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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

MPAA Says No to Pointing Gun At Audience

Most of us understand that movie bullets aren't going to suddenly fly out of the screen and into our bodies as we sit there, vulnerable, in the theater.
Still, the Motion Picture Association Of America doesn't want to take any chances, which is why they told the director of Watchmen, Zack Snyder, that he couldn't have a guy pointing a gun at the audience in the trailer. Snyder replaced the gun with a walkie-talkie.

Full AV Club Post

Visit Worst Previews to See Walkie Talkie/Gun Switch

The MPAA has been under constant fire for the last few years for it's alleged biases in its rating system. And last year, it took a some hits when it gave a pass to advertising for the film Captivity starring Elisha Cuthbert. This latest revelation isn't going to discourage the opposition to the org's policies to holster their weapons. Puns intended.

America and Hollywood's history of content regulation goes way back. For many years, most states and large cities had censorship boards. And you can look to places like China to see how, in their full glory, they work. The MPAA's rating system and regulation of movie advertising was intended to allow films to retain their creators original vision, while giving consumers the power to self-censor what they see. Mucking with the films themselves definitely traipses into censorship territory. Adversting is another beast entirely.

Unlike most products themselves, advertising is designed and created to invade the public's awareness on a daily basis, choice is not option. With that in mind, setting reasonable and clear standards makes sense. However, one does have to question if the MPAA's objection here is reasonable. Whether the gun is pointed at the audience or not, doesn't seem to make much sense if the gun itself isn't objectionable.

It's interesting that this came out a few days before yesterdays ruling that threw out the FCC's fine against CBS for the 2004 Superbowl incident.

From the AP:

In siding with CBS, the 3rd Circuit panel found that the FCC strayed from its long-held approach of applying identical standards to words and images when reviewing complaints of indecency.

"Like any agency, the FCC may change its policies without judicial second-guessing," the court said. "But it cannot change a well-established course of action without supplying notice of and a reasoned explanation for its policy departure."

Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Media Access Project, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of a group of TV writers, directors and producers, said the ruling helps preserve creative freedom on the air.

"The court agreed with us: the FCC's inconsistent and unexplained departure from prior decisions leaves artists and journalists confused as to what is, and is not, permissible," he said.

Full AP Story

The amount of outrage the Captivity fiasco created--even fans of horror objected to the advertising--demonstrated that there will always be lines that we collectively don't want to cross. The questions that have always been difficult to answer are who does the regulating, who defines the lines and in light of changing standards, can the regulators remain consistent.

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