Are Film Ratings Really Useful?

Early this month in my Summer Family Movies Preview, I stated that goodness doesn’t sell after noting that there were no G-rated movies scheduled for summer release.  But apparently too raunchy and too violent doesn’t sell either.

According to an article in USA Today, movie execs are clamoring to avoid a NC-17 rating which leaves a movie “virtually unsellable.”

“The R-rating has become part of the mainstream,” says Paul Dergarabedian of industry tracker Media By Numbers. “The difference between an R and an NC-17 can be tens of millions of dollars.”

Many theaters will ban or show in limited viewing NC-17 movies.

Unfortunately, the Motion Picture Association of America gets complaints from both sides — movie execs and movie goers.

“The whole idea is to give information to parents,” Joan Graves, head of the MPAA’s Classification & Ratings Administration, says. “When this system was started, that’s all it was meant to do.”

To soothe some of the loudest criticism, the MPAA plans to better explain the the NC-17 rating.

“It’s not an effort to have more NC-17 (films) necessarily,” Graves says. “It’s an effort to discard the myths around that rating. An NC-17 doesn’t mean the movie is a bad movie, and it doesn’t mean it’s pornographic. It simply means that there are elements in it that we believe most American parents think are out of bounds for children.”

The MPAA is also changing its guidance for R-rated advisory to say:  “Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.”

“We had a lot of complaints … that parents had chosen to take their very young children to these very high-level R horror films that had very graphic blood and gore,” Graves says. “They were asking, ‘Can’t you put more teeth in the system?’ ” But, she says, “it’s ultimately up to the parents to decide.”

Ratings PostersLastly, the MPAA is changing the ratings appeals process to allow filmmakers to site precedent (other movies that have similar content that received the rating they want).

In all honesty, I’m not sure what this means for the movies goers.  But I think that regardless of the ratings, it’s our responsibility as parents to make sure that our children attend only the movies appropriate for their age.

Now, I’ll ask you . . . Do you think the film rating system is useful?  Do you look at the rating when determing what your family will watch?

(graphic courtesy of


2 Responses to Are Film Ratings Really Useful?

  1. Ratings mean little to me, but I don’t have a family.

    If I did I’d be more likely to go on an individual film-by-film basis to decide whether it’s appropriate for my children or not.

  2. vacelts says:

    Shoestring Guerrilla, I think I agree with you. And if I think a film is questionable, I depend a lot on the opinions of my friends on the appropriateness of a film for my family.

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