But of course he was wrong, as word came earlier this week that Breaking Dawn pt. 1, which features the bulk of all that aforementioned evil, will be rated PG-13.
Now, for a full-primer on the MPAA's insane ratings system and the multiple miscarriages of justice issued from therein, please see the first 45 minutes or so of Kirby Dick's documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. But in a nutshell:
- Ratings are based on bogus, quantifiable stuff like number of curse words. One "fuck" and you can still be PG-13. Two fucks and you have to fight for it. Three and you're out of there.
- Explicit or in some cases just frank sex is judged far more harshly than extreme violence. A guy can cut off a girl's head but he can't give her head, in other words. The most recent, famous case was Blue Valentine, in which a nudity-free scene of oral sex briefly earned the film an NC-17 rating.
- Big studio flicks are given more leeway than independent films. Christopher Nolan gets a PG-13 every time out, and Quentin Tarantino has bragged in the past about his ability to charm the MPAA board. Wendy and Lucy, a simple movie about a homeless girl and her dog, was rated R for no apparent reason, prompting A.O. Scott to write one of my favorite sentences in modern criticism:
"Wendy and Lucy” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has some swearing, a little drug use and a brief implication of violence, but no nudity, sex or murder. The rating seems to reflect, above all, an impulse to protect children from learning that people are lonely and that life can be hard.The problem with generally rating a film based on quantifiable shit is that a movie with a bunch of evil, hateful messages about romance like Breaking Dawn gets to slip below the radar. The sins of this film are too abstract to be grasped by a board of officials. Of course, that's not an argument for more abstract ratings; There's already some of that, as evidenced by Blue Valentine and Wendy and Lucy (Michelle Williams is an MPAA bad luck charm, eh?). Also: I remember reading an article in Time magazine about Dexter's lack of success when a semi-censored version of the show aired on CBS (this was in the aftermath of the writer's strike, when networks were desperate for content). The article, as I recall, argued that the moral ambiguity of the series, the challenging ideas it put forth about justice, and the tension created by a sympathetic narrator doing arguably bad things caused a kind of natural aversion among the general viewing public. The abstract rating system already sort of exists, in other words.
But why hasn't the kind of free-floating dread that attaches itself to Dexter and The Sopranos and Breaking Bad done so to Twilight? It has many troubling ideas about sex, romance, and even race, but the pop perception of it is that it's a silly romance series about gay sparkling vampires. Devin Faraci's post was a sensation, but nobody connected the dots when the feathers settled.
The ease with which Twilight pushes an agenda, undetected, continues to disturb me. And Breaking Dawn's PG-13 rating is yet another maddening detail.