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An open Letter to Jack Valenti

An open Letter to Jack Valenti

July 24, 1990

An open Letter to Jack Valenti

President of the Motion Picture Association of America

At a time when all artists’ rights to free speech and expression are in peril, we the undersigned believe that the artistic freedom and integrity of American filmmakers are being compromised by the outdated and unfair rating system whose practices have and will continue to result in the defacto censorship of their work.

The ‘X’ rating, originally conceived to indicate that a film contains mature and/or adult material and should not be viewed by children, has come to be universally recognized as pertaining simply to pornography. As a consequence, an ‘X’ rated or unrated film is denied exhibition in thousands of cinemas nationwide, display advertising is forbidden by a growing number of major metropolitan newspapers, and radio and television advertising in most markets is not available at all for films that are not rated either G, PG, PG-13 or R by your organization. We believe that it is imperative that the MPAA correct this problem by creating a new letter rating that will more fairly reflect the association’s original intentions with regard to adult-themed fare.

While the MPAA maintains that its Classification and Rating Administration does not censor films or force filmmakers to censor their films, the taint of an ‘X’ rating clearly results in massive and arbitrary corporate censorship. Failure to address this problem will help foster a new era of “McCarthyism” in the arts as during the ’50s when the networks claimed it was not they who blacklisted artists, but the sponsors.

We therefore strongly suggest that a new rating of ‘A’ or ‘M’ be incorporated into the system to indicate that a film contains strong adult themes or images and that minors are not to view them. This is not a compromise between art and commerce, it is an essential action designed to protect the United States Constitution. It is an issue as important as film preservation; in fact, it is film preservation.

Michael Apted

Hector Babenco

Harold Becker

Bernardo Bertolucci

Francis Ford Coppola

Jonathan Demme

Abel Ferarra

Terry Gilliam

Meahem Golan

Walter Hill Ron Howard

Jim Jarmusch

John Landis

Charles Lane

Spike Lee

Mark Lester

Barry Levinson

Adrian Lyne

Penny Marshall

Paul Mazursky

Sydney Pollack

Carl Reiner

Rob Reiner

John Sayles

John Schlesinger

Ridley Scott

Steven Soderbergh

Wayne Wang

John Waters

Robert M. Young

Edward Zwick

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