Join 3,501 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Slick shoes? ARE YOU CRAZY?
March 26, 2008 2:51 AM   Subscribe

Have American movie ratings, specifically the PG rating, gotten somehow weaker over the years?

So I was on Netflix and came across the page for The Goonies...
Looking through the various customer mini-reviews I found a startling number of people saying how this shouldn't be a PG movie; that while it may have been a PG back then (in 1985), it would easily be a PG-13 by today's standards due to vulgar language and joking drug references (this despite PG-13s having been available back in 1985).

Is this right? Have PG ratings actually gotten 'weaker' (or perhaps "less tolerant" might be a better way to put it) in the last 20 years—that is, are the PG-rated movies that are made today able to show or say less than the PG-rated movies made back then could show or say?

(I guess it surprised me because I would've thought that if there had been any movement, it would have gone the way... that what was PG-13 then would have been thought of as a PG now.)

My only other thinking is that perhaps either

A: people are more aware today of what exactly earns a film a certain rating (certain words can be mentioned X number of times, if there can or cannot be references to drugs/sex) and are thereby thinking to themselves "Well, since it's PG I know legally they can't say 'damn' more than twice in a twenty-minute period", or

B: that perhaps these certain Goonies reviews were written by Netflix's various member-incarnations of Ned Flanders

aside, the Frattelli's were (SPOILER!) bastards, but was The Goonies really as bad as all that?
posted by blueberry to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Smoking may earn movies an R rating

Not sure if this is standard now.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:25 AM on March 26, 2008


I think the answer is both yes and no - there is no solid standard.
this is rather complicated, so allow me to send you thre podcast links instead of typing it all up here.

these three episodes of KCRW's The Business have dealt with the hollywood ratings system and current controversies around it:

Rating the Changes at the MPAA - MON MAY 28, 2007
This week on The Business, will changes to the way movies are rated change what you see on the big screen? We'll talk to the head of the MPAA's rating board about what's new and why. And, what can different ratings mean for a movie's box office potential? Plus, a report from the Cannes Film Festival.

-R- Ratings, Short Films and Agents - MON JUL 18, 2005
Rob Zombie has made the tough transition from heavy-metal rock-god to feature film director, but his greatest achievement to date may be the -R- Rating he wangled for his ultra-violent new film, The Devil-s Rejects. Then, short films may get no respect but, as we hear from directors Mike Mills, Talmage Cooley and Vasco Lucas Nunes, they can get you an agent

This Film Is Not Yet Rated - MON JAN 23, 2006
Movies live or die based on the rating they receive from a super-secret panel of average-American parents. We speak with director Kirby Dick and producer Eddie Schmidt about their new documentary that outs the MPAA ratings board and the often inconsistent and perhaps unconstitutional way in which they decide what's safe for us to see.

hope these help.
posted by krautland at 3:38 AM on March 26, 2008


Smoking may earn movies an R rating
not currently but there are people who are campaigning for that to happen and last I heard their chances were good. exceptions are for historical accuracy.

people are more aware today of what exactly earns a film a certain rating
yes, see rob zombie. he explains how he got his R - it was a back and forth.
posted by krautland at 3:40 AM on March 26, 2008


The Goonies was released shortly after the PG-13 rating was first used 1984. The new rating was partially a response to the movie 'Gremlins' which had a lot of violence and cartoonish gore. 'Goonies' was slightly vulgar, but didn't have the violence that people were so upset about at the time.

Times have changed I think, with the focus on protecting our children from sex rather than violence. Back in the day, you could have brief non-sexual nudity and still avoid an 'R' rating, much to the delight of pubescent boys such as myself. Now that's much rarer.
posted by bluejayk at 4:22 AM on March 26, 2008


All ratings have got weaker over time IME; I'd have to check for specific titles, but I'm sure that I've got several old movies that were rated 15 or 18 back in the day, but nowadays some PG movies are *much* worse.
posted by Chunder at 4:34 AM on March 26, 2008


I guess what I really am interested in is the PG rating.

R ratings I can kind of understand—if there's a lot of swearing, violence, a lot of nudity. But PG is more that middle child—the Peter Brady of ratings.

G PG PG-13 R

PG has to be "worse" than the squeaky clean G, but not as "bad" as PG-13 or R.

I can understand the idea of going from a G to a PG, from a PG to a PG-13, or from a PG-13 to an R by actively adding content to a film, but what I'm trying to get my head around is people saying "wow, we were crazy back then to allow our kids to watch these films—let's not let same-aged kids today (who watch South Park every day after school) watch those same films today"

I was going to mention something about how Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979) was released with a G rating, but when I went to get the link from IMDB.com I noticed that it's rating has been bumped up to a PG. I'm not sure if that's because there was added footage or because of the MPAA rethinking it's idea of what a G movie is.

So maybe that means that it's really all of the ratings that have slid backwards...

Suggested slogan for the rating bureau: "Kids today: not nearly as smart/tough as we were at that age"
posted by blueberry at 4:52 AM on March 26, 2008


This guy does hardcore, fundamentalist Christian reviews of movies, and he has this system where he counts the number of sins in each film, including swearing, sex, violence, etc. He seems to think that over the years the PG-13 rating has been allowing more R-rated content. So maybe more stuff is getting lumped into PG and PG-13 ratings because they're the most marketable while the G and R rated movies are dwindling.

I know that when I was a kid I definitely thought of myself as too cool to see a G movie, but my parents wouldn't let us see R movies, so PG and PG-13 were the happy medium. Maybe more movie companies are striving to get those ratings.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:30 AM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


R ratings I can kind of understand—if there's a lot of swearing, violence, a lot of nudity.

Even though it focuses on the R and NC-17 ratings, I recommend "This Movie Is Not Yet Rated." (Funny and informative!) The so-called standards for ratings are highly flexible, sometimes arbitrary, and largely based on the personal biases of the ratings board. Certainly there needn't be "a lot" of swearing, violence, or even any nudity to get an R rating.

In answer to your specific reference, it did seem take awhile for the PG-13 rating to solidify in purpose. As far as you can say that there is any sort of commonly-understood line between the ratings, there were likely films "mis-categorized" in both directions.

"wow, we were crazy back then to allow our kids to watch these films—let's not let same-aged kids today (who watch South Park every day after school) watch those same films today

You did hear that the old episodes of Sesame Street were released with a parental advisory, yes?
posted by desuetude at 6:01 AM on March 26, 2008


According to this link, Temple of Doom got the PG-13 rating started, specifically because Spielberg is movie god, but now, if you rent or buy or check the imdb you will see that it is now rated PG.

This could be specific to Spielberg movies or could evidence of changing standards and re-evaluation of ratings.
posted by M Edward at 6:12 AM on March 26, 2008


Swamp Thing (1982), rated PG, has female nudity. I can't imagine a movie with nudity getting a PG rating these days.
posted by null terminated at 7:25 AM on March 26, 2008


Holy cow, Poltergeist (1982) was rated PG.
posted by bitterkitten at 8:06 AM on March 26, 2008


I remember reading an interview with Trey Parker and Matt Stone (creators of South Park) talking about the difference in procedure between TV censors and the MPAA. They said that with TV censors, they have a meeting (or a series of meetings) where they're all in the same room, you can argue with them, etc.

The MPAA was a much "shadowier" organization, where the movie just sort of goes into this void and comes out with a rating. You change some things (seemingly quite arbitrary ones) and send it back in until you get the rating you want.

Long story short, there is very little transparency when it comes to how the MPAA actually rate films. Definitely check out "This Movie is Not Yet Rated" as mentioned above.
posted by Nelsormensch at 8:31 AM on March 26, 2008


You did hear that the old episodes of Sesame Street were released with a parental advisory, yes?

To be fair, this isn't because Big Big smoked a joint or Bert & Ernie were blatantly flirting - it's just that some of the early episodes have behavior like kids going home with a friendly stranger that we now more strongly discourage. Not quite the same as changing standards about what level of violence or sexual content a kid should be exposed to.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:42 AM on March 26, 2008


I watched the Back to the Future trilogy with my kids and cringed at all the swearing. I just never really noticed it before. Maybe when I saw it as a kid, the swearing fell on deaf ears, but now as a parent I'm much more sensitive to what my kids are subjected to.
posted by indigo4963 at 8:48 AM on March 26, 2008


Ronald Leone at Stonehill College in MA that has done quite a bit of research on movie ratings, usually by doing content analyses of movies w/ different ratings. Sexual content has increased in PG-13 movies. Sex is more likely to get you an NC-17 (as opposed to violence). Ratings creep.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:01 AM on March 26, 2008


So I realize you want to know more about the PG rating, here is a full article looking at ratings creep across all 4 ratings categories. From the abstract: "We found significantly higher rated content in movies as a function of time, suggesting that the MPAA applied less stringency in its age-based ratings over time for the period of 1992-2003."
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:12 AM on March 26, 2008


"According to this link, Temple of Doom got the PG-13 rating started, specifically because Spielberg is movie god, but now, if you rent or buy or check the imdb you will see that it is now rated PG."

It never had a PG-13 rating. It was one of the catalysts for PG-13, but PG-13 wasn't used yet when Temple of Doom came out.
posted by litlnemo at 1:25 PM on March 26, 2008


To be fair, this isn't because Big Big smoked a joint or Bert & Ernie were blatantly flirting - it's just that some of the early episodes have behavior like kids going home with a friendly stranger that we now more strongly discourage. Not quite the same as changing standards about what level of violence or sexual content a kid should be exposed to.

Sorry, didn't mean to imply that there was sexual content in Sesame Street. Bringing up the Sesame Street advisory was a direct rejoinder to this comment:

"wow, we were crazy back then to allow our kids to watch these films—let's not let same-aged kids today (who watch South Park every day after school) watch those same films today
posted by desuetude at 1:47 PM on March 26, 2008


Isn't it more about how back then a PG rating would be taken more seriously by parents?
posted by thebrokenmuse at 6:29 PM on March 26, 2008


« Older I need to find a female dentis...   |  Looking for online quiz materi... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.