MPAA Criticized by Christian Groups Over R-Rated Anti-Abortion Movie

Unplanned-Publicity Still-H 2019
Pure Flix

Filmmakers argue that there is no profanity, gore, violence or anything else associated with a movie receiving a "Restricted" rating.

Christian leaders and some in the movie industry — including a couple of best picture Oscar winners — have taken the unusual step of issuing an open letter to criticize the MPAA ratings board for being allegedly biased against a film with an anti-abortion message.

The movie, called Unplanned, tells the true story of a Planned Parenthood executive who becomes a pro-life advocate, and the MPAA has rated it R for three “objectionable” scenes involving abortion, though the filmmakers argue that there is no profanity, gore, violence or anything else associated with a film receiving a “Restricted” rating.

The open letter complains that Unplanned should easily have qualified for a less-restrictive rating as even PG-13 movies “are too often filled with all manner of evil, from swearing to depictions of gratuitous sexual scenes, murder, you name it.”

The letter is signed by 29 influential people who were not involved with the production or distribution of the film, including Gray Frederickson, who won an Oscar for co-producing The Godfather Part II, and Gerald Molen, who won the same trophy for co-producing Schindler’s List.

Others signing the open letter include actor Kevin Sorbo, Glenn Beck of The Blaze, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, singer Pat Boone, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, former congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Alveda King, the former congresswoman and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Some believe this rating will cause Christian viewers to stay home and miss this incredible opportunity. We see a real danger in this happening,” reads the letter, which urges moviegoers to, “just as they did with The Passion of the Christ, ignore the MPAA’s restricted rating.”

PureFlix, the label that distributed God’s Not Dead and a few dozen other movies aimed at Christians, will release Unplanned in 1,000 theaters March 29, even though it has never before distributed an R-rated film.

“Is it a group of unelected parents from Beverly Hills who meet together, watch a film and vote, and ultimately decide for you what is appropriate for your family and what’s not?” says the letter. “Let’s not project the values of the 90210 zip code upon the rest of America.”

The MPAA's website says that its ratings board “reflects the diversity of American parents” and consists of five moms and four dads who all live in Los Angeles, though “they hail from California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland and Hawaii.”

So far, the open letter and list of signatories only resides at the website for Unplanned, though it will be distributed widely in the coming days.

The MPAA has responded with the following statement:

“For more than 50 years, the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), the board of parents that assigns MPAA film ratings, has provided advance information to American parents about the level of content in films to help them make viewing choices for their children. The purpose of the ratings is to help inform and guide parents, not to prescribe social policy. Filmmakers are free to put whatever content they want into their films. No one rating defines whether a film is good or bad, it simply indicates the level of content, and parents are free to choose what content is suitable for their families.

“The rating board considers all aspects of a film to determine its suitability for children, including themes, language, depictions of violence, nudity, sensuality, depictions of sexual activity, smoking, adult activities (i.e. activities that adults, but not minors, may engage in legally), and drug use. A film is never rated more than PG-13 for theme alone. It is graphic depictions or graphic descriptions that may lead a film to receive an R or NC-17 rating.

“This film received an R rating for ‘some disturbing/bloody images.' The filmmakers did not make use of the rating appeal process.”