DISCLAIMER: I do not work for FanFiction.net, and my opinions of their rating system doesn’t mean squat.
So there was recently a big dust-up over on FanFiction.net, a big Purge of a lot of stories that were supposedly too mature for the site. Or immature, depending on how you look at it. You see, although FanFiction.net uses FictionRatings.com‘s ratings scheme, they do NOT allow MA-rated stories on their site. It has to be K through M.
So what is the big difference between M and MA? FanFiction.net emphasises this point: “Detailed descriptions of physical interaction of sexual or violent nature is considered Fiction MA.”
But there’s another problem with the rating system and violence, here. Let’s review.
K: “Intended for general audience 5 years and older. Content should be free of any coarse language, violence, and adult themes.”
No violence. Very straightforward.
K+: “Suitable for more mature childen, 9 years and older, with minor action violence without serious injury. May contain mild coarse language. Should not contain any adult themes.”
So violence is allowed, as long as there are no consequences. I’m thinking along the lines of cartoons, now. In Beast Wars or GI Joe, there’s all kinds of shooting and fist-fighting, martial arts, and nobody gets so much as a bruise.
T: “Suitable for teens, 13 years and older, with some violence, minor coarse language, and minor suggestive adult themes.”
Note that “some violence” is allowed. Why? Because…
M: “Not suitable for children or teens below the age of 16 with non-explicit suggestive adult themes, references to some violence, or coarse language.”
This higher level is not allowed to have ‘some violence.’ Only ‘references’ to it. Isn’t that actually below what K+ rating is allowed? And…
“Fiction M can contain adult language, themes and suggestions. Detailed descriptions of physical interaction of sexual or violent nature is considered Fiction MA.”
Meaning that in K+, I can have the villain punch the hero in the head. As long as there’s no bruising or bleeding, or teeth knocked out or such. In T, I can have the villain punch the hero in the head, with all that. But at M, if I have the villain punch the hero in the head, that’s a ‘physical interaction of a … violent nature.’ Thus my piece would get bumped to MA and therefore not allowed on the site, depending on how ‘detailed’ it is.
Okay, that’s stupid, right? Well, it’s what the rules SAY. But we’re all rational beings here, so perhaps we should go by what the rules mean.
I interpret M as being mature, not having to filter or bleep any language, able to deal with sex and violence in a tasteful manner. For example, mainstream modern fiction books. And R-rated movies. It’s not porn or “adult.”
If you’re more familiar with the USA Movie ratings system, I’d go like this:
K = G
K+ = PG
T = PG13
M = R
MA = X
But as it is now, there’s some confusion as to whether FanFiction.net considers M to be PG13 and MA to be R. (As for G, that might not wash with K, as K is supposed to have no violence whatsoever. Even Disney G movies have violence.)
If they’re going to go with MA = R and above and is not allowed on FanFiction.net… I’m going to be in trouble, because Bannon & Zevran definitely has detailed descriptions of violence going on, from the get-go. I consider the violence and sex scenes in that story to be definitely R-rated. Nevertheless, they are neither ‘explicit’ nor ‘porn.’ It’s my feeling that they do belong on FanFiction.net.
What is your dividing line between M and MA? Or what do you think it actually is/should be on FanFiction.net?