Age Ratings- a cinematic choke hold:

In terms of discussions about movies nowadays; on the internet the age ratings is being brought under negative scrutiny, and for some good reasons as well.

So where do we begin? Well one thing that is brought up is how pretty much the majority of films that are released are 12, or as America would call it P-13 (this ranging from 13 year olds to 16 years olds). This ranging from comedies, blockbusters and even horror films are being pressured into meeting that age range. In fact films such as Prometheus, Live Free or Die Hard and the Robocop remake; have been examples of studios lowering the age ranges from NC-17 (the american version of a 18 rating) to PG-13. The main reason of complaint being how all three of these examples are follow ups to franchises that were aimed for adults, and are now alienating their adult audience.

So why do studios do this. Simple; money. Young people such as teenagers have the most disposable income to spend, so movie studios plan to tap that demographic in order for the most amount of seats filled in at the cinema; which will add up with the amount of adults seeing the film. More people in seats, the more profit is made. Not mention the DVD sales. With people seeing the cut down version in cinemas; to then advertise the uncut or rated version of the film on DVD. In order to sale you on the idea of getting more than you thought you were, if you saw the theatre cut when it was out in cinemas. That and certain TV channels won’t air trailers for NC-17 films, nor will certain stores stock their DVDs doesn’t help; especially for the horror and independent movie makers.

Unfortunately this ends up being problematic for the people making the film; said problem being limitonon creative control. Terminator Salvation was an example how a film aiming to be R rated; until Paramount (the studio behind it) had the film trimmed to remove the violence, blood and even a brief scene featuring one of the female characters topless. Same goes with ‘Cursed’ a  2005 horror movie features a similar case where 60% of the film was scraped before post production, and then re-shot for the PG-13 rating. Leaving the film as an absolute mess, and given the 4.9 out of 10 rating on IMDB (International Movie Data Base) it shows.

Not only can this screw up the tone, but also everything else important. The 2009 comedy Fired Up was meant to be an edgy adult comedy in the vain of American Pie. But yet again the studio cut the film down from R to PG-13; bad enough, but from what I’ve heard the best jokes from the film, were left on the cutting room floor, and could only be found the extended DVD release. So well done there Screen Gems. And while we’re on the topic of plans going up in flames; the idea of lowering the age rating equals more people watching and that equals more money, that’s not even that true. The Expendables is a violent throwback to the 80s action films. The first two films were R and both opened at the top of the box office. Meanwhile the third film caved in and became PG-13, you want to know in what box office place that movie ended up in on opening day….fourth. Making it the lowest grossing of the trilogy, Oops.

Plus the whole way films are rated is kinda inconstant. In the sense of one film that can get away with a low rating for doing something more adult, while another film that does a similar act or features similar content is stricken with a higher rating. Let me explain. A 90s thriller called The Cooler was given a NC-17 for showing one of the actress bush after a sex scene featuring the actress in question, meanwhile Basic Instinct (a film released a decade later) was given a R despite featuring Sharon Stone flashing her vagina towards the camera. Given how to big actors like her and Micheal Douglas were staring in the film; the reason why the ratings are different becomes clearer; market appeal.

Disney is also guilty of the same thing. Tarzan features the main villain being hung by the tree from his neck, Lion King the main villain is eaten by Hyenas, Beauty and the Beast the villain in that film falls from a tower to his death. The connection being how these Disney films were rated G (or as we English like to call it U). So given how Disney and over companies run 95% of the US film business, they’ll naturally use the lower rating to get the highest audience possible. Because it always about the money and how much is made.

So in the end what do i want, and how could this method be changed? Well i feel that the rating system should be more relaxed. Allow movie studios to create the films they want to make; and to not censor them down to lower ratings, in the hopes of “reaching a wider audience”. If Wolf of Wall Street and D’jango Unchained can be financial hits with as NC-17s, then so can any other movie. I also feel that there should a short list of feature content: blood, sex, nudity; similar to how video game trailer work. Because a movie like The Avengers can claim to have violence, but so does The Dark Knight; the rating based on content means nothing really. But I’m sure there’s multiple ways to fix this problem, and better ways to do this. So i leave it you.

Before I sign of, I’d like to suggest to good videos on this topic. The first being from GoodBadFlicks:

And the second being from The Chesire Cat Studios podcast:

In any case; thank you for your time.


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