The Woman In Charge Of Making Sure You Are Not Offended By Movie Posters

The NYT takes us behind the scenes of the endless nitpicking that goes on before a movie poster can be shown to the easily-offended public. Meet Marilyn Gordon. She is in charge of a team whose goal is to make sure you, the public, are not offended.

This team evaluated more than 60,000 submissions — trailers, television spots, Internet ads, press kits, print ads, radio commercials, online games, say the NYT.

“I don’t know what more we could do,” Ms. Gordon told the Times. “We don’t want anything to offend the public, and I’m really proud of our track record,” she added.

Among the offensive things that are routinely removed: guns pointing at people, human incineration, impalement.

In general terms, Ms. Gordon’s team evaluates promotional materials to determine whether they are suitable for the intended audience. Billboards for R-rated movies must be tame enough for the masses, including children. But TV spots for those same movies — provided they run during late-night cable television, for instance — could feature violence and sexuality. An Internet trailer that is viewable only to people who have passed an age-verification test could go even further.

There are some explicit rules. A mass-circulation movie poster, for instance, cannot show “dismemberments,” “children in peril,” “cruelty to animals,” “offensive gestures,” “drugs or tobacco products” or “people or animals on fire” (comic book characters excepted), among a laundry list of other images and words. But most decisions are subjective and rely on personal judgment.

Why is the Times even writing about this lady and her team of etiquette cops?

Apparently some groups are going after her, claiming that the self-censorship that the MPAA goes through voluntarily isn’t sufficient. Included in the list of complainers is the FTC, which has a problem with the “explicit and pervasive targeting of very young children for PG-13 movies” via fast food marketing.

“The Commission has been reviewing and reporting on the movie, music, and video game industries’ advertising and marketing practices relating to violent entertainment for 10 years now,” noted FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a separate statement accompanying the report. “Despite considerable improvements, the self-regulatory systems are far from perfect.”

You can read the FTC’s report here.

Deciding What Is ‘Suitable’ in Movie Ads [NYT]

FTC Renews Call to Entertainment Industry to Curb Marketing of Violent Entertainment to Children [FTC]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.