The other night, basic cable viewers were promised/warned about "brief nudity" in the latest episode of Mad Men. It turned out to be just some artistic nudes in a portfolio, certainly no more warranting of "viewer discretion" advisement than the show's increased inclusion of words like "sh*t" and "dick" and references to handjobs. Never mind that some people see all the smoking and drinking as worse than any nudity, sexual innuendo or bad language. But the issue with the series' content crept into my thoughts about the ratings controversies of two new documentaries, A Film Unfinished and The Tillman Story, both of which hit theaters this week.
Monika adequately covered the story with the former film, a necessary look at propaganda footage shot in the Warsaw ghetto by the Nazis, which will likely and deservedly be a contender for the feature documentary Oscar, and not just because it deals with the Holocaust. The MPAA stamped it with an R for "disturbing images of holocaust atrocities including graphic nudity," which will apparently keep it from being shown in classrooms, where it is most appropriate. As for the latter, the profuse cursing by Pat Tillman's family members is so natural that I first didn't even recall that's the reason for its unwelcome R-rating.
These two important films (see our reviews here and here) are only the latest victims of the MPAA's unfairness, but because they're non-fiction works, and educational and/or journalistic ones at that, I need to propose the following: documentaries should be excused from the ratings system.