The MPAA doesn’t really care about violence. As long as it’s bloodless, you can pack as much violence as you want into your movie and get away with a PG-13. If you don’t believe me, go see Suicide Squad, a film where psychopaths and serial killers shoot, stab, slice, bludgeon, and immolate faceless hordes of mystical monsters. But since Suicide Squad is a big studio blockbuster and big studios own the MPAA, the film gets away with a PG-13. Meanwhile, an indie like the new comedy Don’t Think Twice has been slapped with an “R” because of language and pot smoking. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’m pretty sure no one gets shot to death or consumed in a fireball.
Don’t Think Twice writer-director Mike Birbiglia pointed out the MPAA’s bizarre standards:
Suicide Squad has machine gun killings and bombings and got a PG-13 rating. @Dontthinkmovie gets an R because adults smoke pot. Confusing?
— Mike Birbiglia (@birbigs) August 3, 2016
Birbiglia’s attack isn’t leveled at Suicide Squad or even at violence in movies. Rather, it’s how the MPAA chooses to evaluate certain kinds of content. Judd Apatow replied on Twitter:
Does Suicide Squad deserve an R-rating? No, but as I pointed out last November, it was already apparent that the film was going to tell us why we need a new MPAA rating. There’s just too big of a gulf between PG-13 and R, and violent films like Suicide Squad are allowed for all audiences while a movie like Don’t Think Twice is restricted to audiences 17 and older. If the MPAA refuses to reevaluate content, then should at least reconsider its outdating ratings system, which currently only benefits studio marketing divisions rather than moviegoers.