Where Ratings Go Wrong…

I have been thinking last week. Honestly! And this thinking actually happened after watching the documentary ‘This Movie Is Not Yet Rated’, which is about the mystery and chaos around the movie ratings from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

I enjoy a good movie, and as a good parent I try to do some research before – for example – watching a movie with my daughter, and I do not solely rely on the movie rating that the MPAA has slapped to it. So, I mostly do not even notice these ratings.

But it was an entertaining documentary, with some interesting things. Most of all – which I did not know until then – that it is not known who the reviewers are, and that there is no transparency in ratings. So, more often than not, a movie production company does not get any feedback on how to modify the movie to get the right rating.

And ratings are important, since having certain ratings can clearly limit possibilities of marketing or even sales.

And that is where things actually got weird. I did understand the message of the documentary, but it misses something. Because the argument of the production companies was that it affected them in creating a production that could be made available to the large audiences.

And my conclusion is that both parties must be wrong. Ratings are not for the production companies, and ratings do need to be transparent.

Ratings are for the viewers, so that they are well aware of what to expect from a movie. It is not a rating if it is a good movie or not, but simply; is it safe to bring my kids? And if a movie production company has a movie that they want to make available to children, and they miss out on that rating, the company needs to have feedback on how to fix it. What to remove, and what not. And it should be clear why it was rated.

Simple.

But then, come on… the MPAA handles 5 ratings, G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, and of course you can add the non-MPAA X-rating to it too, because let’s say a lot of movies made in America are not categorized under NC-17.

I personally cannot find myself into that. I mean, what do the ages mean? When I was 13 there was no parent accompanying me anymore to the movies, and at that time my tender soul had absorbed enough movies surpassing the NC-17 rating. Honestly, it has not scarred me. I saw Aliens – by accident – in the cinema when I was 11. To be honest, Aliens had the same rating as Indiana Jones had. And I loved Indiana Jones when I was 11. So how could my parents know the difference? Ages, sorry, but they do not work in ratings.

I would favor categories, and just handle four, not more. And it declares the audience the movie has been made for.

Everyone – This movie is made for everyone. It is the family flick.

Children – This movie has been made for children, so adults and teens might find it boring.

Teens – This movie has been made for teens. Children might find it boring, too difficult or inappropriate, and adults might find it too weird.

Adults – This movie has been made for an adult audience. Content might be inappropriate for anyone who is not an adult.

And don’t go too much in detail. You don’t have to mention why a movie is made for that audience. People can always walk out or turn off the tv. If you are in that audience, you can deal with what you see. If you as an adult watch the Terminator, you might expect that it is, well, about people getting terminated. Logic thinking. If you watch the Penetrator… well… do I need to say more? See… Logic at work.

Sure, there are movies who do not have clear titles, but read then what something is about. We do not need a government agency telling us exactly what is in a movie or if I should turn of the tv now!

If done honestly, the ones who know best, are the producing companies themselves. True, it will definitely happen that in that scenario producers will deliberately qualify their movie in a different rating. True. But that company will notice in their audience if they are or are not appreciated for that.

And, another plus of using this ECTA [E]veryone [C]hildren [T]eens [A]dults rating is that the producer mentions only who their movie is intended for. It is a simple categorization. Not too detailed, but easily understandable.

So, when I was thinking about that, it actually would make sense to actually test it out. And what better place to do that then on the web. So, I made a very simple voluntary rating system for websites based on the ECTA rating. just surf to ectarating.com where you can quickly set up a rating for your own site, and receive the code showing you how to apply it in your own website.

It is not a rating intended to be set on every site – absolutely not. But if a producer has the idea it might benefit them, or clarify things for his or her audience, it might be a good thing to use a rating like this.

More likely, the [E]veryone rating hardly should have to be used, since, well, having no rating has the same effect if you think about it.

And check it how it works at the ECTA-Rating Test Page.

And feel free to use it on your site, or forward the message to others. It is free, not really sophisticated, but maybe it might do something good.

Let me know what you might think.

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