Post-Avatar ratings

There’s an amazing synchronicity in the timing of the release of Avatar and the election of Scott Brown to the vacant Massachusetts’­­ Senate seat. Senator-elect Brown’s win may portend the death of health care legislation, which means that we are left with the status quo — a system where private insurance companies are essentially free to call their own shots regarding coverage without the meddling of government rules, regulations and requirements.

Similarly, Avatar seems to have engendered a debate regarding government meddling versus self-regulation in the film business. Just like the insurance industry, film ratings (and thus who is allowed to receive film coverage and who gets left out on the sidewalk) are a matter of self-policing. And, just like the complaints about health care, people are wondering if Hollywood’s self-regulation is working given the release of Avatar.

So far, Hollywood has rebuffed efforts by the government to tinker with its rating system, even though, like health care, the rating system is subject to loads of criticism as to its fairness and effectiveness. But, with the release of Avatar and the critiques it has received, maybe we will see some reforms to the rating system.

That is, in addition to the current G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17 ratings, Avatar could engender the following new, additional ratings so as to voluntarily avoid government interference:


No one who is offended by tobacco shall be admitted. The film may contain characters who smoke cigarettes, including “tough as nails” scientists played by Sigourney Weaver; however, pipe smoking, by characters like Sherlock Holmes, shall be exempt and not be subject to this rating. Nebraskans are also exempt.


Those who are offended by depictions of respect for the environment or suggestions that the natural world may possess spiritual meaning for humans or humanoid species (e.g., paganism) must be accompanied by a Christian or someone who does not harbor such beliefs; this rating shall be affixed even if the film depicts that the “soul” of humans or humanoid species are simply transfigured into the natural realm as this treads
dangerously close to paganism, even though there is no outright paganism involved, but animals are respected.


This film may contain sex and gender issues that may offend some viewers. The film may contain depictions of sexual differences between males and females whereby even though the females are depicted as strong, smart, and capable, they may still be depicted as females, which may offend some viewers — especially as some males are depicted as physically bigger. In addition, the film may lack depictions of the full range of gender and sexual identities, such as homosexuality, transvestitism, cross-dressing, even the lack of visible genitalia. Nevertheless, such depictions should not be construed as “preexisting” conditions.


Those offended by situations involving imperialistic actions will be allowed admittance only when accompanied by someone who propounds a “neo-con” philosophy in order to provide the requisite alternative perspective.


Not to be confused with the former “M for mature” rating, this rating stands for “militarism” in that the film depicts a stereotypical militaristic mindset where armed forces are happily deployed by and subject to the whims of nefarious influences. “M-18” means that no one over the required age of military service is allowed to question the motivations of such military depictions, even if those military actions might be conducted under false pretenses.


No one who is an employee of a large corporation may be admitted unless that person is ready to be subjected to the depiction of heartless business interests that seek profit over all other values, including environmental or humanistic (or alien species) interests. If after viewing the film despite this warning, a patron who is offended may invoke their recently recognized First Amendment rights and have the corporation who they work for lobby governmental entities to censor or edit the film to conform to depictions of their corporation’s interests in the best possible light.


Not only are all ages admitted, but all ages are required to gain admission in order to help make this film, King of the World!

Doug Young is The Statesman’s outstanding film critic. He works for U.S. Sen. Mark Udall as an environmental policy advisor.