I love movies, but recently, I’ve discovered movies are getting more scary. Not because of horror, but the overall slide toward coarse language, vulgarity, and sexuality – even in movies marketed as “family” films. The current movie rating system began in 1968 and called for four rating categories:
• G for General Audiences, all ages admitted;
• M for mature audiences - parental guidance suggested, but all ages admitted;
• R for Restricted, children under 16 would not be admitted without an accompanying parent or adult guardian; (later raised to under 17 years of age, (and varies in some jurisdictions));
• X for no one under 17 admitted.
Then, in 1984 they made another adjustment. The industry split the PG category into two groupings, PG and PG-13. PG-13 meant a higher level of intensity than PG. And in 1990, X was replaced by NC-17. You can find detailed explanations of each category at the Motion Picture Association’s website at www.mpaa.org.
But today, we’re seeing what insiders call “ratings creep” as more and more objectionable content is allowed in G and PG rated films. In 2004, the Harvard School of Public Health released a study that reported: “Ratings creep has occurred over the last decade and that today’s movies contain significantly more violence, sex, and profanity on average than movies of the same rating a decade ago.” That decade of “ratings creep” has sadly allowed more vulgar, violent, and sexually explicit content into movies.
According to Movieguide Magazine, “The study found more violence and sex in PG movies, more violence, sex, and nudity in PG-13 movies, and more sex and profanity in R-rated movies. It also found more violence in G-rated animated movies than non-animated movies rated G.” The industry responds that standards in American society are constantly changing, and the ratings just reflect that change.
I’m not a numbers guy. I’m not one of those uptight people who analyze movies based on the number of cuss words, violent acts, or exposed breasts. Great movies often have to portray the violent and horrible world we live in every day. How do you show the horrors of the Holocaust without violence? Or expose evil without showing it’s consequences?
Those of us driven by religious faith or conservative values don’t want to be bound by legalism and dismiss a great movie because an actor used profanity. However, we do need to be responsible when it comes to our children. That’s why now, more than ever, we need to be vigilant when it comes to checking out movies before our kids see them.
To do that, I recommend you check online resources like:
These and other sites review films with families in mind, and will let you know just how explicit a movie will be. Remember – movie theaters are not the safe places they used to be, and no one else is looking out for your family. Be responsible, and check out the movie, before you go.
Phil Cooke, Ph.D., is a television producer and media consultant based in Santa Monica, California. He publishes a free monthly e-mail newsletter, “Ideas for Real Change.” Find out more at www.philcooke.com.
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here