And hopefully my blog will never will be rated. I'm going to write the way I want to and if it pisses off your fucking parents then so be it. But come on, how many readers can I really have anyway? And how many would have parents who would still give a damn what they read on the internet. At the very least I'm more tasteful then the stile project.
But lets get back to the point. While my blog may not be for general consumption (I have a very limited audience) a lot of other media is. Like for instance, Movies. Which will be my subject for this letter. On a friend's suggestion (from like 6 months ago) I saw "This Film is Not Yet Rated". Which is a documentary on the MPAA film rating system.
It's a voluntary system in which you can submit your film the MPAA and they'll have a secret screening in which a board of around 12 "average parents" will rate your film. The rating of G, PG, PG13, R or NC17 will offered back to you with the reasons why it recieved such a rating (which are important of they give you a stronger one then you want) and you can reedit your film based on their suggestions and submit it again. If you feel their rating is in error you can go for an appeal. Where you have a hearing in front of an appeals board. Their decision is final. The appeals board consists of 14 anonymous members and you cannot bring up other movies for comparison. So you don't know who you're talking to and you can't compare your film with any other. The documentary did some spying, and found out who the 12 average parents were and who was serving on the appeals board. it turns out the appeals board consists mostly of major players in the film industry, like the buyers for large movie distribution houses, and head sales people from major movie houses, also 2 members of clergy (Catholic and Episcopalian).
Apparently about 10-15 years ago they wouldn't tell you why they rated your film what they did in specific terms, that would be censorship they said. But for whatever reason that's exactly what they do now.
Let me be clear on something. Nobody has issues with the PG rating "Happy Feet" received. (And it was a good movie.) That had little effect on it's distribution and financial success. It's mainly the difference between R and NC17 that raises issues, and to a smaller extent PG13 and R.
When a movie gets a NC17 rating it can no longer advertise on TV. Most movie theaters wont play it. Most people never hear about it much less see it. It could be the difference between maybe making back the money spent on production and making millions of dollars. And the fine line between the two ratings usually has to do with sex. I'm not going to go into this, go watch "This film is not yet rated" they go into the absurd reasons films get denied an R rating, from a frame or two of pubic hair, to someone making a motion suggesting lesbian sex. There are no rules to what gets what rating it's what they feel to be right. It's a moral decision. And after all they're average parents (they aren't really) so we should trust them.
I swear to god even "But I'm a Cheerleader!" (a teen comedy that was anti sexual reorientation camp and pro coming to terms with your own sexuality) had a brief masturbation scene cut for a lower rating. But it was right after "American Pie" (a teen comedy that was pro fucking milfs and pies, webcams and and anti.. moderation, discretion, and I guess pies.) came out where the guy fucks a pie in the god damned trailer to get off. I can't tell you which I'd want my kid to learn from, You'll just have to guess.
I'm not worried about how much money the movie industry has. It's mainly gotten them the DMCA and other acts and laws that don't scare me. These laws were created to protect DRM and to scare people into paying money to see movies. They're an extension of DRM and part of the old system it's trying to protect. (Well that sounds a little preachy.) Let me put it this way. I don't care how illegal it is, you can't stop me from copying a file or playing movies on my laptop, or hooking my laptop up to a TV. You wont even ever find out I did it. You can't stop all the kids who are downloading movies either. In fact all these lawsuits for downloading movies and music are targeting the industries main demographic. The 15-25 year old boys who are still providing most of the industries income. While some people like abuse in relationships, the 15-25 year old boys are starting to look towards other content providing lovers for their movie fix. (Just ask my godfather, even he thinks youTube is hot.)
I am worried about how much of a tantrum the industry is going to throw as they go down. As I said they do have a lot of money which will eventually run out, but they are pretty well entrenched both commercially and in our government. (I have crazy ideas about government I will share one day. They involve riots and mass threats.) Thanks to AMC a 17 year old girl might be serving jail time and subject to pay a large fine for recording 15 seconds of "TRANSFORMERS" the movie on her digital camera. (Supposedly for her little brother so he might see the film.) I actually called AMC to complain and I frankly will avoid their theaters if I can (and I can, New York City has a lot of theaters.). At the very least I'll refer to it like I do myspace (which is evil and must be destroyed).
(AMC Responded that it was in the states hands now. As it was a law the girl broke, which means the state not AMC would be pressing charges. I told them I didn't support such a law. And then I wondered who would support a law that would do this and who would have lobbied for such a law. Oh yea, it was them.)
We need a new rating system. In the 1960's when our current rating system was implemented it was not possible to find out what the average parents opinion of a movie was. Maybe if you had some sort of call center. In 2007.. scratch that, since 1995 when I had my first web poll it's been possible to have some sort of national, international, world, or small town rating system. It's been possible for directors and writers to say who they think should probably see their movie. And it's been possible to aggregate this information to make some sort of index of people's opinions. Now a social rating system for movies doesn't need to get so specific. I don't need to be able to say, Hrmm.. 95% of single unwed mothers age 19-45 think this movie is appropriate for people between 17 1/2 and 32. But if it tramples the social concenceious of 3/4ths of the north east excluding Massachusetts (I don't need their opinions) with regards to violence and children under 12. Then maybe I might want to skip this one when I take fake "little brother" out to the movies every 2nd saturday.
I think I get a little convoluted in my writing style.
I don't even think it's appropriate to say a 12 year old shouldn't be seeing violence. Maybe if we broke violence up into a few categories I could use my own discretion. War with no blood, War with blood, Ninjas, and "fucked up violent situations" are a good start. I know my fake "little brother" has a lot of experience dealing with bloody wars and I think he's mature enough to deal with that, but Ninjas might confuse him I'd want to start him on movies that are low in the Ninja scale, at first.
We might want to defer to some specialists in the fields of, say, "violence and child development", to come up with some more categories. (They better keep ninjas, I'd see every movie that scores over 6 on the ninja scale.) And then we could hit up the specialists on "Sex and child development" (the ones who aren't in prison) for some categories to gauge a movie's sexual content. And then frankly while we should probably keep the ratings simple, I'd want to hear on some other categories we might want to know a movie contains. I can only think of one other, the "Fucked up shit" category. Where movies by Jon Watters, American Phsyco, I heart Huckbees, and Toy Story 2 would all score a whopping 10.
Ok lets have a break and talk about the internet. Have you heard of it? A long time ago my mother had an account with an isp called "somethingZero" (no it wasn't netZero) and if you went to www.somethingZero.com/~kvaugh/index.htm you got my wonderfully crappy site. It took something like 2 and half minutes to load on my 14.4 modem and I had filled our whopping 4mb of hosting space with animated gifs. I wish I still had a copy. I also believe it was the inspiration for The cheat's homepage. but since everybody had stolen everybody else's design back then (including me) I can't be sure. All I knew was I could show off anything I wanted. I had the coolest collection of animated gifs out of all my friends. (Just like I have the most interesting blog out of all my friends now, honest) And I shared them with everybody who had heard of netscape and had a computer. Things work a little differently now but I can still share whatever I want. (I have 100,000 times the storage space now.)
Flash video which basically plays on every computer without having to load up a large slow plugin like quicktime or windows media player was the catalyst for youtube and all it's hundreds of competitors. Rever (a competitor) using the new codecs in flash 9 which look halfway decent and allow you to share in the advertising profit. Amazon the former bookseller (I mean, the company that formerly only sold books) has these web services now that anyone can use for their own website on the cheep. The most important one is the S3 which stands for Simple Storage Service, and lets you load a file into S3 and have your website load the content from S3 rather then your own web host. This doesn't sound so great but imagine I suddenly had a lot of traffic and needed a faster web hosting company, but only for this one really popular video I had uploaded (maybe it's "This movie is not yet rated"), I could pay really big bugs for a faster web host or I could have my website point to S3 and have Amazon's really big reliable network host the file for me for pennies. Infact, Amazon has a huge network behind it and deals with all the problems that entiails. I just need a credit card and a few pennies. They're the econo version of a CDN (content delivery network).
Their coolest service is something called c2 which is a virtual server. You upload a image file for a server's operation system (you got to make it yourself) and it will start a virtual server, boot up your image, and let you do whatever the hell you programed your machine to do, and then shutdown your machine and pretend it never existed when it's done. This sounds ok.. but when you realize that you can start up as many instances of your server as you want, have it be a lot cheaper then buying your own hardware, and shut them down and stop paying for them when you don't need them. It starts sounding really cool. It's not a solution to every problem out there, but there are a few websites that run completely off of amazon's infrastructure (they have a few other useful services too) and have such a low startup cost that they can start making money or at least be self sustaining a lot earlier then other startups.
Why do I bring all this up? I mean I find this really cool, but I should have a reason to share all of this in this specific post about how the MPAA abuses us and abuses young girls recording transformers for their brothers. Well I do, these are the building blocks for your own youTube, for your own online distribution company. The level of understanding needed to use these services is much lower then the level of understanding needed to run all your own hardware, and if you didn't understand what amazon's offering either, then at least recognize that it's at least twice as easy to use amazon then it is to run your own data center. (I say twice because people react to that, in reality it's probably 10,000 times easier, but nobody takes that number seriously.)
1) Nobody needs the MPAA anymore, especially if they're going to be assholes about people doing what they want or feel is acceptable. Digital recording is cheep and so is digital distribution and even digital projectors.
2) Anybody who doesn't want to follow the law won't.
Amazon is a US company but I bet you someone else in "The Republic of San Lorenzo" or somewhere similar is setting up a comparable system. A system where they wouldn't care if you were avoiding US sensors or US laws even. Where that girl could upload and share her 15 seconds of transformers without worry of retribution because she feels it's right. (Something I doubt she feels right now with the threat of jail time over her head.)
The way we consume media has been changing and changing and changing....
On a last note, while we still have movies and the rating system, and the MPAA (which I have to say has made a lot of good movies. I'll take the Dreamers over Shortbus any day.) we need to do something about the rating system. I want a new rating system designed (to my previous specifications) and I want to take down our current one. How? I'm glad you asked. I'll call it after ratings. It can be an experiment on how best to actually implement the new rating system. But after a movie comes out, I want people to rate it based on how they felt. And we can compare this to the MPAA's rating. I also have to note that we don't know what were not seeing. So we'd want directors to leak onto the internet or submit after the fact, or hell I'll wait for the dvd, the full unedited for rating directors cut of the movie, the way they wanted to do it. And then I want that rated. I also want it highlighted exactly what the MPAA wants cut from every film. Heck, I want everybody who submits a film to have a place where they can (maybe right away, maybe once their movie is in theaters as to avoid retribution) share what censorship the MPAA tired to impose on them. Independent films as well as studio films, all the feedback out in the open. I'm sick of this hidden group trying to shape the content we see in the movies.
Local and National news your next!
PS I really need to fact check, I pulled some of those dates out of my ass, watch the movie and google around for more accurate information. I don't have a consistant internet connection so I'm not going to do it this time. It's not like you should believe anything you read anyway.