Movie Ratings Nonsense

By: Danny Carlton

A long time ago we had four easy to understand ratings for movies. Now, I'm told that at one time there were no ratings at all, but the movie companies started getting a bit racy. Congress started inquiries into imposing a rating system, but before they could, the movie industry quickly popped up with one of their own. They grinned at Congress and said, "Don't worry we've taken care of the problem." In spite of it's general desire to create more and more laws, Congress shelved their ratings law, and considered the problem solved. So, contrary to what most people have always assumed, the ratings system isn't law. But at least we understood it. Note I used the past tense.
G was for kids or the whole family. PG was for grownups. R was also for grownups, but contained nastier stuff. X was for perverts. That was easy to understand. But during the mid-seventies and earlier eighties, a lot of parents started sending their kids to PG as well as R movies. If a kid showed up to a R movie without a grown-up, the ticket guy would ask, "Do you're parents know you're here?" The kid would say, "sure." (and of course all 10 year-olds going to see Phantasm or Porky's would always tell the truth, right?) and they'd be let in. So the perception changed. G became kiddie movies. PG became action movies. R became horror or teen sex movies, and of course X was still for perverts. But by the mid-eighties parents got confused. See since G meant kids, few movie companies by that time wanted to be cursed with a G rating, so they'd either add some innocuous something to get that coveted PG rating, or simply just out and ask for it. So the "family movie" of the early seventies had vanished to be replaced by a scant few kid movies and a whole lot of PG movies of unknown content. The two movies that kicked up the most fuss were Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Both rated PG, but both definitely not for little kids. Shocked parent raised a fuss after their little ones had nightmares about little toothy demon-looking things blowing up in microwaves or about some evil looking sweaty guy in a turban pulling their heart out of their chests. So the movie industry obliged us with PG-13.
During the following years G virtually disappeared as PG became the new "family movie" rating. That was a problem for us who think that foul language isn't what we want our kids to listen to. But since we were the minority, our opinion didn't matter. A few years later Hollywood tried to foist the infamous NC-17 which I guess meant "rated R, no really we mean it with this one". The trouble was the movies that came out with that rating were so bad, it tainted any future movie that might get it. Good riddance if you ask me, because it just gave Hollywood another excuse to pass sleaze off as something other than sleaze.
So for all those years we had the vanishing G, the ever present PG (pretending to be for families), the new PG-13, and the nasty old R. Things went so-so until a few years ago. It seems that parents, once again, started letting their kids flock to PG-13 movies, so that now if there any action at all in a movie, it needs to have a PG-13 rating, whether it actually deserves it or not. G is making a slow comeback as Hollywood is taking note of profits (really, that's so hard for leftists to do, so I can understand why it took them TWENTY YEARS to finally realize G and PG movies make more than PG-13 and R, besides, Hollywood Socialist aren't all that keen on this family thing either. They're pretty surprised that it wasn't a passing fad.). PG is waffling between family movie (identical to G) and drama and action movies that contain the obligatory swear word hear and there (habits are so hard to break). PG-13 now has become what PG used to be, except that many are actually fairly clean, but with some violence. Somehow these Hollywood types think that seeing a war scene with bullets and pretend dying (but no blood) is much, much worse than four letter words. R is still nasty movies and X is still for perverts (except they've come up with this fake XXX to make it look like it's really bad, and of course pornographers can always be trusted to be truthful about things, they work in such an honorable business, right?)
So when one is at the video store, trying to see what's in and available, without being able to reference any reviews, other than what's written on the box, it's pretty confusing. PG can mean quite a wide variety of things, so can PG-13. They've started putting why the ratings are there, but that still doesn't help completely. Of course Parents blame the movie industry for all this mess, and continue to let their kids flock to as bad a movie as they can, and so the cycle continues.

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Danny Carlton is an author, educator and web developer. Your can visit his sites at, and

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