Hollywood's "Male Nudity" Movie Rating Reveals Hypocrisy on Advertising to Kids

Last Updated Oct 12, 2010 5:28 PM EDT

Although 786 movies in the last five years have been flagged by the Motion Picture Association of America for "nudity," only three have been rated for "male nudity," according to a survey by Jezebel, the women's pop culture blog. Female nudity is the same thing as "nudity," apparently, but "male nudity" is different.

It's hypocritical enough that as far as MPAA is concerned, exposing children to a woman without clothes is somehow less objectionable than doing the same with a man. But that's not where MPAA's hypocrisy ends. The survey also illustrates how the MPAA's ad rating system -- which is supposed to prevent studios from advertising sexy or violent movies to kids -- actually helps studios do just that.

For instance, the current movie trailer for Jackass 3D (below) carries a green "appropriate audiences" rating tag, which would allow children to see it (and thus demand to see the movie). But kids won't be seeing Jackass (image at right) in the theaters: The actual movie is rated R for male nudity and crude language.

The "male nudity" rating was invented specifically after parents complained about Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, in which there is an hysterical and mortifying scene in which Sacha Baron Cohen's character and his manager (right) rampage nude through a hotel, horrifying other guests.

The FTC, in a recent report (that nobody read) on movie advertising to kids, condemned the MPAA for its deliberately ineffectual policy:
... movie studios intentionally market PG-13 movies to children under 13, and the movie industry does not have explicit standards in place to restrict this practice. The growing practice of releasing unrated DVDs undermines the rating system, and confuses parents.
The MPAA gets away with this through what is essentially a trick. Here's how it works:

The MPAA rates and approves all movie advertising before it is aired; ergo, if it airs it must be OK. MPAA has a relationship with the Children's Advertising Review Unit, the ad industry's self-regulatory body that most of the time does a decent job of reining in the excesses of advertisers seeking to exploit (or frighten, traumatize or freak out) children. The agreement, however, only permits CARU to refer back to the MPAA any advertising it believes is over the line, such as a violent -- or, in the case of Jackass, penis-filled -- movie promoted during children's TV shows. For all other industries, CARU refers errant advertisers to the FTC, in a voluntary relationship that lends CARU its teeth.

As the MPAA's policy is that all movie advertising is pre-approved, even when CARU doesn't like it, the MPAA does nothing about it. Among the movies CARU has uselessly criticized for being touted to kids are Star Trek (with its alien sex scene, above), Get Smart (with Anne Hathaway in a series of revealing outfits, right), both Iron Man films (one contained a stripper scene on Tony Stark's private jet, below), Cinderella Man, Fahrenheit 911, Twilight, Mummy: The Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Rocker, and Stomp the Yard.

As Greg Goeckner, MPAA's evp/general counsel, once told BNET:
It's a relationship I think has worked well.
The FTC noticed the MPAA's weaselly policy in its December 2009 report:
The CARU/MPAA referral arrangement, thus, is not a meaningful self-regulatory measure.
The movie industry, however, can relax. Even though many parents would like their kids not to pester them to see Jackass and other movies, there is zero likelihood that anything will change soon. CARU continues its paper-filing exercise with MPAA, and the FTC threatened only this:
Following a reasonable period of monitoring industry practices and consumer concerns, the Commission will issue another report.

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