May 30th, 2012
12:41 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – ANONYMOUS – Some violence and sexual content
CONTAGION – Disturbing content and some language
COURAGEOUS – Violence and drug content
CRAZY STUPID LOVE – Coarse humor, sexual content and language
DOLPHIN TALE – Some mild thematic elements
DRIVE – Strong brutal bloody violence, language and some nudity
FOOTLOOSE – Some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content, language
FRIGHT NIGHT – Bloody horror, language including some sexual references
IDES OF MARCH – Pervasive language
IMMORTALS – Sequences of strong bloody violence, sexuality
PUSS IN BOOTS – Adventure action and mild rude humor
REAL STEEL – Intense action
INCEPTION – Sequences of violence and action throughout

Flying across the Atlantic I was browsing through the selection of movies on the Video on Demand.  It soon became clear that the censor who rates the movies for United Airlines takes their job very seriously indeed. Not for them, the normal ratings 14, 16 or Adult. Oh no. That would be far too simple. These days the censors have to give us a real rundown of the experiences we might expect.

The horror movie "Fright Night," with Colin Farrell, is described as "Bloody horror, language including some sexual references."  While for the Leonardo DiCaprio movie "Inception" it warns, "Sequences of violence and action throughout (I hope so, or I would ask for my money back!) So far so good, and I can sort-of understand why you would offer specific warnings about blood and gore.

But when comedies like "Crazy Stupid Love" are tagged "Coarse humour, sexual content and language" and the teen movie "Footloose" is described as having "Some teen drug and alcohol use, sexual content and language" I rapidly realized that the censor was probably my maiden aunt who didn't get out much but who had a vivid use of vocabulary.

Even movies for the family like "Puss in Boots" received reproach with "Mild rude humor," and I completely failed to understand the warning of "pervasive language" for the political thriller "Ides of March" or, most ludicrous of all, the children's movie "Dolphin Tale" described as "Some mild thematic elements." What on earth does "Mild thematic elements” mean?  It's a movie. It's supposed to have "thematic elements," otherwise it won't make sense!

"Some sensuality," "partial nudity," "brief strong language," "disturbing images" - on and on it went as I was warned about what I might be exposed to, if I was brave enough to push “play.”

For goodness’ sake. Most of us are sensible enough to know that a movie with Brad Pitt will have a few fist fights. A drama made by Guy Ritchie will have some scenes best not viewed at a church social, and if the movie has Adam Sandler in it, well, you make up your own mind.

I don't need long-winded, ridiculous descriptions when a simple rating would do. This has taken the risk-averse culture of caution to extremes. Nor can this be justified "so parents know what their children are watching" - like parents always know what their children are viewing on line? Use the usual ratings and let common sense prevail.

So … how would United rate this article? "Some Angry Themes," "Complicated structures," “No sensuality." Guess, you won't read it.

soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Proudly Exiled

    Agreed, the descriptions for what I may see in a movie can sometimes be ridiculous. I miss the good ol' days of mild violence or disturbing image; and my favorite adult situations.
    True the last, wasn't too descriptive, but at least I'm smart enough to know that maybe I could be wrong in letting my kids watch. But the sad fact is there's someone out there who would think adult situations mean conversations my child can handle that and bam Angelina Jolie's naked in a shower.

    "Parentings not for parents, that's for censors."

    May 30, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
  2. Alex T.

    What's wrong with letting us know specifics about what's in a movie so we can make informed decisions about whether we want to see it, or let our kids see it, or not?

    What's long winded and ridiculous to you is likely useful to some of the millions of people out there. I don't see why it bothers you so much.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  3. maximus137


    I partially agree with Richard but also with Alex T.

    There are some situations that we are more confortable to know what they will watch in some movies. I really not worried about that. I don't have problems to watch any kind of movie, so I'm not not worried about the movie warnings. But I will do if I watch a movie with someone that probably will not like (for example: my parents or young people). People HAVE the right to know.

    But we should not take this so extremely. Exagerated classifications for Disney or Warner Bros animations? Really? I think that most of the parents are not worried about that. I would be worried if children start watching Family Guy or American Dad.

    But Richard, you know, there are people and there are people...

    About your article, I classify as "May be offensive". Haha, don't take this personally.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:54 am |

    Why do we have censors in a free country anyway?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:24 am |
  5. lesliejames

    HEHE. Free country indeed. Far from it.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:21 am |
  6. cocopuf

    Originally, sensors were meant for parents to decide whether to let their kids go see that movie or even watch it on TV.
    Today, it is useless. Perhaps one in ten movies may pass my own sensors.

    But it is a free country with declining morals .... particularly many of todays teenagers are totally oblivious to the difference between right and wrong. As a matter of fact, some even encourage the bad more than the good. Parents and schools are to blame pointing clearly to a nation in decline.

    May 31, 2012 at 6:03 am |
  7. Evan

    Disagree. Personally I find descriptive warnings very helpful in assessing whether my kids can watch a film or not. Different strokes. Don't let it bother you so much.

    May 31, 2012 at 6:56 am |
  8. joesix

    Is this a CNN article or an Andy Rooney impression?

    May 31, 2012 at 7:20 am |
  9. OutWest

    So if you don't want to read the warning, don't. It's not like anyone forces you to read it.

    May 31, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  10. Josie

    My parents had the best way to check to see if a movie was safe for us kids growing up. They went and saw it first themselves. If they had no problems with it, we got to see it, if they did...we didn't go and see. I do the same for my own kids, as do my brother and sister. It's a matter of common sense.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  11. Amz

    What a waste of time you are Mr.Quest

    May 31, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  12. Chris s

    Wait until you have kids and not the time to check the movies yourself. Noone is making you read them.

    Will you next complain about the ingredients list on the back of your can of coke?

    May 31, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  13. Bob

    A sign of how corporations are bending backwards to please the most puritanical segment of American society.

    May 31, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  14. Joel S.

    I will start complaining about the ingedient list on the back of a coke can when it starts repeating itself for the sake of people who can't understand what they read.

    So it has come to this! I agree with Mr. Quest. If, as a supposed responsible parent, you cannot figure out the current rating system for a movie you should loose custody of your children. How more descriptive do you need it to be than ADULT 18+ or PG 14+?

    Do you really need to be told that a G rated movie like Shark Tale has mild thematic elements. If you do quite frankly you have serious issues! Do you need someone to hold your hand and show you how, when you need to go weewee, as well? Do you really need a warning on your stove beside the heating elements. You know one warning you that the element is really hot and will burn when in use? That way you will be informed and can teach your children properly right? NOT!

    People blaming other people for their inability to think and understand. Kind of like the excessive political correctness going on. While I usually am a supporter of getting as much information as possible, there is such thing as To Much Information. This is a perfect example.

    May 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  15. T1Brit

    Mild thematic elements? That is truly hilarious.

    May 31, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  16. tom

    C'mon, it's all designed so that no lunatic parent sues the production company because the movie damaged the poor kids soul forever after watching the movie. This is our good old USA today. Whats wrong with just rating it PG, 13, 15, 17 and R. That should give the even most obnoxious parent a clue what to watch.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  17. chris ozman

    Stick to your business reports Richard and leave the morality issues to us, clearly you don't have any children if you think movie classifications should be a free-for-all.

    May 31, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  18. Sean Liddle

    huzzah. An excellent article that speaks full truth of the ridiculousness of the warnings. My fave is "sci-fi violence" as if involving lazer pistols and robots makes a shootout that much more intense and offensive to some...

    May 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  19. johnsonjb

    Wow. Part of the problem, as I see it, is that too many people want to hide behind the "morality" issue, instead of talking to their kids about what they've seen. Sure, the long-winded descriptions are perfect for those weekend parents that want a digital babysitter, instead of, you know, be a parent....sheltering kids from the realities of the world, makes them unprepared for when they get in the real world. Hope those moralities of yours comes with a sizable income so you can keep your 30+ year old children locked in a basement somewhere to "protect" them. Or better yet, let's put a huge label on all schools: "Warning, may contain subject matter that differs from your opinion, adult situations, perverse language, brief nudity, thematic scenes, mild drug use, and violence."

    May 31, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  20. joe dough

    come on: the more warnings and the more disturbing they are, the more viewers the movie gets. Its all business.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  21. Huge Ackman

    "the censor who rates the movies for United Airlines"

    Really?? These are lifted directly from the MPAA ratings. Do you really think an airline is going to employ someone to watch movies and write their own ratings descriptions.

    Also, it's not censoring if you aren't removing content or preventing someone from watching.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  22. TA LEWIS

    I find this article to be more dramatic than the movie ratings... I mean, can you imagine the ear-full the airline would receive if they didn't provide detailed descriptions and a parent chose a movie they felt inappropriate for their kid...? Either way, the airline will take some heat. At the end of the day, this article was the result of someone desperate to get a story before their flight landed. Ok, on to something that really matters in my day.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  23. JT

    And here I just thought you were going to complain about the airlines actually censoring the movies. You know, removing "objectional" material from the movie without telling you? I was pretty shocked when they edited "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes". CGI ape violence is too much?

    May 31, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  24. da

    personally, I find the usual ratings useless. descriptions help me assess. if I don't want to see gore, but don't care about nudity, then "Adult" doesn't help me.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
  25. Jakey

    Ha! The language is unmistakeable: that's not United Airlines writing those descriptions, it's the Motion Picture Association of America. They haven't always, but now they write those in addition to assigning a rating. (Sometimes they really strain for something to fill the space; for instance, 'Twister' is rated PG-13 for "intense depictions of very bad weather.")

    Few people interested enough to know what the letters "MPAA" stand for have any affection for their methods or decisions. As if they weren't bad enough already, they're also vocal advocates of ridiculous, ineffective anti-piracy measures, and at one point lobbied against allowing VCRs to exist as a consumer product.

    But back to the ratings. What I find annoying is how often these descriptions spoil the movie one is about to see. That would be fine if it were easier to avoid reading them, but on most home video releases, the last thing you'll see before the movie begins is a forced, unskippable full-screen graphic of the MPAA rating and description.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  26. Jerry

    For all of you who were critical of this article I should try to explain something to you...It is suppose to be a humorous piece!! Lighten up!! I laughed all the way through it, especially the part about the meaningless and ridiculous warning: "some mild thematic elements."

    May 31, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  27. HalfOfMe

    Great, I just wasted 5 minutes of my life. Those are MPAA ratings–that's the Motion Picture Association of America. They've been around since 1922, and have been doing the content rating since 1966. You want to talk about content that's an offensive waste of audience time and energy–did you read that article from CNN Anchor and Correspondent, Richard Quest, about United Airlines' movie ratings? You know what offends me, deeply? The fact that you have the job that you do, Mr. Quest. Do some research and fact checking. Idiot.

    May 31, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  28. International Traveler

    I am not sure if the ratings like PG-13 mean the same through out the world. I actually think the plain language ratings must be used on airlines to ensure that no matter which part of the world you are from you clearly understand the kind of content the movie contains.
    But 'thematic elements' really???!!!??

    May 31, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  29. Darwinn69

    Warning: This response contains mild amusement and general apathy. Due to the graphic nature of my thoughts viewer discresion is advised.

    I agree.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  30. tyko

    Hey Quest, just quest what you can do best... or... go back to BBC :-(

    June 1, 2012 at 4:19 am |
  31. Capone

    Unfortunately, this is just another example of how our society is de-evolving in terms of intellectualism.

    You literally have to spell everything out lest you wish to be accused of "misleading" or "misinforming".

    Just take warning labels for some products. Preparation H hemorrhoid cream has a label to says that it is for external use only. They actually have to tell people not to eat hemorrhoid cream or they can be sued.

    June 1, 2012 at 5:58 am |
  32. Sean

    If I don't know anything about a pair of movies and am looking t the poster to the movie. I frequently will choose to go to the one with the most boxes on it. After all, that does anyone want to go to a movie the the censors have rated as a no-boxer? How would that be written, 'Movie has no memorable themes or content.'

    June 1, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  33. Robert

    These people are not censors. They do not prohibit you from watching a moving. They merely provide the roadsigns ahead for a parent to make a wise and well informed choice. I for one use kids-in-mind to get an exhaustive review of a movie before making the decision of what to introduce to my children.

    June 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
  34. RLDS

    What a ridiculous, intolerant commentary. Why does it bother you so much to see a few extra words of explanation as to the movie's content? If this information is not helpful to you, don't read it. But plenty of people DO find it helpful, not only in picking age-appropriate movies for their kids, but also in selecting movies for themselves. Two movies might both be rated R: one has "pervasive, intense scenes of violence," but the other has "adult themes and brief violence." Who are you to judge that this distinction is not helpful, or that the potential viewer should be able to guess the content by reading the cast?

    June 1, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  35. film

    How about we do away with ratings all together? all they do is stop films from being shown due to theaters not wanting to take them due to fear of being sued for content.
    Instead have a disclaimer that people automatically sign by purchasing movie tickets that state the production company, theater, and their subsequent employees are not held liable for whatever the patron finds offensive by seeing?
    This disclaimer would be similar to how you consent to an alcohol test when you get your driver's license. It's time the MPAA stops censoring films by giving them ratings and instead people and parents take responsibility in researching a movie before they go to see it so they will not be offended.
    I am tired of good artistic films getting a bad rating due to content and not being shown due theaters not taking a movie with a specific rating due to fear of litigation because someone was offended.

    June 2, 2012 at 2:20 am |
  36. Scott Allen

    I would rate your article intelligent, funny, mildly sarcastic and offensive to certain segments of society (like old Aunt Mildred). Thanks for the article.

    June 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  37. Silas Donovan

    Sheltering children is not always the wise course of action.

    June 2, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  38. hlangerhans

    My favorites are "adult situations" and "mature audiences". You can be sure these situations are idiotic and the movies are geared for juveniles.

    June 2, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  39. abbyre

    Cocopuf: What are you? An 1800s Quaker? Unfortunately, I think you're mistaking our "country of declining morals" for progression. Or should we go back to I Love Lucy days when the word pregnant wasn't allowed to be uttered on film or television? These warnings are ridiculous but I'm surprised the author of this article didn't mention that the MPAA is a business. It is an association headed by major film companies and so the way they rate movies has much to do with competing movie companies and money. Basically, they can give stronger rating to movies competing with them. This is the real issue. The MPAA needs to be headed by unaffiliated parties, as having major heads of film companies at its core is why it is so corrupt.

    June 3, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  40. peter

    Seriously? Get over yourself. This is a silly article. If you are offended by movies don't watch them, don't complain.

    June 3, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  41. Mimi

    Obviously written by someone without children. As a parent it's nice to have this info. If you don't want it just watch the movie and quit bellyaching.

    June 5, 2012 at 5:06 am |
  42. Tom

    I think what he is really saying is that he is disappointed in Americans that need this level of clarity in order to not become offended.

    June 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  43. TiredODaCrap

    How about this, you don't want to be "warned" then pick a movie and move on. For some people – I would say idealy parents – it's nice to have a clue what your child may be watching when it comes to movies you may not have even heard of. Brief idea of what could be seen, and then a choice on whether to watch it or not. Wow, talk about inconvenient!

    June 6, 2012 at 9:55 pm |
  44. Lori Lewis

    Really, all you simpleminded parents who can't figure out ratings with numbers maybe you should go back to school and stop expecting everyone in the world to mollycoddle your little darlings. Grow up yourselves before you have children. I could not believe theTwister rating, Bwahahaha! Oops, I think I may have peed (14 years and younger should not read that P word) myself!

    June 8, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
  45. Joel

    Oh for the love of... Nobody is censoring these movies. They're giving you a heads up of what's in them, why they got the rating they got. "Rated R" doesn't tell you anything. What's fine for one 14 year old might completely wig out another one. Don't find them useful? You're free not to read them. Go find something genuinely outrageous to be outraged about.

    June 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  46. aj

    Agreed. The public gets patronized way too much lately. They think the public is stupid.

    June 17, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  47. Mike Harrelson

    Ok, fine, think of it as being accepting of people in all walks of being able to talk in Pop Culture language. People who take raising their children seriously, and no, don't shelter them, but yes, realize the decisions we make are heavily influenced by what we expose ourselves to.

    June 19, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
  48. MarkinFL

    Some of those descriptions were worse than useless. Uninterpretable unless you had seen the movie already.

    June 21, 2012 at 4:59 am |
  49. Sean

    Totally disagree. A generic "PG-13" rating gives me no idea what I can expect from a movie–and if I don't often watch Guy Ritchie films, I might have no idea what is in the offing. On the other hand, "brief nudity" or "cartoon violence" are descriptions that give me a good idea of what to expect, to allow me to tailor my "parental guidance" to what I feel my children would be ready for.

    One-size-fits-all ratings like "PG" or "R" are useless by themselves–they're arbitrary, and they don't tell me *why* a movie may be inappropriate for a teenager. Ratings presume to parent your kids for you–descriptions provide you the tools to do it yourself.

    June 21, 2012 at 10:36 pm |
  50. common sense anyone?

    for those who are disagreeing with the author simply because you want a synopsis before you watch a movie...try TV Guide or better yet...use the generic terms with a drop or two of common sense. if a movie is rated "R" don't let your child under 17 watch it. "PG" i would say....8 or even 10. use your brain. i'm with the author here...."mild thematic elements"? what is that?

    June 22, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  51. James

    Excellent article. I lol!

    June 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  52. Rayjay

    Richard's report on the Air France crash was ignorant, arrogant and offensive. He heard a little from experts and then he adds his poor interpretation. I was totally shocked by his poor analogy of driving on a freeway and loosing your speedometer with flying an airplane at 35,000 and loosing your airspeed. When the pitot system freezes the airspeed indicator shows a gradual increase in airspeed not dropping to zero. A better freeway analogy would be driving at 60 miles/hour with the windows covered (at night) and having the speed go to 65 then 70 then 80. I'm sure Mr Quest would put his foot on the brake which is similar to the pilot's actions. Flying an airliner is not as simple as his ridiculous comparisons would imply. Yes it was a training issue and yes the pilot's were at fault but his news reporting was insulting.

    July 5, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  53. icon library

    Prompt, where I can find more infoemation on this question?


    September 24, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  54. Ricky

    I know the extended vieorsn isn't coming out until December. Kind of a long time to wait, no? Maybe they'll have some sort of boxed set for all the movies.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:28 am |
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