On Thursday, independent film distributor The Weinstein Company announced that it had settled with the Motion Picture Association of America on a PG-13 rating for its teenage transgender drama 3 Generations, which stars Elle Fanning. TWC, known for awards-friendly dramas and comedies and occasional disagreements with the MPAA over harsh ratings, has agreed to edit the film to achieve the softer rating, for “mature thematic content [and] some sexual references and language.”
The compromise comes less than a month after TWC threatened to legally challenge the MPAA when it heard the film had received an R rating for language and sexual references. In early May, the Parents Television Council, a conservative censorship advocacy group, backed the MPAA’s R rating in a statement from PTC President Tim Winter that called TWC’s rating complaint “the most worn-out page in [TWC co-founder] Harvey Weinstein’s playbook.” (Weinstein has, in the past, challenged ratings for TWC films The King’s Speech, Bully, and Philomena; PTC previously criticized his attempts to lower the rating for Bully).
One day after Winter’s condemnation, GLAAD president and chief executive office Sarah Kate Ellis came to the defense of Weinstein in an open letter to the MPAA that argued a large demographic should be able to attend a film that supports transgender acceptance. GLAAD also created a change.org petition to change 3 Generations’ rating to PG-13 in order to allow more trans youth to see the film in theaters.
Thursday’s settlement was mediated by Ellis, who reportedly spoke with both Joan Graves, head of the Classification and Rating Administration for the MPAA, and Weinstein. In a statement released Thursday, Weinstein noted:
It’s organizations such as GLAAD, the ones that don’t shy away from the difficult conversations, that are the reason we are able to move this country forward and really shift the cultural conversations … I am thrilled that we came to a solution that maintains the integrity of this crucial film while making it accessible to its intended audience.
MPAA spokesperson Chris Ortman provided the following statement to Pacific Standard:
This film has gone through all of the regular procedures outlined in CARA’s [the Classification & Rating Administration’s] Rules. While we cannot discuss the process for a particular film due to a confidentiality agreement, we can confirm that TWC has accepted the PG-13 rating for the last version of 3 Generations screened by CARA.
While we regularly meet with a wide range of organizations to discuss the rating system, no outside groups have any influence on the rating process. Each film is rated by a team of raters, who are themselves parents, in order to serve CARA’s purpose of providing information to parents about viewing choices for their children.*
During the TWC-MPAA spat, Weinstein drew attention to the MPAA’s ratings double standard, which awards lower ratings to violent movies and harsher ratings to those with sexual content, drugs, and language. “There is abundant evidence pointing to inaccurate and inconsistent age ratings for entertainment media content,” he told Deadline in mid-April. “The various age rating systems are becoming muddled and more confusing not because of what parents want, but, sadly, because of what entertainment industry executives can get away with.”
*Update — April 27, 2017: This post has been updated to include a statement from MPAA spokesman Chris Ortman, provided after the story’s initial publication.