Motion Picture Ratings in the United States
Richard M. Mosk
The motion picture is a major art form and a significant United States industry. Millions of Americans go to motion picture theaters regularly. Motion pictures are also seen on television and on videocassettes. They are one of America's major exports and are regarded as portraying, and even having an influence on, culture, morals, and behavior. As a result, motion pictures are widely discussed and critiqued.
The voluntary system of rating motion pictures for the benefit of American parents has become a widely used component of the American movie scene. Nevertheless, it engenders criticism in certain academic and entertainment circles.1 As chairman of the Classification and Rating Administration ( CARA),2 which administers the motion picture ratings, I believe that much of this criticism is unjustified. Although the system is not perfect -- what is? -- it is far preferable to the alternatives. I shall briefly discuss the origins and operation of the ratings system and address some of the issues concerning it.3
From as early as 1911, city and state governments had established censorship boards. By the 1960s there were many such boards, each applying its own set of standards. There were also private evaluators, such as religious groups, that recommended that certain pictures not be viewed due to content.4 Thus, it was difficult for the motion picture creator to determine if the film would meet all of the various criteria for acceptability. In addition,