Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Tillman Story gets an R-rating from the MPAA. Why it's not an outrage, and how it can be easily fixed for a more teen-friendly PG-13 rating.

Distributor Harvey Weinstein, director Amir Bav Lev, and producer John Battsek is up in arms today because their upcoming documentary, The Tillman Story, has been slapped with an R-rating for 'excessive language'. Apparently, the critically-acclaimed look into the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and subsequent cover-up of the friendly-fire incident, contains three uses of the 'F'-word. I get the outrage, but it's a pretty simple idea. This isn't the MPAA giving an R for intensity or overwhelming violence or a certain amount of sexuality. This is too many uses of the F-word, period, end of story. Everyone and their brother knows that at best you can have two of them and get a PG-13. The makers broke one of the MPAA's few iron-clad rules for a PG-13 and are now complaining about it. If Weinstein and company want the PG-13, then just bleep one or two of them out.

I'm pretty darn sure that the film will lose little if any of its power by having two less uses of the word 'fuck'. Either stick to your guns and go out with an R, stop whining, edit the word and get your PG-13, or do what Morgan Spurlock did with Super Size Me (originally PG-13 for profanity and drug references) and make an 'educational version' to be shown in class rooms. If The Tillman Story is supposed to be an educational tool, then it should be of certain importance that it be used for that purpose. I said the same thing last year about Michael Moore leaving in three 'fuck's in the R-rated Capitalism: A Love Story. If Moore wanted that film to be used as an educational tool, there is no excuse not to cut those two of those out (one of which was Moore himself grandstanding in voice over) and win a more kid-friendly PG rating (the movie has no otherwise objectionable content).

If I had a story to tell, and the difference between it being allowed to screen in classrooms and marketed to teenagers or not was one or two too-many uses of me using the word 'fuck', I'd have no problem getting bleeped. It's not like anyone won't know what I said. We can whine all we want about censorship in the MPAA, and that is a discussion worth having, but the makers of The Tillman Story have a pretty simple choice to make, and it should be a no-brainer.

Scott Mendelson

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