Movie Ratings Confusion

Jul 22

I’ve got a beef with those things called movie ratings.  Seriously, folks.  They’re confusing. They’re confusing the heck out of parents across North America.

You disagree.  I see you disagree.

There’s PG and there’s R, you say.  What else does a parent need to know?  Oh yeah, and that really nice rating called G for General.  A parent’s dream, that one.

Your certainty is the confusion.  Trust me.  You’re confused.  How do I know?  Because that guy from Rogers Video – you know him – that guy that’s always working the shift who knows every movie in the store. The one you always overhear bragging to his co-workers that he knows every line in Star Wars 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. I mean, you and I don’t know that kind of stuff ’cause we’re not the guy from Rogers Video.  Yet even THAT guy is confused about movie ratings.

I tossed Ghostbusters on the counter and asked him, Is this appropriate for kids?

Oh yeah, well, should be okay, he says.  How old are your- I cut him off… I mean, what is its rating? I ask.  Is it from the old ratings system or new ratings system?

That’s when I got the blank stare.  Is it PG or PG-13, I ask.  I’m not doing this to screw with the guy – I’m serious.  Oh, he says, you mean AA? Uh,PG.

This is troublesome. If the “Rogers Guy” doesn’t know his movie ratings, how can the world expect busy parents who are just dying for any opportunity to plunk our antsy kids in front of a talking screen for hours – to learn them.  I mean, we’re still trying to figure out the features on our cell phones.  That’s right.  Cell phone – not Blackberry. Not iPhone. That’s how behind the times WE are.

So, following is a brief overview of the movie ratings, which by the way, are completely voluntary.  That is, the movies don’t need to be rated if they don’t want to be (but it tends to help with the marketing of the movie) and the cinemas don’t need to enforce the rules.  So, your kid could probably take you to court and win if you ban him from seeing Saw V.   I mean – if that’s the kind of child you’ve raised, which is probably not the case.

Here they are:

G – General Audiences. All ages are admitted.

We parents love these movies. Often, their only offense is a lame plot, but that, thankfully, goes right over the kids’ heads.   No worries of stunting their intellectual growth, here.  No nudity, sex, drugs – all good from a parents’ standpoint.  Violence is minimal.   And some of those G movies are A-OK.   Think: Finding Nemo, Toy Story.

PG – Parental Guidance Suggested.   Some material may not be suitable for children.

What this really means is it might have some scary parts for younger kids, or some questionable language.  You’re getting into the grey zone here, where some movies may be completely suitable for six year olds (The Incredibles), and others rather terrifying (The Chronicles of Narnia:The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe).  The small amount of violence in these movies, however, are all within the context of the film.   That is – good fighting evil, rather than image after image of senseless killings.

PG-13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned.   Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

This is what the Rating Board considers a “sterner warning.”  For some reason, they decided to do away with the older AA (Adult Accompaniment) rating and just add the number 13 beside the rather harmless PG rating.   Just an aside here – I wasn’t permitted into the theatre to see the movie Footloose when I was 13 years old (even after my own mom told the ticket girl that she ALLOWED me to see it.  Thanks for trying, Ma!)   This rating should read more like Don’t Let Your Pre-teen See This Movie Before You Get A Chance to Review It.   I know it’s a mouthful, but it’s kinda’ catchy don’t you think?   The theatres do not even require parents to accompany their children, as the AA rating did.  PG-13 is basically a friendly reminder to parents that THIS MOVIE MAY SCARE THE PANTS OFF YOUR CHILD.  Many parents do not realize there are two PG ratings that are immensely different from one another.  The Dark Knight is PG-13.  Slightly creepier than The Narnia Chronicles, dontcha think?

R- Restricted.   Children under 17 require accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Boy, times have changed.  When I was 17, I could not get into a rated R movie, regardless how many grandparents came to sit with me. No one was getting into Silence of the Lambs, back then, without some proper I.D.  We all know¬†what this rating is about.   Recent movies include Gladiator, Something About Mary.   Just your average violent or sexually explicit flicks that most kids start watching in their mid-teens.  There are actually a lot of great movies in this rating, once your kids are old enough.  But, as with all Hollywood fodder, you really need to wade through the muck to find the gold.

NC-17 – No one 17 and Under Admitted.

This is, basically, the new level for Rated R movies.   You’ve got to be 18 years old to get in.   This is also the death rating for any movie hoping to make some profits.  When’s the last time you went to a movie with this rating?  Yeah, exactly.  What the heck kind of movie gets this rating?   There’s a movie called Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!  (Apparently in the top ten grossing NC-17 films of all time).  Oh, you haven’t seen it yet?  If you have, well, keep that tidbit to yourself, wouldja?   Interestingly, Zack and Miri Make a Porno was given the NC-17 rating, but the directors appealed the decision and won the lower, more profitable R rating.   Hmmmm.   Just how trustworthy are these ratings folks?  Just whose interests are they really looking out for?  No one knows.  Their identities are a SECRET.  Seriously.  No one is allowed to know their identity so they can maintain their objectivity.  You know… Hollywood, after all, needs to be protected, right?

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