Have you ever wondered how and why The Vatican reviews movies? I have, so I did some research and what I discovered might surprise you.
As we all know, the MPAA, Motion Picture Association of America, is responsible for giving a movie it’s rating. PG, PG-13, R, etc… But there is also another rating system in place that most of us are not aware exists. These ratings are given to films by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop's Office for Film and Broadcasting according to artistic merit and moral suitability.
The USCCB Ratings are as follows:
A-I -- general patronage;
A-II -- adults and adolescents;
A-III -- adults;
L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. **L replaces the previous classification, A-IV.
O -- morally offensive.
Here are 10 newly released movies that meet the criterion for being Morally Offensive. When you read the following descriptions from the USCCB website you’ll understand why.
1. Daybreakers—This potentially intriguing, but excessively violent tale, is set in a futuristic world where a mysterious plague has transformed the vast majority of the population into vampires. Graphic gruesome violence, including decapitation, dismemberment and exploding bodies; upper female nudity; at least three uses of profanity; and some rough and crude language.
2. Youth in Revolt—Sometimes witty but consistently sex-focused coming-of-age comedy about a lonely California teen (Michael Cera) whose sophisticated cultural tastes make him a fish out of water in his divorced parents' (Jean Smart and Steve Buscemi) lowbrow world. Explicit animated images of intercourse, non-graphic premarital (and probably underage) sexual activity, masturbation, drug use, at least one profanity, much sexual humor and considerable rough and crude language.
3. Nine—Glossy but morally shallow musical drama -- set in 1965 Italy and based on the life of Federico Fellini -- in which a celebrated film director (Daniel Day-Lewis) suffers a creative and personal crisis. Pervasive negative portrayal of Catholicism, brief non-graphic adulterous sexual activity, recurrent adultery theme, partial upper female and rear nudity, a couple of uses of profanity, a few crass terms.
4. Transylmania—Witless, grotesque, badly performed horror spoof about a group of sex-obsessed, pot-smoking college students spending a semester at a vampire-infested Romanian castle. Pervasive drug use, images of mutilation, upper female nudity, sexual banter, implied sexual situations and constant profane, rough and crude language.
5. Ninja Assassin—Hyperactive, contrived and excessively violent comeback for the martial-arts genre with a thin plot, a heavily ramped-up spatter factor and soulful Korean pop star Rain (aka Jeong Ji Hoon) playing a stone-cold ninja fighter. Pervasive violence, with mutilation, stabbings and gunplay, frequent bloody and grisly images and some rough and crude language.
6. Pirate Radio—Energetic but sexually freewheeling ensemble comedy, set in mid-1960s Britain, in which a rebellious teen (Tom Sturridge) is sent by his mother (January Jones) to live on an oil tanker that has been converted into an offshore radio station. Benign view of casual, group and gay sex and of drug and condom use, brief rear nudity, a pornographic image, some irreverent and sexual humor, a couple of profanities, at least 20 uses of the F-word.
7. Saw VI—The blood flood continues in this predictably gruesome horror sequel as the sadistic life-or-death games initiated by the now-deceased psychopath Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, seen in flashbacks) are secretly carried on by [spoiler]. Pervasive gory violence, including graphic torture and mutilation, a half-dozen profanities, at least 40 uses of the F-word, and some crude and crass language.
8. Law Abiding Citizen—Brutish, blood-soaked and ultimately nonsensical revenge fantasy in which, following the murder of his wife and young daughter, an inventor who specializes in killing terrorists (Gerard Butler), goes on an elaborately staged rampage. A rape, explicit torture, gun and knife violence, explosions, rear male nudity, pervasive rough and crass language.
9. The Stepfather—Slack thriller in which a young man (Penn Badgley) suspects his divorced mother’s (Sela Ward) seemingly affable live-in fiancé (Dylan Walsh) may be a murderous psychopath. Benign view of homosexual acts, cohabitation, brief non-graphic non-marital (possibly underage) sexual activity, moderate criminal violence, a half-dozen uses of profanity, a few crude and crass terms.
10. The Invention of Lying—Venomous supposed comedy, set in a world where lying is unknown and every word spoken is accepted as truth, and where God does not exist until a failed documentary screenwriter (Ricky Gervais) discovers the ability to deceive. Pervasive blasphemy, some sexual humor and references, and a few rough and crude terms.
The aim of the USCCB is to provide the public with a Catholic evaluation of both entertainment features and documentaries from a moral and artistic perspective.
“Our classifications have always been intended as a guide for parents to aid them in choosing what is most appropriate for their children, and for adult viewers who wish to make informed viewing decisions in an increasingly confusing media environment. How readers ultimately apply these classifications is a matter of personal choice, and our opinion of a film’s artistic worth is necessarily subjective.” States the USCCB’s mission statement.
“The classifications reflect the moral suitability of the films reviewed, while the reviews also take in the movies’ aesthetic qualities. This serves to prevent movie patrons from getting unwanted surprises when they see a film either at the cinema or rent or purchase a DVD. Parents must be the ultimate arbiters in evaluating their child’s emotional, spiritual and moral development, and the appropriateness of any given film. Thoughtful adults are the best judges of their own tastes and values.”
The USCCB website explains the Morally Offensive classification further in these three surprising paragraphs.
“This is the present-day counterpart to the old C or “condemned” rating. This classification is for films that are excessively violent, graphically sexual, or laden with non-stop vulgarity, or that have little or no redeeming social value or dramatic justification.
“Torture porn” films like the “Saw” or “Hostel” franchise, gross-out comedies like “Superbad” and “Good Luck Chuck” are naturals for this category. But even classier fare such as “Feast of Love” or the Judd Apatow brand of R-rated humor – “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin” – with their surprisingly moral endings, which in themselves would be praiseworthy – nonetheless get O’s for their over-the-top raunchy humor and pervasive expletives.
Films that directly seem to contradict church teaching on matters such as euthanasia (“Million Dollar Baby,” “The Sea Inside”), suicide (“Thelma & Louise”), vigilante killing and revenge (“The Brave One”) also get O’s no matter how lauded they are by the secular press.”