I was recently asked the question, “How much of your personality do you think you’ve picked up from movies?” After only a moment of consideration, I realized the answer was, “a lot.” For instance, I may never actually be a Jedi, but my father and I still wish that the force be with each other, always. The media (movies, television, music, and now social media) acts as a weirdly scary, alternate parent figure, often having more power than one’s biological parents. There’s a reason it’s called “programming.”
Of course, this is not news, and neither is the fact the media needs a major overhaul, as do we, regarding many of our viewpoints. For instance, this week in Salon, it was reported that the new film G.B.F. (or Gay Best Friend) was rated R by the MPAA, a startling assessment of a film that, according to reporter Daniel D’Addario, contains few spoken “fucks” and little to no on-screen sexual contact. There’s a shot of two boys kissing, allegedly (I have yet to see the film, and now want to after hearing it’s more than a plastic teen comedy), but is that enough to receive an R rating?
A few nights ago, against my will, I watched The Hunger Games (the first film) with a couple of friends. I’ve read the book, and yeah it’s terrible to picture children fighting to the death, but the film drives home the cruelty, right there, visually. And that film has a PG-13 rating. Now, The Hunger Games is not filled with blood and gore, but the violence depicted is with children. And even though it’s a fantasy film, kids are seeing it and having their imaginations darkened. How can it be that sexuality receives such special care in the media (filmmakers go out of their way sometimes to imply sexuality while not showing it explicitly) while death can run rampant on the silver screen?
The answers lie in comments sections of Salon style web journalism. One parent declares fervently how the film is terrible for kids, forcing them to latch on to the gay agenda (who in their right mind thinks that a gay propaganda exists even for a second?) or immediately acting out their sexuality. Somehow, there is an insane fear of gay sexuality, that behavior indicative of morals consumed via media (BIG CONSCIOUSNESS). By rating this film R, while giving totalitarianism and televised child murder a PG-13, the MPAA and other organizations in the media are engineering a populace that shrugs at a violent world and greatly fears their own bodies and sex.
D’Addario rightly points out that gay sex is treated even worse than heterosexual coitus, but the fact remains that the media handles all manner of sexual relations in a way befitting an embarrassingly ignorant and rageful public. Those who for some reason believe that there exists a gay propaganda should take a step back and realize they are spreading malice, inspired by propaganda (the media institution) that reveals itself to be more and more real.
If we define the media as a parent figure, then we have to admit how much trouble each new generation is in. G.B.F. being restricted sends a huge message: “This is not allowed until you are a certain age.” That’s terrifying because kids should be shown challenging media, not about the world or anything but about real changes in the body and mind. Being tuned in should mean that sexuality is an open discussion, not something to lampoon and treat with kid gloves until, say, the parents have the children out of the house. A parent should be able to watch a sexual bit of media with their kids, and explain the process, especially if that child is growing up in a world where the norms are really skewed. Big media rating this film R is in direct support of ignorance, and shouldn’t happen with films that hopefully continue to explore this topic with smart humor and a critical lens.