How does the Motion Pictures Association of America decide what rating it gives a movie? This is what this film sets out to uncover as it also attempts to discover the MPAA's most well-guarded secret: who exactly rates these films? In between interviews of various directors, actors and hard-to-find ex-raters, we follow Dick and his hired team of private investigators as they stakeout the MPAA headquarters (which is excessivley fortified) in hopes of finding out the identity of its rating staff. While the eventual results are satysfying, seeing as we eventually get a list of not only the raters themselves but of the board reviewers as well, the investigation scenes themselves are somewhat laughable, the competence of the detectives easily questionnable until one sees the final results.
In addition to bringing up the well-known discrepancy between violence and sex, the latter being four times more likely of requiring a film to cut scenes, Rated emphasizes the close relationship between the MPAA and the Hollywood major studios. Seeing as most of the films focused on for their rating ordeal are independent pictures, the film offers the possibility of prejudice in favor of big studios being partly responsible for unfair rating practices. This point is visually brought home by a side-by-side comparison of NC-17 independent pictures and PG-13 mainstream ones, in which the actions are practically identical. Kevin Smith, John Waters and Matt Stone are amongst those who are interviewed, their sad tales of picky censorship seemingly taking us back to the sad times the Hays era.