According to MPAA.org, the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association of America was first formed in 1922 by heads of major studios concerned that government would regulate them if they did not regulate themselves. In 1945 the association was renamed the Motion Picture Association of America. Today, the association enjoys its sixth director, Chris Dodd, its most famous being its first, William Hays. Hays authored the Hays Code, which helped ensure responsibility in film content up until the 1960’s. In that year, Jack Valenti, the third director of the association, instituted a voluntary rating system that allows for greater creative expression while also allowing parents to safeguard their children from inappropriate content.
The modern function of the association continues to expand, mostly for the better. Sometimes I wish the Hays Code were still in place, but I also am not looking to see 2,000 different versions of The Wizard of Oz. I like the diversity of modern cinema, even if I think some of what we see on screen rots our societal foundations and sensitivities from the inside out. Is life really a commodity? Is language really more artistic when it is dirty or blasphemous? Are we cheapening sex by selling it on the silver screen? Have we traded in our natural images of healthy family life for fun house mirrors?
Thankfully, the MPAA does help parents and kids make better choices about what is suitable to watch. That is only one of its roles, however.
Besides film ratings and advice to parents, the MPAA helps protect copyrights of filmmakers from piracy. They help promote an industry that provides 2.2 million jobs in America alone. They promote film itself, both domestically and globally, in theaters and online.
The official mission of the organization is “to advance the business and the art of filmmaking and its enjoyment around the world.”
I actually don’t like that mission. It's incomplete. I think like the 1960's, it ignores responsibility for the soul, both of filmmaking as a medium and the people who watch and those who make them. Wasn’t it Spider-man who said, “With much power comes much responsibility”?
On the other hand, the MPAA does what it thinks it is supposed to do well, and the rest is up to us.
For more about the history and mission of the MPAA, visit the official website:
You can also meet Will Hays here: