Anti-Porn Pundit Attacks MPAA
Citizens for Community Value founder critical of Hollywood
Posted May 22nd, 2007 00:00 AM by Mark Kernes
Somebody needs to send Phil Burress a copy of Kirby Dick's film, This Film Is Not Yet Rated
Seems the founder of the pro-censorship group Citizens for Community Values (CCV) is of the impression that the Hollywood film ratings board, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), is working hand-in-glove with the adult industry to get Senate Bill (SB) 16, a bill to restrict the hours adult businesses can be open in Ohio and institute six-foot "set-backs" for exotic dancers, killed by Gov. Ted Strickland.
CCV's problem is that the MPAA sent a letter to Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann objecting to the fact that SB 16 contains an exemption from the bill's definition of an "adult business" for stores that sell MPAA-rated movies, and specifically mentions MPAA codes "NC-17" and "R" – letter/number combinations to which the MPAA holds (and protects) the copyright.
"It is important to recognize that the MPAA Rating System is voluntary and strictly [an] advisory with no force of local, state or federal law," wrote the MPAA in an unsigned memo. "The incorporation into legislation of any of the rating classifications is unconstitutional. The delegation of legislative authority to any entity to determine which motion pictures may be viewed is a violation of the Due Process clause... Courts throughout the country have invalidated the incorporation of MPAA ratings in a variety of statutory contexts."
In an astonishing show of good faith, considering that in the past, the MPAA has refused to testify against California speech bills it has opposed if a Free Speech Coalition member was to testify similarly either directly before or after the MPAA spokesperson, the MPAA takes the position in this memo that, "The exhibition of a motion picture to an adult may be proscribed only if the motion picture is obscene, which requires a finding that such films, 'if taken as a whole, appeal to the prurient interest in sex, which portray sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and which taken as a whole, do not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value...'"
In other words, the MPAA has cleverly noted that until a movie – any movie – is declared obscene by a jury, that movie is legal to sell, to rent and to watch in a viewing booth, and that therefore, attempting to draw a distinction between, say, The Tin Drum, for which stores in Kansas were prosecuted several years ago, and Deep Throat, prosecuted in several places over the decades, is a false and misleading one ... and one that should not be immortalized by exempting mainstream stores carrying NC-17 and R products from laws regulating stores carrying products not rated by the MPAA.
Burress, of course, was not happy about the memo.
"Clearly this is nothing more than a ploy by the MPAA and the pornography industry is to deceive Governor Strickland into thinking that he needs to veto the Community Defense Act," Burress declared in a CCV press release.
Burress went on to claim that "a case recently decided in the 5th Circuit Federal Court" had "upheld an almost identical use of the rating codes in a law regulating sex businesses," but prominent First Amendment attorney Reed Lee has searched the Westlaw database for any Fifth Circuit case mentioning MPAA ratings in connection with an adult ordinance, and come up empty. Could Burress be lying to his constituency and the public?
"The association between the pornography industry and the MPAA is well known," Burress claimed.
This would be the MPAA which recently announced that it would lower the ratings of movies that depicted adults smoking (tobacco); that routinely lowers ratings for mainstream submissions that depict sex acts between two men while movies with the same sex acts between hetero couples are unaffected; that gives an automatic NC-17 to films with any hardcore depictions, no matter how integral to the plot they may be; and that failed to contribute a single dime to Free Speech Coalition's lawsuit against parts of the Child Pornography Protection Act which would have criminalized (as child porn) such mainstream films as Blue Lagoon and The Last Picture Show. That association!
(For more on the MPAA's prejudice against sex, do see the Kirby Dick movie.)
There are many good reasons, constitutional and otherwise, why Gov. Strickland might not want to sign SB 16 into law, including the popularity of adult fare in his state, the fact that there are no scientific reasons to force adult businesses to close by a certain hour or for dancers to remain six feet from customers at all times, or the fact that it will cost the state millions of dollars to fight the adult industry in court if the bill becomes law.
But clearly, Burress is setting his supporters up for the possibility that the governor won't sign SB 16 by implying that there are no problems with the bill except the whims of the MPAA.
And sadly, those supporters will probably be ignorant enough to believe him.