Few directors are as consistently creative and unique as Danny Boyle, whose ouvre spans horror, sci-fi, dark comedy, and family-friendly drama. As such, his latest — Slumdog Millionaire, which follows a poor Indian teenager as he becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of Who Wants to be A Millionaire? — is very high on my list of “must see” films for the year.
Recently, Slumdog Millionaire was given an “R” rating by the MPAA, due to “some violence, disturbing images and language.” Suffice to say, some folks are pretty upset by this decision.
Let me steal a bit from Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers: Really?! Really, MPAA? You think the pencil-impaling, face-melting antics of The Dark Knight fall within the bounds of PG-13 acceptability, but a few gunshots and tense situations put Slumdog Millionaire over the line into R territory? Really? And the decapitations and mass slaughters of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian — a film aimed directly at children — only gets a PG (a PG!!) while Slumdog Millionaire gets an R? Really?! MPAA, if you were a judge, you’d be letting rapists go free while sentencing jaywalkers to the electric chair. I’ve seen more sober reasoning and sound judgment at a frat party. Michael Vick had more common sense than you.
This has happened again and again over the years — movies that are perfect for teens that don’t whitewash the realities of the world get slapped with a restrictive rating that guarantees they can never see it. There’s no nudity in Slumdog Millionaire, and there’s no explicit sex. There’s some violence. There’s lots of tonally grim stuff. There’s some harder language. But it’s all true. Slumdog isn’t a documentary, but the lack of reality doesn’t change the basic truthfulness of the film.
If Two-Face in The Dark Knight got a PG-13 rating, than Slumdog should have been awarded a PG. It’s a shame that Searchlight didn’t want to take the extra time to fight this one out. I’m guessing that Fox are more concerned with getting the rating on the posters as soon as possible, so that they can meet the November 12th release date.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A quick Google search returns many more such protests, all of them calling for Fox Searchlight to challenge the decision and/or the MPAA’s head on a platter.
These sorts of decisions always raise good questions, and point out some alarming inconsistencies in the MPAA’s decisions. As some of the aforementioned articles point out, it does seem odd that a film like The Dark Knight that’s certainly full of violence and disturbing imagery can get by with a “PG-13” rating.
All of which just goes to show that, at best, the MPAA’s decisions should be used as a mere baseline, and that moviegoers (and especially parents of moviegoers) need to be much more aware and cognizant of the films that are being rated, and ultimately make decisions for themselves.