MPAA Gives 'It's Complicated' An R Rating Because It Shows Pot Might Make You Giggle

from the what-are-they-smoking? dept

Via That Kevin Smith (who has had his own share of run ins with the MPAA over bizarre ratings) comes the story of how the MPAA decided the romantic comedy It’s Complicated deserved an “R” rating, because it has one scene that involves two characters (played by Steve Martin and Meryl Streep) who smoke marijuana… and then giggle. Specifically, the MPAA appears to be upset that there are “no negative consequences” to the two characters smoking pot.

Now, I’ve never smoked marijuana (or ingested it in other forms either), but I’m at a loss to see how this makes something deserving of an R rating. The NY Times article quotes someone from the Parents Television Council — the group famous for bombarding the FCC with bogus indecency complaints — who says “The last I checked, smoking pot was still illegal, illicit behavior.” Indeed. But, then again, so is blowing up Los Angeles, and “last I checked,” the movie 2012 got a PG-13 rating.

The larger point, of course, is just how incredibly out of touch the MPAA is beyond just its laughable ratings system. This is a group that’s still trying to break your TV because it can’t figure out how to release movies on TV in a reasonable amount of time without doing so (even though its own studios have figured it out). This is the same group that argues that blames tech companies for its own inability to recognize and embrace what technology allows. This is the same group that insists that piracy is “killing” the movie industry as the industry scores yet another box office record. This is the same group that insists that ACTA is necessary, but won’t share what its own lobbyists helped write.

The NY Times article admits that the decision to rate this particular movie “R” is more of a political move from an organization that doesn’t want to be attacked during the next elections — and even that should be troubling. This is an organization that will do amazingly dumb things just to stay in the good graces of our politicians, so that it can continue to push through protectionist laws. One simple rating may not seem like a huge deal (and, by itself, it is not), but it’s yet another sign in how out of touch the MPAA really is, and how its actions are entirely about protecting its political power and helping its members get favors from the government, rather than anything else.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: mpaa

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “MPAA Gives 'It's Complicated' An R Rating Because It Shows Pot Might Make You Giggle”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Ima Fish (profile) says:

Smoking pot makes you giggle? Why didn’t I know this?!

Seriously though, I highly doubt anyone under the age of 18 would ever voluntarily see this movie anyway. I think that’s why the producers left the scene it, they realize it won’t hurt ticket sales anyway.

I realize that the MPAA should not have this much authority, but that sort of goes without saying.

Ura Fag says:

Re: Re: And even another record...

Bolux. People who pirate movies wont go see the movies in theatres anyways. They are normally poor college students like myself who cant afford 10 dollars for nothing. In conclusion piracy doesn’t affect ticket sales, if anything it helps dvd sales in the future. With the advances is video streaming technology over the web and lack of hard disk space on most computers there is a decreasing trend for downloading hard copies of the movies and more just watching them online. If the movie is good people will eventually go buy the dvd. I have a crazy extensive dvd collection and almost all of the movies i own i first watched online.

The Anti-Mike says:

You don't get out much, do you?

Mike, this is another one of those cases where the theoretical and the practical don’t meet up.

Political correctness is a major issue worldwide. It’s why we don’t have “black people” anymore, but “african americans”. The only acceptable way to use the term “pack of fags” is when you are in the UK buying smokes. Heaven forbid that anyone even mention the N word. We all know the result of referring to a group of women as “nappy haired hos”.

The reality is that certain things irk certain vocal groups. These groups are the reason why it took 30 or so years for TV to be allowed to show a married couple in the same bed. Some things are just not considered acceptable, and these groups will loudly complain and make a huge freaking stink for nothing. Pot smoking is one of those things that these groups tend to go all wild on.

Rmember too, all an R rating does is require a parent to attend the movie with the children. It doesn’t bar anyone unde 18 from seeing the movie (that would be NC-17), it provides parents with a safety mechanism that allows them to choose what their children can and cannot see. If a parent is fine with the concept they can take their kids to see the movie. If they are not, they know that the children will not see the movie.

The whole rant about “break your TV” is just so misplaced. It is really too bad that you have so little imagination on these issues that you are down to scare mongering.

The Anti-Mike says:

Re: Re: You don't get out much, do you?

Caught you lookin’ for the same thing
It’s a new thing check out this I bring
Uh Oh the roll below the level
‘Cause I’m livin’ low next to the bass C’mon
Turn up the radio
They claim that I’m a criminal
By now I wonder how
Some people never know
The enemy could be their friend guardian
I’m not a hooligan
I rock the party and
Clear all the madness, I’m not a racist
Preach to teach to all
‘Cause some they never had this
Number one, not born to run
About the gun…
I wasn’t licensed to have one
The minute they see me, fear me
I’m the epitome – a public enemy
Used, abused without clues
I refused to blow a fuse
They even had it on the news
Don’t believe the hype…

Was the start of my last jam
So here it is again, another def jam
But since I gave you all a little something
That we knew you lacked
They still consider me a new jack
All the critics you can hang’em
I’ll hold the rope
But they hope to the pope
And pray it ain’t dope
The follower of Farrakhan
Don’t tell me that you understand
Until you hear the man
The book of the new school rap game
Writers treat me like Coltrane, insane
Yes to them, but to me I’m a different kind
We’re brothers of the same mind, unblind
Caught in the middle and
Not surrenderin’
I don’t rhyme for the sake of of riddlin’
Some claim that I’m a smuggler
Some say I never heard of ‘ya
A rap burgler, false media
We don’t need it do we?
It’s fake that’s what it be to ‘ya, dig me?
Don’t believe the hype…

Don’t believe the hype – its a sequel
As an equal, can I get this through to you
My 98’s boomin’ with a trunk of funk
All the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk
Comin’ from the school of hard knocks
Some perpetrate, they drink Clorox
Attack the black, cause I know they lack exact
The cold facts, and still they try to Xerox
Leader of the new school, uncool
Never played the fool, just made the rules
Remember there’s a need to get alarmed
Again I said I was a timebomb
In the daytime the radio’s scared of me
‘Cause I’m mad, plus I’m the enemy
They can’t c’mon and play with me in primetime
‘Cause I know the time, plus I’m gettin’ mine
I get on the mix late in the night
They know I’m livin’ right, so here go the mike, sike
Before I let it go, don’t rush my show
You try to reach and grab and get elbowed
Word to herb, yo if you can’t swing this
Just a little bit of the taste of the bass for you
As you get up and dance at the LQ
When some deny it, defy if I swing bolos
Then they clear the lane I go solo
The meaning of all of that
Some media is the whack
You believe it’s true, it blows me through the roof
Suckers, liars get me a shovel
Some writers I know are damn devils
For them I say don’t believe the hype
Yo Chuck, they must be on a pipe, right?
Their pens and pads I’ll snatch
‘Cause I’ve had it
I’m not an addict fiendin’ for static
I’ll see their tape recoreder and grab it
No, you can’t have it back silly rabbit
I’m going’ to my media assassin
Harry Allen, I gotta ask him
Yo Harry, you’re a writer, are we that type?
Don’t believe the hype
I got flavor and all those things you know
Yeah boy, part two bum rush and show
Yo Griff, get the green black red and
Gold down countdown to Armageddon
-88 you wait the S1Ws will
Rock the hard jams – treat it like a seminar
Teach the bourgeoise, and rock the boulevard
Some sau I’m negative
But they’re not positive
But what I got to give…
The media says this

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 You don't get out much, do you?

Sorry A-M, if you actually cared about consistency and impostors, you would have signed up when you first started arguing every single post on this site. I do not for a second believe that the public enemy post wasn’t by you – it seems right up your alley of idiocy, hypocrisy and not adding anything of value to the discussion.

Maybe you should start a new account, because right now your name tells us that you have no intention of being objective or impartial, and that you will oppose anything written by Mike regardless of any other factors.

If you participate in the discussion in a more constructive way, you might find people actually start listening to you, because I suspect that buried inside all your ridiculous rants there are probably some reasonable points that, even if I don’t agree with them, are worthy of discussion and debate.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 You don't get out much, do you?

Here’s a classic, a picture of a room full of all the people who care what you think of me:

I participate very constructively. In fact, two of my biggest detractors (Mike himself and Dark Helmet) will both tell you that I make them at least take a moment to think about their positions.

From my standpoint, I can read the stories Mike posts and almost always find an alternate (and usually simpler) explanation for what has happened or is going on. Too often, Mike is fast to jump to a conclusion either to slam whatever group he is hating on this month, or to build a less than factual foundation for later claimed that will be treated as “facts” (he usually links saying “we have already shown that…”).

If Mike’s concepts and ideas were without reproach, I would have nothing to write about.

So if you aren’t enjoy my posts, well, skip them.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 You don't get out much, do you?

I may have understated it somewhat, but I believe I did acknowledge that you sometimes have something to contribute. But I also really don’t think I’ve ever seen you concede a point, not even a tiny one – and you seem to like making personal attacks against Mike and the TechDirt readership. Which really makes discussing anything with you an unpleasant experience, even if it does occasionally make one “take a moment to think”. And I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way.

But hey, I never said you had to care. Interact with others how you will.

Robert Ring (profile) says:

To be fair, in 2012, no one blows anything up. Nature does it, which isn’t illegal. Though your point still applies, of course, to practically any other movie with an explosion.

I think the smoking pot -> R-rating thing is ridiculous indeed, but at the same time, it reminds me of people’s complaints against Google dropping them from its indexing/penalizing their pageranks, etc. Doubtless Google is enormously important for many websites to be found, but you can’t rely solely on one other company to be the fuel for your business.

This applies to the MPAA as well, even though it’s fundamentally a very different organization from Google. It’s unfortunate that the MPAA would make such a stupid decision, but if that one detail is going to harm your movie beyond repair (which it doesn’t actually seem it will — back to your point of this being exemplary of a larger problem rather than a large problem on its own), then you need to figure out a different way to get your movie to the people who are going to watch it.

Granted, there is still the problem that the MPAA’s decision affects who can _legally_ see the film, which is not the case with something like Google, and that’s somewhat troubling. However, it’s quite obvious that if minors want to see an R-rated movie, they’re going to find a way (easily) to see it.

So, yeah, troubling in principle because of the legal hand the MPAA plays in things, but if they’re going to make decisions such as these, it seems to me that the studios are just going to have to figure a way around them. Despite studios’ generally proven inability to adapt, I have a feeling this is something they would find a way to overcome.

And I thought “historical smoking” was a ridiculous warning.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Re:

Granted, there is still the problem that the MPAA’s decision affects who can _legally_ see the film, which is not the case with something like Google, and that’s somewhat troubling.

It’s not the case with the MPAA’s decision, either. Contrary to popular belief, the MPAA’s rating system is not legally binding or enforceable. You cannot get arrested for selling an R-rated ticket to a minor. The MPAA may fine the theater or punish them in other ways (e.g., withhold the next big blockbuster film from distribution to that theater), but it’s not illegal.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

True. However it could be argued that the MPAA has created a de facto law with their ratings by engineering an ecosystem in which a) nobody can disagree with them without it being financial suicide and b) the average movie-goer rarely (if ever) considers (or is even aware of) the fact that movie ratings come from a private organization’s entirely subjective and opaque review process.

Call me Al says:

This is very frustrating. We have to be able to rely on the age ratings on of films in order to judge whether they are suitable viewing for minors. This kind of action brings the whole thing into disrepute… or I should say further into disrepute.

It is ridiculous that you can have films full of violence such as Dark Knight which get a PG 13 and a film where two adults giggle after smoking pot which gets an R rating. That they consider mild drug use to be more morally corrupting then dozens of murders perhaps says a lot about the people of the MPAA.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I agree with the inconsistency being ridiculous. It’s OK for the Joker to murder people left and right, but not OK for two adults to smoke pot? Personally, I don’t see anything “funny” about people running around cheating on their spouses (which seems to be the entire premise of this movie), which also seems to me to be a worse transgression than smoking pot.

Reminds me of the old George Carlin routine, “What if we replaced the word “Kill” with the word “Fuck” in all those old movie cliches…

The Anti-Mike says:


I hereby completely, unequivocally and totally retract everything I have said on this site. I have what you might call multiple personality issues, and my troll side has gotten a bit out of hand. Apologies for that. I’ll try to keep him from shilling anymore, but he’s a stubborn one, that part of me. Always disagreeing just for disagreement’s sake. It’s stupid, really, but what can you do? Anyway, I’ll see if I can’t stuff him back into his box.

Anonymous Coward says:

While I don’t do illegal drugs (and I also avoid legal drugs as much as possible) and I don’t encourage the use of illegal drugs, I do think the war on drugs is a complete failure and should be stopped. What I do in my free time is none of the governments business and it is certainly none of their business if I choose to use something like marijuana for medicinal use or to grow my own and even sell it (which I do not do and I do not encourage people to break the law, but I do want the law to be changed) beyond perhaps a sales tax of course.

However, that’s not to say drug use should not be regulated. To the extent that your drug use can harm others it should be regulated (ie: drunk driving is illegal and it SHOULD be).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Driving drunk doesn’t harm others, it simply raises the chance to harm others. Similar to talking on a cell phone, eating a hamburger, fiddling with your radio, or being very young or very old while driving.

What should be illegal is hurting others. Passing additional laws don’t actually improve anything.

Do you really have a problem with a guy driving at .08 BAC if his actual driving is actually safe?

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I do see your point, but it’s a little idealistic. The fact is that the whole challenge of writing laws is exactly what you are pointing out: nothing is truly black and white, but society also demands a somewhat quantifiable sense of justice and “illegal” versus “illegal” or else we would all be subject to the whims of individuals. As such, writing laws is all about trying to draw those lines that are oh-so-difficult to draw, and though the end result is never perfect, I don’t think drunk driving laws are particularly problematic…

interval says:

Look, its time to call the war on drugs what it is, a war on impoverished (not poverty) people. 20+ years of this nonsense and what have we got? A whole lot of poor people in jail and a ridiculous rating system. I guess if Martin & Streep had started jamming needles into their arms and then shot each other the picture would have had a more decent rating. This country’s asinine attitudes toward drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence are embarrassing. For all the things I find reprehensible about Europe the one thing they seem to have it together one are social mores.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

“Figuring prominently in the brouhaha are other depictions of marijuana in cinema, particularly the scene in the 1980 comedy โ€œ9 to 5โ€ showing Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin getting high and raiding the refrigerator. Its rating was PG.”

That kinda makes sense in their ratings system. There are clearly negative consequences to smoking pot in that instance: the next day, they’ll find out they are running low on groceries.

Overcast (profile) says:

Re: a

There are not any negative effects of smoking a joint. Why does the MPAA want people to lie?

It’s the accepted ‘official position’ of the Government, I guess.

Funny, because pot is the ONLY pain killer you cannot overdose on. But it’s also the ONLY ‘medicinal substance’ that the Pharmaceutical companies don’t make either…


Devonavar (user link) says:

Not a one time thing...

“One simple rating may not seem like a huge deal”

This isn’t one simple rating. Off the top of my head, “Everything’s Gone Green” was rated PG in Canada and R in the States … The PG rating is correct. The *only* objectionable material in the film is the portrayal of a grow op, but that’s enough to make the anti-drug bias clear.

I have no strong feelings for pot, but it seems like a dumb thing to censor…

lux (profile) says:

RE: RE: Right

Oh come on….really? Didn’t try it? Even once?

Nope, sorry. I’m really just not interested.

Carl Sagan used marijuana for the purpose of enlightening. What’s good enough for Carl is good enough for me.

“Sagan was a user of marijuana. Under the pseudonym “Mr. X”, he contributed an essay about smoking cannabis to the 1971 book Marihuana Reconsidered.[41][42] The essay explained that marijuana use had helped to inspire some of Sagan’s works and enhance sensual and intellectual experiences.”

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

Re: RE: RE: Right

Please please PLEASE let’s not turn this into a debate about the benefits of marijuana. It’s good for some, not for others; there are a few out there who should probably give it a try, and a few who probably never should have started; it has played a role in the birth of some very wonderful ideas and some incredibly stupid ones. Let’s just leave it at that.

aXisDenIEd says:

Marijuana's twin talent

We forget that marijuana is only the 2nd “drug” with least side effects. Although the placebo effect was likely greater in the far past then today, it is increasing exponentially then our recent past. Marijuana is a supurb partner in helping to achieve self-healing. Look how many people of all ailments are being aided by marijuana regardless if it’s directly useful with your ailment. Of course there would not be a rush to back marijuana if it also was a “drug” that wouldn’t be needed for many eventually. I don’t know about anyone else, but majority of prescripts I was told I needed were for life not temporary. Big difference to the company trying to make something off the people that aren’t growing or have access themselves.

aXisDenIEd says:

Marijuana's twin talent

We forget that marijuana is only the 2nd “drug” with least side effects. Although the placebo effect was likely greater in the far past then today, it is increasing exponentially then our recent past. Marijuana is a supurb partner in helping to achieve self-healing. Look how many people of all ailments are being aided by marijuana regardless if it’s directly useful with your ailment. Of course there would not be a rush to back marijuana if it also was a “drug” that wouldn’t be needed for many eventually. I don’t know about anyone else, but majority of prescripts I was told I needed were for life not temporary. Big difference to the company trying to make something off the people that aren’t growing or have access themselves.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop ยป