Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Everything Must Be Banned or Required Department

The usual justification for ratings systems is that they allow parents greater control over their children’s viewing habits. But every now and then, the nannies betray their real agenda: they want to do the parenting themselves.

Example: According to an article in today’s L.A. Times (not available without registration), a movie theater chain has started created special IDs for kids under 17, by which parents can give permission for their kids to see R-rated movies without parental accompaniment. Parents have to accompany their kid to the movie theater just once, for the purpose of creating the ID. Great idea, right? Not according to the hand-wringing set:
Critics argue that the cards amount to parents handing to their kids the delicate decision about what movies are appropriate, a shift they say violates the intent of the motion picture industry's voluntary rating system.

"All R-rated films are not alike. It is the parents' responsibility to make specific judgments about R films — and wrong to give a blanket endorsement to all," said Jack Valenti, president and chief executive of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which issues movie ratings.

Some opponents fear that leaving movie choices to teens could taint the ratings system, voluntarily enforced by theaters since 1968. They say that could open the door to government regulation that would stifle creativity and experimentation in filmmaking.

“If parents lose faith in the system, the first thing they'll ask is ‘What are our recourses?’ Then, we could start hearing from every politician that wants to make a name for himself in the name of family values,” said Dann Gire, president of the Chicago Film Critics Assn.
Now, why in the world would giving parents greater choice undermine their faith in the system? The parents signing the ID cards obviously don’t mind. So the real concern here is that other parents will get annoyed at the permissive parenting of their neighbors and demand government intervention to set them straight. And the threat of regulation is, of course, what motivates industry spokesmen like Jack Valenti to oppose what is clearly a great concept.

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