My pal, L.A. screenwriter Bruce Feirstein, received a lot of hate mail for his latest New York Observer column imagining new movie ratings by the Motion Picture Association of America, which therefore endears this piece to me. What prompted him was Facing the Giants, that film about the Christian football coach which received a “PG” rating because of “thematic” elements — not drugs, not violence and not sex, but religion. “I’m no prude. I’ve worked on my share of movies with cartoon violence and sexual innuendo,” Bruce writes. “But looking at the MPAA’s decision, I can’t help but wonder if it’s possible to make any film today without it issuing a content warning. Forget about the biblical epics, like The Ten Commandments. I’m thinking about Lassie, where the family sits down to pray before dinner… If the MPAA is going to follow this path, let’s go the whole nine yards (as opposed to the whole hog, which would undoubtedly be offensive to Muslims, Jews and animal-rights activists), and institute the following new, improved movie ratings (about which the MPAA sent the NYO a form letter):
“RH-13: Revisionist History. Contains characters, dialogue and historical conclusions that bear no resemblance to what actually occurred. Sometimes designated OS-13, in honor of Oliver Stone.
“PP-13: Product Placement. Contains images of toys, cell phones, luxury automobiles or other brand-name consumables that may be inappropriate for easily suggestible children under the age of 60.
“CF-13: Conventional Family. Traditionally gendered husband and wife, with 2.4 kids. And a dog. View at your peril.
“VP-13: Vanity Project. May contain OTTA (Over-the-Top Acting), or depictions of MSwFD (Movie Star with a Fatal Disease.) Sometimes rated LD/DA/FaC: Last-ditch desperate attempt for comeback by a fading movie star who’s cut his/her fee to appear in a low-budget film. Occasionally rated VI, for Very Important; somewhat less frequently rated OC-17, for Oscar Contender.
“IAAF-13: It’s All America’s Fault. Any post-9/11 film with political overtones, wherein we learn that the real threat isn’t Al Qaeda, but a middle-aged white guy working for a sinister corporation (or the C.I.A.) and somehow involves Big Oil.
“S-13: A so-so film that got much better reviews than it deserved, mainly because it was better than 99 percent of the rest of the dreck reviewers are forced to sit through every rear. Lord, take pity on their souls.
“PD-13: Pretentious Dissembling. The critics think it’s a boring, badly executed disaster film; the director insists it’s an allegory for the failures of the Bush administration in every human endeavor. May also be rated RS-O (Red State Offensive) at the producer’s discretion.
“PM-13: Post-Modernist. Reconceptualizes the context and social construct of archetypal themes and iconic, beloved characters. Translation: No, Batman isn’t gay. But he sure acts like it.
“FP-13: Franchise Potential. Warning: Viewing this mindless film in a theater will set off an irreversible chain of events leading to a sequel. Particularly offensive to cineastes that are repulsed by films with Roman numerals in the title.
“3M: Murder, Mayhem, Misogyny; or Mutants, Morons, Malevolence. Whatever.
“RP-13: Reviewer-Proof. Contains language, sequences and story elements that will offend the critics, delight the audience and infuriate competing movie studios—resulting in a slew of copycat films 18 months later, all of which will fail at the box office.
“DVD-13: A Renter. Otherwise, may lead to fidgeting and an abrupt exit from the theater. In extreme cases, viewers have been known to beseech the heavens: Why can’t Hollywood make better movies?”