Ratings through the ages

With cinemas more wild than Wall Street, the “age-ist” industry has transformed to segregate audiences increasingly


Photo property of Paramount Pictures

A quick visit to a social media site, news channel or any local public school will confirm that the world has not improved significantly over the last few decades. Why is it, then, that our movies have seemed to become more conservative? Contrasting a PG rated movie from now and one from an earlier time would reveal a surprising amount of differences in terms of “appropriateness.”

The shift in censorship can be attributed to the Motion Picture Association of America, or the MPAA. The MPAA decides the official rating of movies, choosing between G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17. Most American movie-goers are familiar with this system, with G being the most child-friendly and NC-17 being adults only.

However, this rating system was not always the one in place. In the late ‘60s, movies only had four neat little boxes to fall into: General audiences, Mature audiences, Restricted and X (no one under 17). More than just harmless rude humor was allowed into the G rating, due to there being less specification per each rating.

More specific ratings were added over time, but the rating PG-13 was not added until the mid ‘80s. This caused any movies that were too inappropriate to be G and not explicit enough to be R to fall into the PG category.

The movie industry has adjusted over time to include PG-13 into one of the most used ratings for movies. This shift however has caused the PG category to become much more tame than before, and has consequently lead to the claim that our society, the movie industry in particular, is more sensitive than before.

This critique can be supported fairly easily, with the Nickelodeon movie “Rango” almost receiving a PG-13 rating for characters smoking. Another case would be the 2000’s classic, “Mean Girls,” having to change a single line to something with the same meaning to avoid an R rating.

While the fairness of the MPAA’s ratings can be debated, it can be assured that the more protective parents out there are grateful for the shielding of any inappropriate material from their children.