designed. It is occasionally criticized by those in the motion picture industry unhappy with
a rating or ratings, by certain commentators who deplore any perceived restrictions and
who can find fault with a particular aspect of the rating system or a specific rating, and by
those who demand more restrictions and even censorship. CARA generally lets the ratings
speak for themselves and does not publicly attempt to defend any specific rating.
The rating system has survived for almost thirty years and continues to be widely
used. Few institutions would have such longevity unless they provided a valuable public
service. The rating system does.
See Jane M. Friedman, The Motion Picture Rating System of 1968: A Constitutional Analysis of Self-
Regulation by the Film Industry, 73 COLUM. L. REV. 185 ( 1973); see also Bill Broadway, Holly wood as
Babylon: Not Satisfied with Movie Industry's Rating System, Christian Groups Offer Their Own Warning
Guides For Parents, WASH. POST, Aug. 24, 1996, at D6; Timothy M. Gray, The Movie Ratings Codes:
Grade it C for Confusing, CHI. SUN-TIMES, Jan. 23, 1994, at INC; Joanna Connors, Industry's Movie
Rating Is Labeled a Farce, PLAIN DEALER, Aug. 18, 1990, at 1E.
The Classification and Rating Administration ("CARA") is a part of the Motion Picture Association of
For a detailed description of the history and workings of the ratings system, see
JACK VALENTI, MOTION
PICTURE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA, THE VOLUNTARY MOVIE RATING SYSTEM, HOW IT BEGAN; ITS
PURPOSE; THE PUBLIC REACTION ( 1996).
See generally F. WALSH, SIN AND CENSORSHIP: THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE MOTION PICTURE
INDUSTRY ( 1996).
See, e.g., Alexandra Marks, Who Should Rate TV Shows, Laymen v. Experts, "CHRISTIAN SCI, MONITOR,
Mar". 13, 1996, at 1.
VALENTI, supra note 3, at 4-5.
VALENTI, supra note 3, at 11.
The Internet address is
VALENTI, supra note 3, at 11.
The number of board members can range from eight to thirteen.
See generally JONATHON GREEN, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CENSORSHIP ( 1990) (detailing government
censorship in many countries).
J. D. LEE &
BARRY A. LINDAHL, MODERN TORT LAW LIABILITY & LITIGATION §§ 29.35, 29.39 (rev.
ed. 1996) (discussing parental liability for a child's torts and parental obligation to control a child).
See Hal Hinson, Twenty Years of G and R Ratings; Plus X, PG, PG-13, and Don't Forget M, CHI. SUN-
TIMES, Nov. 27, 1988, at G01; see also Jonathan Wacks, Just Who Are the People Who Censor Our
Films?, L.A. TIMES, Oct. 7, 1991, at F3.
See Marks, supra note 5.
See Friedman, supra note 1, at 199.
See, e.g., Mark Caro, The Heat is On: Will NC-17 Go Legit, CHI. TRIB., Sept. 10, 1995, at C1;
, Smash the Ratings System!; If This Isn't Censorship, Then Why Does It Feel Like It?, WASH.
POST, Apr. 21, 1990, at G1, G19.
See Bob Strauss, Debate on "Basic Instinct "; Film Thriller's Trials Illustrate Problems of NC-17 Rating,
CHI. SUN-TIMES, Feb. 23, 1992, at Show-5.
See Jack Mathews, A System Rated NC-17, NEWSDAY, Nov. 22, 1992, at Fanfare-5.
See Stephen Schaefer, Explicit "Kids " to Hit Screen Unrated, BOSTON HERALD, July 24, 1995, at
For a discussion of court cases dealing with obscenity in movies, see
Friedman, supra note 1, at 206-21.
VALENTI, supra note 3, at 9.