and aggressive behavior and is thus a threat to the powers that be who thrive on a violent nation.

Is it possible that the studio inserted the joint in "It's Complicated" precisely BECAUSE it wanted an R-rating?

An "R" would signal the studio's intended audience to expect "adult" situations — without the multiple F-words or bare skin it otherwise takes to get an "R." The MPAA is absolutely consistent in R-rating drug use, and all the studios know it.

Meanwhile, the studios that control the MPAA and its ratings still ignore the tobacco in PG-13 movies. The University of California estimates that more than a million US smokers aged 12-17 were recruited to smoke by exposure to smoking in Hollywood movies. Of these kids, about 400,000 will eventually die from tobacco diseases.

An R-rating for future smoking would force producers to choose between the teen audience key to opening movies big and smoking imagery valuable to the tobacco industry. Unfortunately, the studios believe their rating system is there to protect their business interests, not their young audiences. Seen in that light, the ratings are not confusing — or very silly — at all.

Like it's mentioned, teens will not be flocking to see a romantic comedy staring an old couple. So should it matter if it's rated R or not? Doesn't keep anyone old enough to even care to read this artcile from seeing the movie.

Still can't quite fiqure these folks out! The human body when exposed gets an R rating. The glorification of the gun and its destruction usually gets a PG-13. Don't suppose the NRA and organized religion have anything to do with this?

It's high time (no pun intended) we shined a light on the hypocritical star chamber that is the MPAA. A secret organization with no accountability, except to some vague right wing christian "parent" doctrine that glorifies violence and censors sex, should be dismantled and replaced with a more sensible and modern rating system. How can their rulings be overturned? Answer: they can't. These are unelected people who are not film makers. What are their guidelines? No one knows except them. What gives them the right to ruin a films profitability by their arbitrary ruling, and why do we allow it?

And to "Megan", who says she doesn't want any drug references in the movies, for adults or children, what gives you the right to dictate to the rest of america? No one wants to see your kids corrupted, but who are you to tell the rest of us adults what we can see? Hollywood has a history of cowardice in the face of censorship, witness the blacklisting of the late forties and early fifties. Artists, stand up for your first amendment rights! Abolish the MPAA.

Megan -
A) The movie is not directed at your kids, it's obviously for adults, and more emotionally mature teenagers - really, what teen wants to watch Streep and Baldwin get it on?. Why do all movies need to made for teenagers?

B) If you don't want your kids to see a certain movie, it's up to you to enforce that.

Movie makers should be allowed to make whatever kind of film they want - and no doubt the kids have seen more violence, sex, drug use, etc. on TV in the last week than is in this very innocuous looking film. Are shirtless blood sucking vampires or apocalyptic scenes of the earth's destruction really better for your kids than seeing two grandparents smoke a joint?). Why should artists have to restrict their art for the sake of that old canard, "the children?"

The MPAA is the worst form of censorship - a silent star chamber that stifles our artists and dumbs down our art. Adults should be able to make up their own minds about what they want to see.

Funny, they give it a "R" rating because Meryl and Steve smoke pot, but not because Meryl and Alex get schnockered on wine. Even though many more people are killed by drunks than stoners.

The MPAA, as the article states, has made some VERY arbitrary rulings in the past, mostly as discouragement to independent filmmakers. This latest gaff is indicative that there are still a few Victorian prudes calling the shots.

It's really a moot point, though. Films will still be made, that represent society (in a somewhat skewed manner, but there is reality interspersed with the nonsense) effectively enough that the rating it is given won't matter anyway, as young people will find ways to circumvent restrictions, no matter what the MPAA comes up with, if they happen to like the film.

Declaring the R rating of a clearly adult-oriented movie with clearly adult-oriented behavior as the most boneheaded MPAA decision of all time is silly. Not one second of this film looks in any way morally proper or appropriate for children. "Terminator Salvation" was violent, yes; but unbelievably violent? Try "Reservoir Dogs".

the conservatives can fight it all they want, it's legalization is a foregone conclusion....just like alcohol but it is not as one really cares either way as it use continues to grow....

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