As a new study finds that violence in PG-13 movies is through the roof, and Harvey Weinstein fights another R rating, we have to ask: Will our ratings system ever get it right?
A study in the journal Pediatrics, published online today, reveals that gun violence in PG-13 movies has more than tripled since 1985, the first full year the rating was introduced, and that recently, the rate of gun violence has even surpassed that in R-rated movies.
That obviously is troubling for myriad reasons. Study author Dan Romer told Bloomberg, in reference to the gun violence in PG-13 movies: "At the minimum, this is sending a wrong message, and possibly it’s having an influence on vulnerable kids, who see this as a way to show resentment." But it also just shows how messed up our system of rating movies can be. Sure, someone under the age of 17 can go see a movie like White House Down, which was perfectly packed with guns, no problem, but this 23-year-old writer gets her ID checked at About Time, where sex is implied and a couple of curse words are thrown about.
To the outside observer, the difference between a PG movie and an R rating is easy to discern. PG movies have little to no offensive content and are often explicitly made for kids. R films have adult content. But when it comes to figuring out the difference between a PG-13 film and an R, the difference often feels indistinguishable. The MPAA's description of what each rating means is hard enough to parse.