by Shane “Bang Bang” Hnetka
Rating movies has always been controversial. In Canada, every film is rated — including DVDs and Blu-rays — but it’s left up to each province to decide on a rating for each movie. Well, except for Saskatchewan; we now use British Columbia’s ratings, mostly thanks to an incident a couple of decades ago when we brilliantly banned the lame Hollywood comedy Exit to Eden for being sadomasochistic. That little “oopsie” caused our province some considerable embarrassment internationally.
In the U.S., it’s a different story. The Motion Picture Association of America regulates the voluntary rating system that Hollywood and movie theatres developed and usually follow. DVDs and Blu-rays aren’t really rated at all.
MPAA ratings have always felt backwards to me. Violence seems to be acceptable while sex seems to be punished. And now there’s proof: U.S. and Dutch researchers have documented a three-fold increase in gun violence in PG-13 films since 1985.
PG OR NOT PG? THAT IS THE LAME HAMLET JOKE
The PG-13 rating was created in 1984 after PG-rated movies such as Gremlins, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Poltergeist had received complaints for their violence and gore. The U.S./Dutch study defined gun violence as people holding guns and firing them with the intent to kill. Researchers looked at the top 30 grossing movies from 1950 to present, and discovered that films like Amazing Spider-Man, Terminator: Salvation, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Dark Knight and many more contain a ton of gun violence.
They also discovered that there was more gun violence in PG-13 films last year than there was in R-rated films.
And this doesn’t include PG-13 rated violent films like Hunger Games, which don’t feature as many guns.
ALL THE WORLD IS RATED
Is the U.S. really worse, though? All sorts of arguments can made about America’s violent culture and its effects on kids. But what I find more interesting is how the rest of the world rates these gun violence-filled films — Terminator: Salvation for example. In the U.S., the MPAA rated Terminator: Salvation PG-13. Elsewhere? In Canada it was 14A. Other countries gave it their local equivalent of “rated for teenagers and up”: in Australia, M, Brazil 14, Denmark 15, Germany 16, Iceland 12, Italy T, Philippines PG-13, South Africa 13V and the UK 12A.
In fact, pretty much all the countries gave Terminator: Salvation close to the same rating, except Japan — which rated it General (suitable for all ages).
(Interestingly, the first three Terminator films were all rated R. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was rated R in the U.S. when it was released in 1991. Other countries gave it a rating that was more or less equivalent: 18A in Canada, in Finland K-18, in France 12, in Germany 16, in Japan R-15, M in New Zealand, 18 in Norway and 15 in the UK.)
So what does all this mean? It means the U.S. isn’t alone in letting teenagers watch violent movies.
The U.S. does, however, seem to be a lot more uptight about sexual content and language than many other nations. I’ve written before about teens being blocked from quality movies about teenagers such as Blue Is The Warmest Colour and Bully, and I don’t have room here to repeat myself. But yup. Still seems backwards.
Looks like 1990s Saskatchewan wasn’t the only place with clueless prudes.
Shane Hnetka has spent most of his life watching movies and reading comic books. He has decided to use this vast knowledge for evil instead of good. Read his column Sunday Matinee every week at prairiedogmag.com.