Movie Ratings, Subjective or Objective?

By: Inso Park 

Although movies have been around for a long time, parents have begun using MPAA, Motion Picture Association of America, ratings as credible ways to determine if a movie is appropriate for their child to watch. These ratings are attached to almost every single movie and have been around for almost half a century. Movie ratings exist to inform parents of the contents of the movie and how graphic the film is; however, in a society that normalizes violence and sexual behavior, most PG-13 films today now contain more graphic content than r rated films of the past. 

Movie ratings began in 1968 when legislatures passed laws to prevent the exposure of harsh content to children. Hollywood even incorporated the “Hays Code”, a set of guidelines that movie content needed to abide by before being released to the general public. After undergoing constant revision and enforcement, the code was deemed as outdated and was no longer used to rate movies. The modern movie rating system has introduced new categories of movies never imagined before, all more scandalous than the next. To make matters worse, without a specific set of guidelines, categories like PG-13 are considered grey areas that can hold content ranging from a children’s movie to a nearly rated R. 

Countless films that are filled with graphic or lewd content have been, and are still constantly, miscategorized as PG-13 because that’s where all the money lies. Almost all box office blockbuster movies have been in the PG -13 category and according to a study published by the Journal of Children and Media, PG-13 movies alone have brought in more revenue than all G, PG, and R rated movies combined. 

There are a myriad of reasons as to why movies are placed in lower rankings instead of their respective categories. To begin, it is significantly harder to market movies in adult categories. Many theaters do not allow movies of higher categories to play their trailers and refuse to market them as well. Not to mention the majority of  newspapers and video stores refuse to advertise them as well in fear of backlash from their customers. Finally, television studios, with the exception of Schindler’s List, do not feel comfortable running anything above the category PG-13 and in turn, limits the movie’s exposure and revenue. Not only are movie ratings increasingly becoming more inaccurate, but  kids are also participating in more mature activities at younger ages. 

As the movie industry continues to prioritize revenue over the wellbeing of their viewership, parents need to beware of the movie industry and cautiously check the contents or reviews of a movie before allowing their children to watch it.