More Ratings Controversy – Made in Dagenham

by Melissa Silverstein on November 4, 2010

in News,Women Producers

There has been a fair amount of controversy over the recent ratings bestowed upon two upcoming films Blue Valentine and The King’s Speech. Blue Valentine received an NC-17, and The King’s Speech an R.

But there is another film mired in the same type of controversy that has been virtually ignored in this conversation — Made in Dagenham.

This film — which tells the true story of women who went on strike for equal pay in England in 1968 — also received an R rating. This is a movie that deals with an important issue in a light hearted way and its fun to watch.  It’s good, is important, has some great performances and not too many movies can say that.

Patrick Goldstein asserted earlier this week in the LA Times about how hypocritical it is that The King’s Speech and Saw 3-D are both rated R.  Amen, so true.   The ratings system is a farce that completely benefits the studio movies and condones violence — especially against women –  yet has major issues with the word fuck.

Made in Dagenham was given the R rating “for language and brief sexuality,” yet the action film Red is rated PG-13 for “intense sequences of action violence and brief strong language.”  I’ve seen Red and saying those action sequences are intense is an understatement.  Also let’s throw in The Social Network which is also rated PG-13 due to its “sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.”

The film’s producer, Elizabeth Karlsen is also perplexed and she sent this quote upon returning to the UK after participating in screenings here earlier this week:

As a mother of three teenage girls, the youngest of whom is 13, I am both deeply saddened and bewildered that the censors dictate that it is inappropriate for my 13 year to see a film about a decisive moment in women’s history, the fight for equal pay, full of positive role models.

There are so few films about women, so few films where women are not simply minor players, ‘eye candy’ or objects of violence in a story about men. Made In Dagenham is one of the few and it has been embraced for this very reason. I can not believe that any parent, grandparent  or teacher would prefer their 13 year old daughter to see a film like ‘Saw’ rather than ‘Made In Dagenham’.  There is a handful of swear words in the film, but none of it is used in an abusive manor. It is there as an element of authenticity reflecting the period and people.

Bad language in films must surely be considered by the censors in the context of the story and the images used to tell that story. It is absurd that stories like Made In Dagenham and The King’s Speech are barred to children under 13 in favour of violent films and when I say violent I mean extremely not moderately violent. I take the censors’ view as an indictment of my parenting skills. I know that Saw is absolutely not the sort of film I want my young daughter to see, but I know that Made In Dagenham and The Kings Speech are two films that she absolutely should be seeing. They are both positive, empowering, educational, enlightening and entertaining films, beautifully executed,  about people finding a voice and making the world a better place.  How can that be a bad thing for a society which deems itself civilised?

There is no way you can ever convince me that Made in Dagenham deserves the same rating as Saw 3-D and an higher rating than Red and The Social Network.  No way.  Mutilating, shooting, stabbing, and drug use and underage drinking is ok for kids, but using the f word makes your film not acceptable for those under 17.  This is so wrong.

Side note: The rating for The King’s Speech in the UK was lowered to a 12A (basically PG-13) after an appeal, and Made in Dagenham is still a 15 (basically an R).

To the MPAA ratings board, ‘The King’s Speech’ is just as bad as ‘Saw 3D’ (LA Times)

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

T November 4, 2010 at 7:16 PM

As a mother, I prefer they err on the safe side. I wasn’t able to watch every movie before my child did when they came out (back when my child was underage). I counted on ratings and the experiences of other mothers and fathers who has the same parenting style I had. I did not count on my single friends opinions of whether it was child friendly or not. I think children are exposed to too much too fast as it is in our culture and put their safety ahead of box office.

Allison November 4, 2010 at 8:40 PM

I’ve read some reviews of Saw 3D (since I don’t plan on paying money to see it) and several critics have said that the movie should have been rated NC-17 for violence. Some reviews also mention the movie’s misogyny. The film shows one woman baked alive and another woman sliced in half.

I think the Hostel movies and The Passion of the Christ should have been NC-17 for violence, too.

However, the MPAA has let things slide, too, when it comes to sex and language. For instance, W. got a PG-13 even though it had MULTIPLE f-words and Bruno got an R despite having both female and male full frontal nudity and scenes with people having unsimulated sex.

soirore November 5, 2010 at 9:11 AM

this makes me so angry. How come young children can see multiple forms of violence in 12A films but not hear the f-word? A word they probably heard in the queue for popcorn anyway it’s so ubiquitous.

We need to remember that bad language isn’t harmful. It isn’t going to give anyone nightmares. It might encourage bad behaviour and misuse of language in some circumstances but that is uncontrollable anyway.

It would be great if we could look at films as a whole and rate them on the message they convey rather than out-of-context language or nudity (or violence). But that would be difficult where we live in societies that are more afraid of the naked human body than of the mutilated one.

KB November 6, 2010 at 2:58 AM

My country tis of thee. Sweet land of liberty and censorship. Censorship is a major problem in this country and it’s not just with movies. I don’t believe ratings should be able to prevent anyone from seeing a film. They are meant to inform parents of the content in films before they allow their children to see them. They tell people what to expect. A movie that gets an R for swearing is ridiculous. What is the F word really going to do to a child’s psyche? Now sexual and violent content are a different matter to be debated–especially violence against women. I am so sick of seeing or hearing about extreme violence against women in movies. Although I don’t believe in censorship, I do believe that filmmakers, advertisers, the news should be careful of the images that they produce for young audiences to view. The images we see everyday do help shape our view of the world and people in them.

Scott Mendelson November 7, 2010 at 1:41 AM

While you can argue that Made In Dagenham didn’t deserve its R-rating, there is no reason to throw other movies under the bus to prove your point. Red was the very definition of a PG-13 action picture… lots of action, but few fatalities, little blood and no gore. The Social Network was careful to avoid the kind of hard profanity that merits an R-rating, to the point where it often resembled an edited-for-TV version (‘friggen’, ‘freaking’, etc). Of all the ways to get a desired rating for your film, profanity is the easiest one to deal with. You don’t want an R? Don’t have a bunch of F-words. It may be a silly guideline, but it’s an easily avoidable problem. There are problems with the MPAA (harsher ratings for sex than violence, harsher standards for indies than major studio films), but it’s usually pretty easy to fix a film that gets an R for profanity. The filmmakers simply have a choice to make. Regardless, it’s not censorship, since any child can see it at any respective theater with a parent in attendance.

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