Film Rating System = No Fun

lost%20in%20Beijing.jpgAmidst the many policy rumor denials coming out of this year’s NPC meeting, the proclamation from Liu Binjie (director of the General Administration of Press and Publications) that China won’t be introducing a movie rating system in the near future has inspired some of the best blog commentary so far.

The central points in Liu’s rejection of a ratings system, delivered by Xinhua via Reuters, are as follows:

1) a ratings system cannot be established until “the market is completely standardized,” because:
2) the topic of film ratings is still “too sensitive” for the general public, and:
3) “Under the current circumstances, a film rating system equals legalizing the mass production of pornographic publications.”

The report of Liu’s comments prompted Imagethief to post this response:

I barely know where to start. So I guess I’ll start at the beginning. “Until the market has been completely standardized”? That’s like saying, “We can’t measure this elephant until we know how high it is so we can get a long enough ruler.” And what do you mean “completely standardized”? Does that mean we’ll just have one movie for all eternity? The standard one? Coming to a theater near you, the same movie! Again! It kinda worked for Hollywood, I guess. In the future, all movies will be Curse of the Golden Flower (满城尽带黄金甲). Rejoice! And I though ratings were how you standardize a market.

And while I’m on that, how are film ratings “too sensitive” for the general public? The same general public that stampeded out for pirate copies of the uncensored version of Lust, Caution? If I walk down the street talking about film ratings, will women faint and strong men weep? Will grannies cover their children’s ears? Will people’s heads explode like in Scanners? Cool! How is it that the same general public that isn’t ready for a discussion of film ratings somehow survives unfettered access to the entire tawdry Hollywood oeuvre via the pirate DVD market completely unscathed? Somebody should look into that.

Sanlian Life Weekly editor, Chinese pop culture maven and smart-ass blogger Wang Xiaofeng, meanwhile, has posted a lengthy dissection of the topic (Chinese), in which he explains why China might never have a ratings system:

With a flexible policy, you can change it whenever you want…stretch it whenever you want, do whatever your heart desires. Today, this is not OK to watch. Ban it. Tomorrow, that is not OK to watch. Ban it. Convenient, yes?

Having a ratings system is no fun. Everything is based on standards. You can’t arbitrarily change your mind every few days anymore. If you take a look at China’s laws, regulations and especially its policies, the most obvious characteristic is that they all embody the rights of government departments to exercise power arbitrarily. Cutting away those rights, is that not a violation of the national condition?

NOTE: The ratings system debate, an old fight motivated in part by rough financial times in the Chinese domestic , was recently re-ignited with the banning of massage parlor drama “Lost in Beijing” (苹果; pictured above) earlier this year.

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