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November 17, 2006

This Movie is Rated R (for suggestive and incorrect grammar)

Ah, time for a semi-non-academic blog...

If you don't know me well enough by now to understand my affinity for grammar and writing, well, then you don't really know me. It's a natural thing for me to throw a fit over parallelisms, comma splices, and changes in tense.

One might think that, in my own relaxation time, I might ease up. I might let go and not catch every last error. I might be able to let someone slide in saying "less" when they meant to say "fewer."

This is not so. Even in my "relaxed" state I latch on to errors. Take for instance, last night when I was watching a movie with Mike, we both just stared at the opening screen that showed the rating. This is not because it was rated R, but because the reason for it being rated R was as follows: "VIOLENT AND DRUG CONTENT."

Please (pretty please) tell me that you see a problem with that... (I swear I wish I had a screenshot of this... Mike and I were both like, "What?") "Violent" is an adjective. Meanwhile, the phrase "drug content" can be separated into two nouns--with "drug" describing the "content," in this case, making "drug" actually an adjective. Even with "drug" describing the "content," it's a noun phrase. Saying "VIOLENT AND DRUG CONTENT" doesn't make any sense.

Something has to change. What the ratings folks meant to say is that the movie "CONTAINS VIOLENCE AND DRUG CONTENT" or "VIOLENCE AND DRUG USE." Changing "violent" to "violence" does a world of good, since now the two concepts are parallel--they're both nouns. Describing the film as violent is fine, but the phrasing needs to change entirely to include the bit about drugs.

Basically, I think that the rating writer person should get a grammar book and use it. But that's just my humble opinion.

Posted by KarissaKilgore at November 17, 2006 12:30 AM


Or "[People in this movie are] VIOLENT AND DRUG-CONTENT." That's "content" with the emphasis on the second syllable, meaning "satisfied with things as they are."

Uh... on second thought, forget about that. That's working far too hard to enable sloppy copy-editing.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at November 17, 2006 10:05 AM

Actually Dr. Jerz, thats the exact same thing I said when I saw that come up on the screen!

Posted by: Mike at November 17, 2006 3:37 PM

Thanks, Dr. Jerz. I, too, fight the urge to allow things like this to pass. I sometimes try to give people the benefit of the doubt. But that generally ends in this same way... me pointing out the error and how to correct it... Like I always do.

Posted by: Karissa at November 17, 2006 4:37 PM

Unless they meant that there is violent content and drug content, and then thought they'd save space by taking out the first content? I don't think it would have killed them to add an extra word or two.

Then again, I don't think people wrote those with the knowledge that they'd be overanalyzed. Geez, Karissa, couldn't you have just watched the movie and been happy?


Posted by: Valerie Masciarelli at November 18, 2006 1:23 AM

I did like the movie. It was excellent. But the whole time I was wondering about the folks who actually put this stuff together and if competence and/or literacy is something they cover in job interviews.

Posted by: Karissa at November 18, 2006 11:11 AM

As Val pointed out, it can be grammatically correct to word it that way, but it's a simple matter of communication.

Personally, I think the language is awkward, simply because it can be interpreted in several different ways. I really don't think the person who made this rating call was incompetent. Because film is a depiction of events rather than events themselves, you can't say the film "contains violence." That would be inaccurate.

So, the people who do the ratings, with a bigger emphasis on accuracy and applicability to the medium of film, develop a set of conventions governing their reason for restricting films from certain age groups. I don't think it's because they haven't been to grammar school. On the contrary, I think it's because they are well aware of all the issues of language and film.

That being said, we as consumers are not always as informed of these issues in film, right? We just want to enjoy the movie. So, the issue is not one of grammar. The issue is one of communication. The raters assumed that their audience would have the same background and knowledge as them.

They communicated like any film critic would communicate, this film contained violent and drug content (violent content and drug content). This is an example of how professionals of a field, even in the most mundane and trivial field of film rating, must be able to step back and communicate their knowledge within the conventions of the language of their audience.

On the surface, we may think that this was a careless error (and it was) of grammar (which it wasn't). This was a sheer case of "not being able to contextually communicate." While grammatically correct, this statement failed to communicate within the parameters and conventions of film viewers and not film raters.

Posted by: Evan at November 19, 2006 2:03 PM

See what happens when you overanalyze! You get Evan on your blog telling you the history of grammar and communication. Wtg, Karissa.

(P.S. Once again, just kidding--to both of you! And the "Wtg" was intentional, for anyone who wondered.)

Posted by: Valerie Masicarelli at November 20, 2006 11:27 AM

Um...yeah...I spelled my name wrong. That was unintentional. *feels loserly*

Posted by: Valerie Masciarelli at November 20, 2006 11:45 AM

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