Re: [Videolib] Movie ratings & libraries

Randy Pitman (
Tue, 8 Jul 2003 12:01:08 -0700

Hi Holly, Alison--

DVD has complicated this issue tremendously with inacurrately rated versions
(there's no way that Anchor Bay's double-disc special edition of "The Man
Who Fell to Earth" is the "R" rated version, though it is labeled as such),
unrated versions, and unrated extra features. I touched on some of this in
an editorial in the July/August issue of Video Librarian. Here 'tis:

Veggie Porn

My wife, Anne, and I were about halfway through watching Porn Star: The
Legend of Ron Jeremy--the second feature in a homespun double-bill one
Friday night--when the possible inappropriateness of the evening's pairing
hit home. Strapped for time, I had simply grabbed the two shortest films off
the current Everest-like DVD stack: Porn Star (76 min.) and, um, Jonah: A
VeggieTales Movie (82 min.).
My first thought, of course, was that the decline of Western civilization
was now complete: we had met the barbarians-at-the-gates-enemy.and they were
us. Katie, bar the door.
But then I recalled the words of the great Duluth philosopher Bob Dylan, who
reminded us of a recurrent truth when he pointed out that "the times they
are a-changin." Today, we live in a culture where the definition of "what's
acceptable" in film and television has been considerably broadened
(especially from the late '80s through the '90s); where twenty- and
thirtysomethings have grown up with nudity, sex, violence, and drugs as part
and parcel of their daily media diet; where the avalanche of DVD titles
being released (nearly 7,000 titles in 2002) means that a couple of
middle-aged, time-strapped, sick twists like my wife and I think nothing of
following up a cute Christian cartoon with a documentary about a guy with a
foot-long schlong.
I share this sordid story about my personal life (minus the oily, sweaty
details concerning the popcorn and beer) as a mild but characteristic
example of what I think is a rather profound shift in traditionally Puritan
America's reaction to matters of the flesh--namely, thanks to market
saturation (TV, video, DVD, web, President Clinton's predilection for making
extramarital love, not world war), sex-related familiarity has bred--not
contempt--but indifference, even acceptance. And, from a purely practical
point of view, what video librarian has the time, let alone inclination, to
play squinty-eyed gatekeeper, monitoring the content of 7,000 DVD titles,
when the studios themselves seem absolutely indifferent to a lot of
"graphic" content.
Interestingly, three recent unrelated DVD releases--taken together--offer a
snapshot of the sea change:

Paul Verhoeven's Spetters (VL Online-2/03), a critically acclaimed 1980
Dutch working-class coming-of-age tale about three young motorbike racing
hopefuls who dream of bigger bikes and a girls-money-fame future. MGM
released the film only in its unrated version on DVD, with graphic scenes of
penis fondling and homosexual fellatio left intact. Nobody blinked; today
you can buy it at Wherehouse.

The Emmanuelle Collection, Anchor Bay Entertainment's 3-disc
special-features-enriched DVD release of Emmanuelle (the 1974 film that
kicked off the soft-core porn wave that fueled the late night schedules of
Showtime, HBO, and Cinemax during the '80s), Emmanuelle 2, and Good-Bye
Emmanuelle. Ten years ago a video librarian in our area was reprimanded for
purchasing Emmanuelle. Now, it's available in a collector's edition.

Marilyn Manson: Guns, God and Government World Tour (VL-1/03), a music
concert DVD distributed by Warner starring the bad boy of Goth rock that
also featured a 30-minute Manson-directed piece called "The Death Parade,"
which included a scene of a transvestite urinating into a bucket. When I
asked our reviewer--twentysomething associate editor Jazza Williams, who can
wield a red correction pen with the panache and deadly accuracy of Zorro--if
this scene was "graphic," she gave me a puzzled look before responding,
"yeah.I guess."

O, brave new world indeed!

Randy Pitman
Video Librarian
8705 Honeycomb Ct. NW
Seabeck, WA 98380
Tel: (800) 692-2270; Fax: (360) 830-9346
----- Original Message -----
From: "Holly Sammons" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, July 08, 2003 11:10 AM
Subject: RE: [Videolib] Movie ratings & libraries

> I don't know how most public libraries handle this, but mine has a policy
> that says we will NOT purchase Xrated films. The classifications work
> fairly well for the films that are classified. However, there seems to be
> a trend of late for many films to decline being classified. That's a bit
> trickier.
> Anyone with a valid library card can check out our films. We do not
> restrict on an age basis, this is a parental responsibility, not a public
> library's. It works for us. On occasion I get complaints, I simply tell
> patrons that they may chose NOT to check out films they find questionable.
> God only knows there's a lot of films I'd never check out, regardless of
> ratings!!
> --
> Holly Sammons, Librarian
> Onondaga County Public Library
> 447 So Salina St
> Syracuse NY 13202
> 315-435-1894
> >Date: Mon, 7 Jul 2003 17:00:42 -0400
> >From: "Blackburn, Alison" <>
> >To: "''" <>
> >Subject: [Videolib] Movie ratings & libraries
> >Message-ID: <EDD97C05839FD41185D700508BB0B54B098979CC@DC1EXC001>
> >Content-Type: text/plain;
> charset="iso-8859-1"
> >MIME-Version: 1.0
> >Precedence: bulk
> >Message: 3
> >
> >Hi,
> >
> >I'm looking for feedback on how public libraries (particularly Canadian
> public libraries) deal with VHS/DVD ratings. Do you use MPAA? Canadian
> Video Rating System? Provincial classification categories?
> We are planning to introduce self-checkout facilities in some of our
> branches and wonder what problems and/or solutions other libraries may
> come across regarding borrowers, age-appropriate AV material and
> self-checkout.
> Thanks very much.
> Alison Blackburn
> AV Librarian
> Collection Development
> Ottawa Public Library
> 120 Metcalfe Street
> Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5M2
> (613) 236-0302, ext. 515
> _______________________________________________
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