Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 by David Chen
It seems almost quaint today but the PG-13 rating was actually conceived in 1984 at the suggestion of Steven Spielberg: His Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was deemed just a tad too graphic/violent for kids, but not so bad as to warrant an R rating. Since then, the PG-13 branding, which indicates that “Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13,” has had a bit of a bumpy road.
On this week’s episode of the Totally Rad Show, Dan Trachtenberg argues that in a world where movies like Drag Me To Hell are rated PG-13, it becomes virtually irrelevant whether or not a movie is rated PG-13 or R. In other words, it feels like today’s standards are pretty slack for PG-13 films, compared with decades ago, and that filmmakers can easily push the envelope. On this week’s /Filmcast (which, coincidentally, features Alex Albrecht), I mentioned some of the absurdities of what went into rating Live Free or Die Hard (e.g. bullet holes in objects, volume level of gunfire, etc.). Famously, that movie caused a great deal of fanboy ire when it was rated PG-13, which prompted Bruce Willis to actually come out in defense of the film.
I would not argue exactly that ratings across-the-board have gotten more lenient over time, but it seems to me that the “rules” of what goes into a PG-13 rating have crystallized, and that filmmakers now know exactly what to do to get around the rules (although sometimes they can still fail to get the rating they desire). This has led to PG-13 ratings on films that feature brutal killings, breasts, and of course, foul language. But it’s also revealed the ludicrousness of the fact that in the MPAA’s eyes, it’s much worse to show a couple having sex than to show that couple getting brutally shot to death.
What say you, readers? How do you feel the PG-13 rating has changed over time, if at all? Do you feel like things have gotten more strict, less strict, or stayed roughly the same? And what are some examples of movies that you feel illustrate these differences over time?