Rating the Ratings Systems


The latest issue of reason–if you were a subscriber, you'd be done reading it already!–has an excellent piece by Thomas Doherty about the ugly birth of the motion-picture code. (The current ish has a ton more in it too, all of which makes the $19.97 sub price an incredible bargain).

A recent paper from the Competitive Enterprise Institute takes a long look at how well various ratings systems work. A snippet:

While no media ratings system can or will ever achieve perfection, the best rating systems have three attributes: They attempt to describe, rather than prescribe, what entertainment media should contain; they are particularly suited to their particular media forms; and they were created with little or no direct input from government. We also find that ratings systems collapse, it simply results in the creation of better ratings systems….

Ultimately, ratings systems cannot influence the content of what gets produced in the long run. Even the highly prescriptive Comics Code did nothing to stop the emergence of graphic novels with adult themes and situations. Those who want to "clean up" media without unconstitutional government censorship will likely do best to simply avoid buying cultural products they dislike.

The whole study is here.

NEXT: And Everybody Hates the Atheists

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. My personal favorite is the meaningless distinction between Mature and Adult-Only video games.

    Non-descriptive, a holdover from the movie system, and under direct pressure from government; the holy trinity of ratings stupidity.

  2. Elemenope,

    Oblivion was retroactively rated AO after someone (not the publisher or anyone connected to them) posted some mods that made characters nakey-nake.

    So fan mods can now determine a game rating.

  3. You sneaky Reason print people…
    Every year, you send the reminders “renew now, your subscription is ABOUT to run out!!” and you don’t fool me, I know I’ve got 6 months left.

    This year you got me and I stuck the renewal in the mail a couple weeks ago, only to notice the May ’08 on my address tag on the magazine.

    And then! I was going through a pile of old mail and found a renewal notice sent in June! Because my subscription was going to run out in 11 months! You guys are funny.

  4. de stijl —

    Oh, I know. Shades of Hot Coffee. It continues to blow my mind how a game like Half-Life 2, where you get to regulate with prejudice with some extreme hardware against creatures, many of which are ostensibly human or at least sentient, gets an M, while any showing of titties gets an automatic AO. Someone never let the powers that be know there’s a mod that turns Alyx naked…

    Seriously, someone should turn a censor on the Bible and the Collected Works of William Shakespeare with a black magic marker, and see how they do. Of course, you don’t tell them what they are redacting. Don’t worry, they aren’t educated; they won’t recognize the content. 😉

  5. “if you were a subscriber, you’d be done reading it already!”

    Not necessarily true! I’m a busy guy, plus I like to savor Reason when it comes, since it only comes once a month.

  6. I read reason while expressing milk at work.

    Beat that, guys.

    On second thought, never mind. I probably don’t want to know.

  7. Way to kill the thread, Bronwyn.

  8. Beat that, guys.

    Warren does every month when he gets his issue!

    I’ll be here all week! Tip your waitresses!

  9. There should be a in there. 🙂

  10. DAMMIT! A <rimshot/>, dammit!

    Fuck XHTML! Fuck it up its stupid ass!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.