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“Rated R for language.”

“Rated R for language.” (photo)

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Springboarding off the muchremarked upon faux-controversies surrounding “Avatar” into a meditation upon the boundaries and limitations of the ratings system, A.O. Scott raises a point I hadn’t thought about. It’s not the R/NC-17 divide that worries most parents: “the more embattled frontier is the one between PG-13 and R.”

“It is easy,” he continues, “to scoff at that rating only if you have never received angry letters from parents or grandparents appalled by profanity.” And he’s right: it is easy to scoff now that I’m personally years away from having to deal with the whole mess. But the whole “Rated R for language” — and nothing but — deal is particularly absurd for a bunch of reasons. One is that the big studio movie that’s rated R solely for language is a real rarity: if you’re going to get the R, you’ve probably got something else going on. Otherwise, why bother potentially slicing your audience by a third?

The movies that tend to get rated R solely for language are the small indie films, the ones whose audiences tend to be so small and the lack of widespread influence so manifest you wonder why anyone would worry about their moral influence. For example: Andrew Bujalski’s “Mutual Appreciation,” a movie full of relatively clean-cut twentysomethings who — it’s true — smoke a little pot (which happened in the PG-13 “Clueless” too) and, uh…well, that’s it. Seriously, it never remotely occurred to me that this was a danger to the youth of America: like Bujalski’s first movie “Funny Ha Ha,” a PBS staple these last few years, you could show it on broadcast TV with barely any elisions.

Other candidates: “Happy-Go-Lucky,” Mike Leigh’s lovely movie of 2008. “The Puffy Chair,” the goofy road-trip movie that contains a little drunken buffoonery (not flagged for disapproval; it was a simpler time) and, frankly, doesn’t even feel all that “adult.” (Unlike those movies sometimes cited for the ever-unclear “mature thematic elements.”) “Wendy and Lucy,” for God’s sake: a poor woman homeless with her dog trying to get to Alaska and looking for her dog. And she tries to steal some produce from a grocery store (not flagged in the rating). “Bubble” (for “some” language; not sure where the boundary is). The profane but otherwise almost suspiciously abstinent teenagers of “Raising Victor Vargas.” And so on.

01222010_jerseyshore.jpgNow, I’m not a total idiot: I realize even within the confines of “Rated R for language,” some of them should probably stand. I’m old enough to remember when Alan Dershowitz had to appeal for an R instead of an NC-17 for “Clerks,” a movie whose litany of sexual vulgarity is, I suppose, best kept out of the hands of middle schoolers, if for no other reason than there’s nothing more tiresome than a teenager swearing extensively and repetitively.

Then again, all you need to do is tune into the TV-14 “Jersey Shore” for that. And if that particular cesspool of depravity is okay for 14 year-olds and up to watch, well…c’mon. Really, anything that could be shown uncut on TV barring some dubs shouldn’t be rated R.

[Photos: MPAA logo; “Jersey Shore,” MTV, 2009.]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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