Sunday, August 29, 2010

FTP: Rated "R" or not?

MPAA Rated "R"
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) film rating system is a rating system for films based on the thematic and content suitability for certain audiences. Content of concern might include cursing (a word, or the number of times a particular profane word is used, etc.), nudity (partial or full, shirtless man or a topless woman, historical and educational value, etc.), violence (level of violence, graphic or explicit, amount of bloodshed, etc.). The system is riddled with double standards and continues to evolve as the MPAA redefines the definition of “audience” and “suitable”.

The current rating system used by the MPAA is as follows:

G- General Audiences (All ages admitted)
PG- Parental Guidance Suggested (Some material may not be suitable for children)
PG-13-Parents Strongly Cautioned (Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13)
R- Restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying by a parent or adult guardian)
NC-17- (No One 17 and Under Admitted)

So, what rating will the MPAA slap on “Flight to Paradise” when it is converted into a screenplay? (always optimistic)

Before you answer that question, let me ask you an easy one—a warm up; open book; cake walk; no brainer: What rating system would the MPAA put on the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) if it were converted into a screenplay? Keep in mind that “The Bible” will be a family film.

To save you the time of re-reading the entire Old Testament, I’ll give you a few snippets of scenes found in the first book of Genesis. This should help speed you along to your decision:

• Noah gets drunk, and one of his sons dishonors him by committing an immoral act in his father’s bedroom.
• Abraham twice tries to pass his wife off to another man to save his own skin. Later, his son Isaac does the same thing.
• Abraham sleeps with one of the household servants so he can have an heir. This was his wife’s idea, but she becomes so jealous after it happens, that she angrily throws the woman and her son out of the house to live in poverty and shame.
• Lot offers to let a violent mob gang rape his daughters. Lot’s daughters later get their own father drunk and sleep with him so that they can have children.
• Jacob, Isaac’s son, is a deceitful mama’s boy who tricks his father and brother out of important family legal rights. He has to run away from home so his brother won’t kill him.
• He goes to work for his ruthless uncle, who keeps him in virtual slavery for decades. Jacob escapes by tricking him and running away.
• Jacob’s wives live in constant jealousy and competition, continually tricking Jacob and each other in an ongoing battle for supremacy in the family.
• Jacob’s sons loathe one of their brothers, sell him into slavery, then lie to their father and tell him he died.
• Jacob’s daughter Dinah is raped. Her brothers exact revenge by deceiving and then murdering the perpetrator, destroying and looting his city, and taking all his family members captive.
• Judah refuses to find a husband for his widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar. So she disguises herself as a prostitute, tricks her father-in-law into sleeping with her, and becomes pregnant.

Lot and his daughters
...and that's only from Genesis.

We could continue and see some more horrid stories, like the one with Jael and Sisera. Jael gives Sisera some milk to drink, putting him to sleep, before she drives a tent stake in his head. Now that would make a nice flannel board story for the young girls in Sunday School.

Jael drives a tent stake in Sisera's head
What do you think: “G”? You say, “No?” Then maybe we should bump it up to a “PG-13”? Do you think that will give “certain audiences” fair warning of “thematic and content suitability”? I don’t think so. Okay, how about “R”? Or perhaps we should just put a big “X” on the cover of the Bible and be done with it. (note: The "X" rating was not an MPAA trademark: any producer not submitting a movie for MPAA rating could self-apply the "X" rating)

Flannel Board Lesson
It’s likely that many people have Sunday School images in their minds when they think of Genesis—they picture God creating the world, Adam and Eve frolicking in the Garden of Eden, Noah gathering cute little animals onto the ark and God putting a beautiful rainbow in the sky, Abraham and Sarah having a baby in their old age, and Joseph wearing his coat of many colors. It all sounds real “nice” and makes for the perfect image of a Sunday morning flannel board story told to pre-school children. In reality, it couldn’t be further from “nice”; it’s ugly, raw, indecent, gross, nasty, vulgar, explicit, sad… and “REAL”.

God must have wanted us to see the utter dysfunction of fratricide, adultery, prostitution, deceit, trickery, lies, stealing, murder, and the rest. He must have wanted us to see the “real” world filled with real people who had real needs. He must have wanted us to read and shout “Yes! Exactly! Someone understands!” He must have known that when we saw God dealing with real human beings, redeeming them out of, or despite of, the messes they/we create, that we would believe that He could certainly forgive us of our messes and failures.

To admit that we live in a broken world and that flaws, struggles, fears, failures, and doubts are a part of the normal Christian journey is the beginning of our own personal forgiveness and removal of guilt: admit it; accept responsibility; ask for forgiveness.

“Flight to Paradise” is a dramatic story (a snapshot) of the human experience as it exists in a real world with characters cast to reflect real people. It highlights the timeless and universal message of love, hope, redemption, and forgiveness—a message that I believe we all need.

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