Family ideals not only factor when deciding film ratings


Family ideals not only factor when deciding film ratings

Transgender people could  count on one hand the films they’ve seen with characters reflecting their own life experience, and the Motion Picture Association of America recently demonstrated no interest in increasing that number.

The MPAA gave the film “3 Generations” an undeserved R rating before reconsidering following public outcry. The film—scheduled to release May 5—tells the story of a transgender teenager named Ray and his family as they learn to accept him for who he truly is. While the MPAA decided on this restrictive rating for a wholesome movie starring a transgender boy, it has given films that use transgender women as a joke—”Hot Pursuit” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” among others—a PG-13 rating without a second thought.

“3 Generations” doesn’t include graphic violence or depictions of drug use or sex, which are all factors a review board made up of parents consider when deciding a movie’s rating. The board assigns a rating based on how it thinks the majority of American parents would rate it. Apparently, a film featuring a transgender teen would have horrified the parents across the country.

This wasn’t a rating based on strong language but on the MPAA labeling the subject matter as inappropriate and refusing to acknowledge transgender individuals as people who deserve to be recognized in mainstream cinema, art and culture. 

Many were outraged by the vast number of teens unable to see the film, including Clemson University student Blair Durkee, who began a petition on in partnership with GLAAD to not only boycott the R rating but also demand that it be changed to PG-13. On April 27, the MPAA agreed to lower the rating after the petition received 34,766 signatures. 

Correcting the decision doesn’t excuse MPAA’s original rating. The board was perpetuating the idea that there is something wrong with transgender people. Without the petition, the association would have been able to hide this movie from youth behind an R rating. In the future, the MPAA should consider statistical and emotional factors—not just parental reactions—when rating LGBTQ films. There are already few uplifting transgender films and they deserve wider exposure.

In a time when bigotry runs rampant and the transgender community is extremely vulnerable, it is vital for transgender youth to see a story that encourages healthy conversation about the transgender experience. Now that the film is PG-13, it will be more accessible to a wider age range and create opportunities for class discussion. 

The rating change is an important win for the transgender community, and now they will be able to identify with a character in popular media.