After the MPAA handed an ‘R’ rating for language to an acclaimed documentary about NFL-player-turned-Army-Ranger Pat Tillman, the makers of the movie have lost an appeal to have the rating changed to PG-13. The filmmakers tried to argue that The Tillman Story – which delves into the official military cover-up of Tillman’s death in Afghanistan by friendly fire and the way in which he was exploited as a potent patriotic symbol – is exactly the kind of historically significant film that should be exposed to as many young people as possible, not hidden from them due to squeamishness over some bad words. The MPAA clearly didn’t sympathize with that argument, despite the fact that an Iraq War documentary, Gunner Palace, won a similar appeal to overturn its ‘R’ rating six years ago. The MPAA’s ruling follows another recent case in which a documentary about the Holocaust, A Film Unfinished, was hit with an ‘R’ rating for “disturbing images of Holocaust atrocities including graphic nudity.”
What do you think? Did the MPAA dishonor Tillman’s memory – and the freedoms he fought for – by worrying more about f-bombs than about getting his story out to the widest possible audience? Should the ratings board evaluate movies that handle historically important subjects by a different set of standards? Or would that only open an even bigger can of worms?