She’s made the call on PG, NC-17 for 30 years
still love movies. That has never gone away.”
Graves, who studied political science at Stanford University and started out as a stockbroker, was recruited by the Motion Picture Association in 1988, when her youngest daughter was 9. The organization was looking for someone “sensible,” she said.
Charles H. Rivkin, the Motion Picture Association’s chairman and chief executive, called her an “institution” whose contributions to film ratings are “immeasurable.” For directors and studios, her decisions have carried enormous business implications: The difference between ratings – PG-13 versus R, or even G versus PG – can mean millions of dollars in ticket sales.
But not everyone in Hollywood is a fan, including the Oscar-nominated documentarian
Kirby Dick, who made an entire movie in 2006, “This Film Is Not Yet Rated,” about the ratings system. In an email Thursday, Dick blamed Graves for, among other things, allowing “films with excessive violence to be rated PG-13, resulting in tens of millions of children being exposed to traumatizing violent imagery.”
Consider this her exit interview. Over scrambled eggs at a cafe near her office in suburban Los Angeles, Graves spoke of her most challenging mo- ments on the job, the rating she now believes she got wrong, and images she can’t unsee. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
During the really horrible movies, I often find myself wondering, “Who gave them money to make this?” There have been times when I have felt worn down – when directors try to outdo each other with sadistic stuff. Did we really need that 15-minute rape scene? But then not long after will come a film that is intriguing and well written and restores your love.
I shouldn’t say no, because then they’d try.
We don’t set standards, we reflect them. What are parents most concerned about? Overall, there is something about graphic nudity in this country. We are all graphically nude a couple times of day, so I don’t quite get it.
Harvey Weinstein was a great frustration.
The last run-in I had with him was on a movie about a transgender character. He floated out to the news media that we gave it an R because of the transgender story line. That was not at all the case. It was an R for
Studios want the rating they think will be most commercial. It’s almost as if they throw in a “hell” or a “damn” just to get a PG.
One year, not too far back, practically every picture seemed to have someone urinating on the side of the road. Right now, having a conversation while sitting on the toilet is big. One year, everyone was throwing up. I think it’s young filmmakers thinking: “Oh, that’s cool. I’ll do that too.”
When I first started, we still had the X rating. There were still a good number of theaters playing
A senior rater announces the tally and leads a discussion. Was the vote a slam dunk or was it wishy-washy? They discuss the content and form the ratings descriptor on the spot.
Submitters are then informed of the rating. Many times they will say: “We agree with your assessment of the ratings, but we don’t want to market it that way. We want to edit it to get another rating.” At that point, the senior rater can tell them – not as an industry professional, but as a parent – what led to the rating. Was it the shot to the head with the blood on the wall? Then they can edit and submit it again if they want.
On my first day I rated three, and one starred Ben Kingsley and was set on a Greek island. That’s all I remember. The last one was yesterday, and, to tell you the truth, I can’t remember its name, either. I can wipe my brain clean afterward, which is actually helpful – one analysis doesn’t bleed into another.