PG-13 gets a lot of flack from us mature audiences sometimes – and with good reason. Often we complain that movies that deserve an R (Live Free or Die Hard) get knocked down to a PG-13 rating and lose the edge that can make them great. Todd Brown over at TwitchFilm recently made the point that PG-13 killed the movies it was meant to save – that is, youth adventure films.
While I’m all for any chance to poke PG-13 into the eye any chance I get (and jam a thumb into the MPAA some place where they’d rate it R for violence), I don’t really follow that PG-13 killed youth adventure movies. But don’t worry. It’s still a bit of bullshit for other reasons.
Brown laments the loss of films like The Goonies due to the PG-13 rating penalizing child endangerment on film and a shifting target audience. Producers now aim for 15-17 year olds, the demographic who can see movies without needing adults for money or rides, when making a film that they don’t want rated R. His reasoning is sound on all these counts, but there’s more to the story.
I personally don’t blame PG-13 for getting rid of a Goonies type film. I think the youth adventure film fell out of favor. It’s cyclical, and I for one don’t watch many of them. So they probably do exist on some level. Like Holes or something. They’re just not as good as what we remember from our childhood.
Why should we be mad at PG-13 then? The same reason we should be mad at any rating. It’s plenty arbitrary. We shouldn’t be mad at the rating’s standard, we should be mad at those who enforce them. Anyone who watches a film like The Goonies today would probably rate it PG by today’s yardstick. If producers are making bad decisions on what to allow in films, or are forced to make cuts to get some arbitrary stamp of approval, it’s not entirely on them – it’s on the MPAA. Well, most of the time.
The Losers managed to be a fun action film, brimming with gun fights and fist fights and underwear scenes, that successfully worked within a PG-13 rating. Rocky Balboa told a good character story with plenty of boxing violence and came in with a PG. So sometimes the MPAA puts a decent stamp on a film – even though they’re still mostly a waste of time.
I still think PG-13’s biggest shortcoming is in handicapping more mature films. And by more mature films, I mean awesome action films, or films that could have been awesome action films. I recently watched Battle:Los Angeles, which was a decent action film with a PG-13 rating. There was a a ton of shooting, though the film probably could have been a good bit grittier and better for it. Rather than getting dirtier though, the film had to play the violence safe for the rating. Then there is that abortion GI: JOE – which had cartoon levels of violence – that was also a PG-13. Definitely should have been a grittier film, considering it was as gritty as jell-o, but in the interest of playing it safe, a hacky PG-13 director got to make another hacky PG-13 action film.
All I’m saying is that there are a lot of reasons why PG-13 blows. Maybe, like Todd Brown says, it killed the youth adventure movie. Definitely as we’ve all noticed, it has taken the balls out of horror films and action films. What’s the solution? As a general audience, hey, maybe nothing. Skipping PG-13 horror movies and action movies, maybe. But maybe we just make more noise about how the MPAA sucks. Rent This Film Is Not Yet Rated and get a view into the general ratings bullshit. Hopefully Hollywood comes around. The reasons why we don’t have a good Goonies-esque movie probably isn’t the ratings board, it’s just Hollywood not making the right type of films. So go and see the Harry Potter films. See The Losers. Skip GI JOE. See The Mechanic and other R-Rated fare.
I mean shit, Hollywood is gonna do what Hollywood is gonna do: try to make money. All an audience can do is support the movies that are good no matter the rating – then maybe Hollywood will just try to better movies. Fat chance I know, so for now all I do when I see a PG-13 rating is instantly lament the idea that this film was forced into a generally abysmal middle ground. Then I go past my boiling point.
Also, Fuck You, Steven Spielberg. Sure, you made many great movies, but it was your insistence that created the PG-13 rating and thus caused a great divide in ratings, and handicapped many films to this day. Sucker.