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PG ain’t what it used to be

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If there are any parents reading this who are thinking of taking their under-10 year olds to see the PG rated Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, please read the following from a ScreenIt.com review:

Rated PG, the film contains a handful of mild expletives; some non-explicit, but sexually related dialogue; one teen who sexually pursues her soccer coach nonstop until he finally can’t resist anymore and they apparently have sex (off-camera, after some making out, and she feels empty afterwards)…

I have not read the books this movie is based on, nor am I likely to see the film (I’m not the target audience), but I did read in an interview with the author of the book series (Ann Brashares) that she made an effort to allude to any sexual issues in the books in the most oblique way possible.

It doesn’t sound like it will be all that subtle in the movie version, which would be fine if it was rated PG-13 (The target audience for these books is 13-16 year old girls).

Gone are the days when you could just assume that a PG-rated movie is OK without doing any further research. I really believe that at some point parents will have to screen even G-rated movies before taking their kids to see them.

And whose fault is this? No, I don’t just lay the blame at the foot of the studios, but it rests with the film ratings board. From FilmRatings.com:

Who gives movies their ratings?

Parents give the movies their ratings-men and women just like you. They are part of a specially designed committee called the film rating board of the Classification and Rating Administration. As a group they view each film and, after a group discussion, vote on its rating, making an educated estimate as to which rating most American parents would consider the most appropriate.

Ok, fine. Sounds good so far… although I still don’t understand how the envelope continues to be pushed first on PG-13 films, and now apparently on PG films as well.

After further investigation:

The ratings are decided by a full-time Rating Board located in Los Angeles. There are 8-13 members of the Board who serve for perods of varying length.

Oh! Now it all makes sense! With apologies to parents in the state of California who are trying to raise their kids right, could the MPAA find a location from which to select a group of parents that could be less in touch with the rest of the country?

I suppose they could have assembled a group from the San Francisco Bay area…

Here’s a suggestion: How about a group assembled from parents across the country? Figure out a way to do it… just send out screeners and then do a conference call. IMO that would get you a more representative cross section of parents countrywide.

Something needs to be changed, because the ratings system is obviously not working any more.

For more opinionated movie and TV industry rants visit ScreenRant.com.

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About Vic

  • SFC SKI

    You expect the enlightened inhabitants of the West Coast to go to a movie with members of Fly-Over Country, like on a date?

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    Seriously, is a child going to understand “sexually pursues?” How exactly does the girl do this? Do you even know? Would a kid know they’re having sex according to that description? No.

    From the description, it hardly sounds traumatic enough to scar a child in the least. Lighten up a bit. The rating system works fine.

  • http://screenrant.com Screen Rant

    Matt, do you have kids?

    My point is that I don’t think this stuff shouldn even be on the radar screen of a PG movie. Those thematic elements belong in a PG-13 flick.

    Of course the problem is that now PG-13 is the new “R”.

    Vic

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    of course it should be PG, at least based on that description. You’re thinking like an adult, not a child.

    When I was five, my dad let me watch the ’76 King Kong remake (I know, not a tween movie, but bear with me). There’s an extended scene where Kong gropes Jessica Lange and nearly takes all of her clothes off. I didn’t think of it sexually because I simply didn’t know any better. I thought it was “icky” because he was with a girl.

    Kids now don’t either. If they do understand the advances, then they already know and the movies not going to teach them anything different. Short of saying “I want to have sex with you right now,” a kid isn’t likely going to ask questions, just have a blank spot in their mind as to what happened. If they ask, as a parent, you’re ready to weasel out if you don’t feel comfortable discussing it with your kid(s).

    If anything, the ratings are too strict. Ever see Whale Rider? It was rated R because one of the characters briefly moves a barely identifiable bag of crack away from site. No mention of it was made. It was pretty much a perfect family film otherwise.

    And no, no kids. I just know that no kids is going to understand “sexually related dialogue” as it’s intended.

  • http://screenrant.com Screen Rant

    I agree that the Whale Rider R-rating was silly. As far as the examples you’re mentioning, I’m not talking so much about 5 year olds, who, as you stated wouldn’t “get it” but the 8-10 year olds who are on the cusp of this stuff.

    Vic

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    Whale Rider wasn’t rated R, it was PG-13 for the “reference.” It should have been PG.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    I could’ve sworn Ebert and Roper said it was rated R when they attacked the MPAA, but I checked, and yes, PG-13. My fault.

    And Screen, at 8-10, kids are going to start getting curious. It’s natural. Have you ever read some of those magazines for young girls? My god, one of my high school teachers brought one in for a class to show us. I didn’t even know about half the stuff in there, and I was a freakin’ sophmore then. This is the stuff they’re going to be exposed to around this time, and it seems that Pants is just an extension of that.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    A slight sidetrack, I don’t like how directors make an R film with intent to cut to PG-13 for an eventual unrated DVD release rather than just making a PG-13 film or an R film or whatever rated film. There are markets for all of these levels.

  • SFC SKI

    It’s ot always that simple, Chris. Sometimes the ratings have to be fought for and justified.

    One thing that disturbed me was the case of “Gunner Palace”, a documentary that fought and won to receive a PG-13 rating. In my area, it was advertised as an R, and listed as an R during it’s all too short theatrical run.

  • http://draven99.blogspot.com Chris Beaumont

    I didn’t mean to imply it was simple but the studios are taking DVD into consideration when making a film and they see extra cash in this. They get a bigger audience in the theater with the lower rating, and more people to buy the DVD with the Unrated marketing tactic.

  • http://calblog.com Justene

    PG stands for Parental Guidance. What’s wrong with making parents actually, um, guide. I check out everything the girls watch and not only have a “line” but the line differs for each of my 13 year old twins. One can handle more violence and the other can handle more sex.

  • http://screenrant.com Screen Rant

    Justene, of course you’re right, and I’m a huge nag on the fact that a lot of parent’s *don’t* “guide”.

    My point is that PG used to mean “too scary for 4 year olds” while G meant “even a two year old can watch this”. Now with PG I have to worry about crass language and more adult situations. To be honest even as a parent that does stay on top of this stuff, it’s a pain in the ass to have to research even a PG movie before I decide whether I can take my daughter to it.

    Vic

  • http://screenrant.com Screen Rant

    “Have you ever read some of those magazines for young girls?”

    Matt, that is my point *exactly*. Why in the heck do girls 10 and under need to know about the kind of things you didn’t even know as a sophomore??

    Society seems to want to force kids to grow up and deal with sexual issues at a younger and younger age.

    Why? What is the point of that? Why can’t kids be kids at least until they hit double digits?

    Vic

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/dorksandlosers Tan Hoang

    Kids probably are more likely to learn any R-rated material like language and violence from school playgrounds than movies.

  • http://screenrant.com Screen Rant

    Tan, you’re probably right. Hard to shield kids from other kids who have parents who set poor examples or don’t give enough supervision.

    One can only try to raise their children to stay away from those who display that sort of behaviour and try to hang out with like-minded kids, and discuss with them the issues when that stuff does come up.

    Vic

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/dorksandlosers Tan Hoang

    Well, that and helping to teach the kids strong morals and values and hopefully the kids can decide right/wrong and real/fantasy on their own. There’s only so much a parent can do. A kid has to grow up and mature sometime.

  • http://screenrant.com Screen Rant

    Of course you’re right, but there’s not enough of that going on. And as far as growing up and maturing… that doesn’t mean I have to plop my 9 year old daughter in front of a movie discussing a student seducing a teacher.

    Vic

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/dorksandlosers Tan Hoang

    True that. Those movies are more for older audiences.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    …it’s a pain in the ass to have to research even a PG movie before I decide whether I can take my daughter to it.

    But that’s your job, and always has been — that’s what the PG in PG stands for: Parental Guidance. It sucks having to provide parental guidance even for films rated “Parental Guidance,” eh?

    Fortunately you can research films without having to go see them, thanks to various movie-nanny websites.

    P.S. My standards are radically different from those of the MPAA, or from anyone else I know, for that matter. My youngest child, at 4, has seen a PG-13 movie I wouldn’t let his older sisters (at 6 & 7) watch. MPAA ratings are only a rough guide — VERY rough.

  • http://screenrant.com Screen Rant

    Whether one disagrees or not, there’s no denying that there has been “ratings creep” over the last 10 years where the line has been pushed towards the upper end of the scale on PG and PG-13.

    Hear is one study published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

    I guess perhaps one of the points I wanted to make but did not do so clearly is that sometimes this type of stuff doesn’t have to be in a movie, or can be done differently and can still tell the story effectively. I can see why Clearplay, Cleanflix and other companies are growing at a good clip.

    Vic

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    “that doesn’t mean I have to plop my 9 year old daughter in front of a movie discussing a student seducing a teacher.”

    Well, two points. The first is: don’t do it. You know that the film may contain something you don’t feel was appropriate. It took a short visit to a website, you know now, and no one is forcing you.

    Secondly, will your 9-year old understand “seducing?” How far does it go? I doubt the girl lays on a bed, spreads ’em, and says “do me.” Maybe she says “I love you” and kisses him. That’s innocent enough and no 9-year old is going to pick up on that. That’s PG all the way. You haven’t seen it, yet your attacking it.

    And of course there are times when this stuff doesn’t NEED to be in a movie. This isn’t 1933 anymore either, and you can say “damn” in a film now to. Times change, and I doubt the Sisterhood goes any further than network televsion.

  • http://screenrant.com Screen Rant

    Matt,

    As Spock said to McCoy in Star Trek III:

    “It would be impossible to discuss the subject without a common frame of reference.”

    You’re about what, 25? No kids? When I was your age I probably held the same opinions.

    BTW, your comparison to network television as it stands these days certainly doesn’t bolster your argument as far as I’m concerned…

    Best regards,

    Vic

  • http://calblog.com Justene

    I usually find that what my kids aren’t ready for, goes over their heads. It’s me that’s not ready for them to know. I had to get over that.

    After that, though, they seem to know what they’re not ready for and it’s the girls who choose when to close their eyes. My job is to make sure that they don’t have to do that too often.

    Amanda loves romantic comedies. I took her to Love, Actually — based on the commercials and failing to notice that it was R. The R stuff failed to add uch to the movie and I felt compelled to apologize to her when suddenly something she thinks is inappropriate came on the screen.

    Madeleine loves horror but, really, all she and I can handle are PG-13. Both of us. Occasionally a movie looks good in previews but if it’s R, I know we’re going to be partway in and it’s going to stop being fun to be scared.

    amongst all that, though, I have learned that they understand all the references in Friends, find it very funny and still don’t display any conduct that isn’t age appropriate.

  • http://screenrant.com Screen Rant

    Sounds like you’re doing a great job Justene. :-)

    I guess I have yet to “get over it”. :-\

    I just wonder how daughters without your guidance react and are affected by the same situations…

    Best,

    Vic