Memo to the MPAA: Animal Cruelty Isn't Kid's Stuff


As anyone who follows my feverish rantings on Twitter can tell you, I was really angry about 12 hours ago. Angry, infuriated, livid, and prepared to rant till my fingers broke off. But it's never good to try and make a point when one is angry, so let's start with a small handful of facts.

1. The new "thriller" known as 'The Roommate' was given a PG-13 rating for "violence and menace, sexual content, some language, and teen partying." (I will not editorialize on the intentionally vague and moronic terms used here because this is the "facts" section.)

2. The MPAA's PG-13 rating is not an "enforced" one, which means that if two seven-year-olds ask for a ticket to the R-rated 'Kick-Ass,' they shall should be denied admission, but if they ask for tickets to see the PG-13 'The Roommate,' they're always allowed in. (Again: the PG-13 is an "advisory" rating, not an enforced one.)

3. The PG-13-rated 'The Roommate' features a scene in which a plainly psycho woman sticks a plainly helpless kitten into a plainly deadly clothes dryer and kills it. (The films that 'The Roommate' steals the most from, 'Fatal Attraction' and 'Single White Female,' also have animals killed as part of their plot. Those films are both rated R.)

4. The MPAA ratings board is clearly more worried about the evils of "teen partying" than they are in the obviously more hateful act of "animal cruelty." What does it say about a ratings board that cares more about mild profanity than it does in the (easily copiable) act of jamming a cat into a dryer?

Please do not mistake my last point: I'm not saying that films should not "kill animals" if that's what the filmmakers deem necessary. Recent movies like 'Dogtooth' (which was not rated by the MPAA) and 'Drag Me to Hell' (also rated PG-13, which is another farce) have had "kitty kills" that work precisely how the filmmakers want them to. We are talking about fiction, after all, so of course animals should be held to the same mortality standard as human characters. (Context also has a lot to do with it; in 'Drag,' Sam Raimi kills an animal in a broad, carnival-show, almost comic-booky way. In 'Roommate,' the kitten is sacrificed in stupidly mercenary fashion simply because the film has no humans worth caring about. Classy, eh?)

My point is simply this: any film that offers such a casual and mindless piece of "shock value" animal cruelty should be rated R. Why? Open your newspapers is why. Stories of animal cruelty run rampant in cities all over the world. And while I certainly do not subscribe to the opinion that "movies are to blame for a violent society," I absolutely believe that a 7-year-old kid should be prevented from seeing a kitty tossed into a dryer. And I bet a good number of adults would also like to know if a film offers that type of material.

Not censorship, not an artistic mandate of any kind, but a polite demand from myself to the folks at the MPAA ratings board. If you people consider "menace" and "teen partying" the sort of stuff our children should be warned away from, then you damn well must believe that "animal cruelty" qualifies as well.

Maybe if you forced a worthless film like 'The Roommate' to include "animal cruelty" beneath its oh-so-valuable PG-13 banner, it would think twice about using such a stupid and hateful ploy to get a cheap thrill from its audience. Or at the very least, it'd be shoveling its junk to an appropriately adult audience.

Bottom line: I challenge the MPAA to include "animal cruelty" as part of its ratings board criteria, and to mention it alongside such alleged threats as profanity, smoking, and teen partying. That I even have to suggest it seems a little absurd.

This isn't the last you'll hear from me on this issue.