Beat Blog: “R” You Kidding Me?

This is the third post in the Beat Blog series for my reporting class. Enjoy!


This blog-post is rated PG-13 for one bad word. Or is it?


To this day, when I watch a movie with especially foul language or a graphic sex scene, I look around the room and make sure my Mom isn’t watching. Oh, and just to clarify, I live about 1,100 miles away from my Mom.


Then there are the rare cases. There are the times when I watch a PG-13- rated movie that has me cringing with the inappropriateness of it all. There are times when I watch an R-rated movie and spend the rest of the day trying to figure out what made it so inappropriate. The ratings system is an ugly, confusing beast, one that deserves a college course unto itself.


One of the biggest problems with the ratings machine is the translation of older films to modern day ratings. Take, for example, the Indiana Jones films, specifically, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. As a whole, the film contains horror, violence, melting faces, exploding heads, and criminally evil Nazis, surely enough to garner no less than a PG-13 rating… right? Well, back in 1981, Indy earned a mere PG rating. Looking solely at the rating, one would think this is a kid-friendly film, when in reality it is a movie that should require some serious parental advisory. In fact, I have specific memories of my parents turning “Raiders of the Lost Ark” off about a third of the way in to the film as my younger sister and I watched in shock.


Another example of questionable ratings lies in the feel-good movie, “Billy Elliot”. Back in 2000, “Billy Elliot” earned an R-rating for language. Sure, the British film about a boy who aspired to be a ballet dancer dropped its share of F-bombs, but contained no violence, sex, or nudity. Many critics argued that foul language was not a foreign concept to young people, as sex or violence might be.


With these questionable ratings and surely many more in mind, where does this leave the average parent in deciding which films to show their children? Well, it leaves each parent in a state of judgment. The MPAA doesn’t know each and every child like their parents know them. One family’s PG may be another family’s R, and it isn’t up to the MPAA to know what is appropriate on a case-for-case basis. However, the MPAA does have a responsibility to parents and children to be as fair and honest as possible. Unfortunately, they are in a line of business that, excuse my R-rating, comes with some pretty shitty responsibility.


6 thoughts on “Beat Blog: “R” You Kidding Me?

  1. This is a topic that has been discussed for years. The rating system does not seem to have any clear set rules, and it seems like it varies from year to year depending on who is on the rating board at the time. Kind of dumb if you ask me.

  2. I couldn’t agree more and, by the way, no matter how far away you live, I AM always watching you. Hey, that could be a new R-rated movie!!

    Just as a little history- there was a time when the only ratings were G, PG, R and X. There was no PG-13. So, if the movie didn’t reach the threshold for R, it was PG however inappropriate that seemed. When you were young, we used to go on a website called and look up the movie we wanted to see. It would rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 10 for language, sex and violence. Then you could read a summary where they would tell you how many times they said the F-word or the S-word, what kind of sexual content the movie had and what the violence was – all without giving up the plot. That is how we decided on those marginal movies for child watching.

  3. Growing up my parents generally ignored movie ratings. They would let my brothers and I see movies based on trailers and what their friends said. I ended up watching some movies above my age, but thats part of growing up. I truely believe rating movies for such a broad culture like america is hard but the MPAA lets too many blockbusters get away with pg-13 ratings and independent films get stuck with R ratings. I think most of america is starting to find the MPAA irrelevant.

  4. Camille; Good topic for a post. Endless reasons why the movie ratings system is a stinker. Love the captions you wrote for the two graphics. See if you can find a news peg for your next post–something on your beat that’s actually making news. This topic is pretty static, although I seem to recall something in the news in the recent months about changing the system. That’s the kind of thing to which you should be linking. Also, note that your very last sentence doesn’t make sense. A word missing, perhaps? Score = 9

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