533: Rated R

What was the first R rated (or otherwise “adult”) film you remember seeing?

Full episode script

In 1894, one of the very first moving pictures recorded, of a Spanish dancer, was banned in some areas because of the perceived adult themes it contained.

Things didn’t get much better for a while. Between 1915 and 1952, the United States Supreme Court held that motion pictures were not protected under the FIrst Amendment. and that resulted in more than a few attempts to mark some films as for “adults only.”  

Today, there are ratings in the United States that are intended to make it easy for someone to tell, at a glance, the general level of sex, violence, and other quote-unquote adult themes a movie contains.

That doesn’t mean that the system is always correct — or even comprehensible. The PG-13 rating was created around the same time as Jaws, which was released with a PG rating. Today, most big blockbusters fall under “PG-13” rating, even though merchandising goes far below that magical 13 years old age limit.

Of course, what’s actually a part of that rating has been changing. As a 2011 study in the Journal of Children and the Media reported, quote:

A quantitative content analysis of 45 films was conducted, and significant increases in violent content in the PG-13 rating category from  1988 to  1997 and 2006 were found. However, similar increases in other types of adult content in the PG-13 rating category were not found.

Beyond even this creep, the entire MPAA rating system is rather dense system. A group of anonymous Los Angeles parents work for the Classifications and Ratings Administration, a nonprofit arm of the MPAA owned by the major studios. There are guidelines, but very few hard and fast rules that guide how a movie is rated. And that creates a situation where some things that some people consider an “adult movie” is far from for others.

So, even in this subjective world of R ratings, I’m curious what your experience has been?

This script may vary from the actual episode transcript.