Saturday, November 01, 2003
Movie ratings need repair
First, let's deal with the movie. It's easy to see why some have called "Kill Bill-Vol. 1" brilliant. The film wraps several movie genres into something cinematically exciting, visceral and compelling.
But just saying this R-rated movie is violent and bloody doesn't do it justice. Blood is the main character here. It has more screen time than any person. Director Quentin Tarantino was more than interested in blood, he was obsessed with it: the amount of blood in a human body, how it arches, spills and splatters. To those with any sensitivity to on-screen violence, this movie could easily make you physically ill.
It's funny because when you watch the movie, which is divided into chapters, one of the most compelling chapters barely has any violence in it. It convinces you that Tarantino could have made a movie with just a fraction of the violence and still come up with a brilliant film.
Now, why are we using a Chicago Parent editorial to review this R-rated movie that no child should ever see?
Because Tarantino brought it up.
"If you are a 12-year-old girl or boy you must go and see ‘Kill Bill' and you will have a damn good time . . . Boys will have a great time, girls will have a dose of girl power. If you are a cool parent out there go take your kids to the movie," Tarantino said at the film's London premiere, according to Associated Press reports.
Since he brought it up, we have a few things to say. Not for one minute do we believe that Chicago Parent readers are taking parenting advice from Tarantino. Nor will parents drag a child to the movies out of fear Tarantino will consider them not cool.
Besides, we are also sure that Tarantino is not seriously recommending this film to 12-year-olds. We think he was seriously seeking publicity and it worked.
Sadly, some parents listened. Two children, ages 8 and 10, were among the audience at a recent 7:40 p.m. showing of this film. It was a school night, which means those boys should not have been in the theater—even if they were watching G-rated "Finding Nemo." But the movie they were watching is utterly inappropriate for anyone under age 17, so their presence is symbolic of the bigger issue here. "Kill Bill" is rated R—which makes it possible to bring in children if they are accompanied by an adult.
That "Kill Bill" is rated R is the greatest indication that the movie industry's self-policing system is a complete failure.
According to the Classification and Rating Administration, which rates movies, an R-rated movie "signifies that the rating board has concluded that the film rated contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their children to see it."
In the beginning of this film, Vivica Fox's character takes a knife to the chest, slowly sinking to the floor surrounded by blood spatters and Kaboom cereal as her 4-year-old daughter walks into the kitchen.
"But take my word for it, your mother had it coming," Thurman's character says to the girl.
Flashback to the hospital, where Thurman's character is in a coma after her entire wedding party, including her unborn baby and husband-to-be, are left for dead. She wakes after four years, realizing what has happened and sobs as she clutches her now empty abdomen. It is a gripping and profoundly sad scene.
Thurman's character is startled by noise and feigns unconsciousness as an orderly and another man walk in. The orderly has been pimping the unconscious woman for $75 a session. As the other man crawls on top of her, Thurman's character bites down on his tongue and pulls it out.
This is all in the first 20 minutes of the movie. Now, if the film is supposed to contain only "some adult material," we wonder: What part of the material in those 20 minutes could the board possibly have considered appropriate for children?
The reality is that an NC-17 rating is rarely, if ever, used. Like the family-friendly G-rating, NC-17 is considered to be the kiss of financial death. So, the ratings guidelines are worthless, especially when we need them most in the murky movie waters having to do with violence and sex.
Policing movies is ultimately a parent's responsibility but is it too much to ask that the movie rating system be true to its guidelines instead of co-opted by financial concerns?
The intent behind this voluntary system was to help parents while keeping Congress from stepping into the ratings business.
We don't want Congress in the movie-rating business, either. But we do want a system that works. Maybe it's time parents took things in hand and wrote to the people running the ratings system, asking them to get back on track.
Write to The Classification and Rating Administration, 15503 Ventura Blvd., Encino, CA. 91436, and say "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore." Or at least say, "Use the rating system responsibly or you may lose it."