The prospect of having a quiet, relaxing evening sitting in front of the television seemed like such a wonderful plan. I was especially excited because HGTV was running two episodes of one of my favorite programs back to back, Divine Design with Candice Olson. What that woman can do with a room! But I digress.
I had settled down on the couch with some popcorn, a beverage and my trusty notebook (to write down ideas I get from Ms. Divine Design). At the first commercial, I picked up the Lifestyles section of the newspaper and started reading. I tend to do things like this during program breaks to keep my mind stimulated. Unfortunately, sometimes when I do this, I end up less stimulated and more all riled up and aggravated. This was one of those times.
So what ruined my fantastic evening of decadent home improvement viewing and stole my peace? A headline and it's related story illustrating the ongoing frustrating point that people are no longer allowed to freely think and be responsible for themselves. The headline: “GROUP RESPONDS TO MPAA ADDING SMOKING TO FACTORS IN FILM RATING.”
“The recent announcement from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to consider smoking when rating movies does nothing to stop the proven impact that the depictions of smoking in movies has on the health of children and teenagers. The American Medical Association Alliance (AMAA) and the American Legacy Foundation have urged the MPAA to rate any new movie with smoking R, an evidence-based policy solution that would reduce youth exposure to film smoking.”
If it weren’t for the fact that I had a lit cigarette dangling from my mouth while reading this, you would have thought that the smoke was coming from my ears.
Now those of you who know me are probably thinking, “Poor Robby, you’re getting all worked up because the world is closing in on your dirty little habit.” I admit I smoke. I’m neither proud of this, nor am I ashamed. Kind of like my preoccupation with having blonde hair, my ongoing challenge that is my body image, and my penchant for dating guys that aren’t necessarily gay, more hetero-flexible; good, bad, and indifferent its part of who I am right now.
No, I’m much more concerned about the larger theme presented here.
I’m extremely bothered by the idea that the MPAA is being encouraged and is taking even more authority to judge, label, and essentially censor films. And let’s not pretend that that’s not what they do. While I agree that a rating system is a useful tool to point out content and themes of a work, I believe there is a huge difference between pointing out that, for example, TransAmerica contains language and themes that are of an adult nature...as opposed to TransAmerica should not be seen by anyone under the age of 17. Imparting useful information good! Seeming to make a decision for me bad! Real bad. And let’s be honest. We all know that the MPAA’s guidelines for making their decisions are flawed and often appear hypocritical. Tits, ass, and beaver are okay. Dick is not. Blowing shit up and glorifying violence is okay. Honest portrayals of sexuality are not. It’s ridiculous and, to use a word I’ve been using a lot lately, arbitrary. Check out the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated by filmmaker Kirby Dick if you need more enlightening.
Now groups like the AMAA want to throw their two cents in.
It makes my head hurt.
I can state emphatically, growing up, I didn’t see people in the movie smoking and go, “Hmmm…that looks cool! I’m gonna be a rebel and smoke, too!” I thought Batman was cool, but I didn’t try to emulate him either (Batgirl was more my style, personally.) And even if I did, I think my parents, especially my Mother, would take issue with the MPAA, the AMAA, the CIA or whatever hell blah-blah-blah AA trying to step in and be my parent. Where were they during the thirty-seven hours of labor and the episiotomy, she’d probably be interested in knowing? Unfortunately, that’s the kind of climate we live in. Apparently we all need Big Brother to guide is through life because we can’t be trusted to fuck it up enough on our own.
In truth, all of this is just another example, a metaphor if you will, of the battle personal rights continue to face.
I’m just so irritated with the alarming number of reoccurring cases of imposing boundaries, limitations, and regulations on things that don’t really need them. I’ve said this more than a few times in my column lately that I really, really, detest the notion that someone thinks that they need to monitor and police things that I may hear or see. I am really, really opposed to some random individual thinking that they and their followers need to protect the interests of every man, woman, and child on the planet. And I really, really despise the idea that we are supposed to be okay with not being able to be free thinkers and responsible for our own actions without a committee telling us how to live, behave, and how to be entertained.
I’m irritated that creative expression, integrity, and thought continue to be subject to approval and acceptance and mass hysteria.
If only Candice Olson could makeover everything.
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Originally published in the June 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.