Disciple of Thecla
2/27/13 at 09:02 AM 10 Comments

My Confusion over the Movie Ratings System

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A month or so ago, I noticed something strange about the ratings system on movies. When I watched three superhero movies - Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America - I thought "great action-adventure movies for the family!" After all, none of the movies seemed particularly violent, and each one had a moral message. Each family could get a fun action story and an ethical lesson at the same time. I thought the movies would be PG instead of PG-13.

I had watched the movies without looking at what they were rated. I discovered later that all three were rated PG-13. After some thought, I realized and agreed that Iron Man deserved the PG-13 rating on account of the title character's sinful behavior. I still consider it very suitable for 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds, and I consider it one of the cleanest PG-13 movies available. The ratings for Thor and Captain America bewildered me because, despite being miminalist in their level of violence, they have the exact same rating as a trilogy massively more violent than some R-rated movies.

The more I thought about it, the more bewildered and confused I became about the ratings. Thor and Captain America are minimalist in their level of action violence. Everything is kept at a strict minimum. There is one intense piece of violence in Thor, but I still thought it would have a PG rating, more suited for 10-year-olds than 7-year-olds but still PG. The most graphic and intense piece of violence in the movie Thor is severely condemned, and this severe condemnation leads to the plot and moral message of the movie: being a hero is not about killing enemies, being a hero is about protecting innocent lives. That scene gives what is necessary to lead into the plot and moral message. That is one reason why I thought it would be a PG movie. And that scene is nothing in comparison to three other movies, a PG-13 trilogy that is also more violent than most R-rated movies.

Each movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is massively more violent than those movies mentioned above, yet those movies have the same PG-13 rating. The fight scenes are more intense, more realistic in swordplay, arrows, and sieges, and more prolonged than the fighting in Thor and Captain America. In the first movie, arrows are shown piercing the creatures in Moria; and in that film's final battle, the scene lingers on Boromir with arrows protruding from him. Aragorn almost loses his head. In the second movie, beasts tear apart horse and rider. During the siege at Helm's Deep, there are heaps of dead bodies of elves, and their leader is shown being hacked with axe-like weapon. People are shown being stabbed, shot, and blown up. In the final movie, there is an explicit and lengthy scene of a man dying while one of the movie's evil creatures gazes in adoration at the general who casually stabbed the man's heart.

And there is quite a lot more violence than what I'm listing here such as human heads used as catapult projectiles. I have nothing against the Lord of the Rings series. Actually, I consider it to have an appropriate portrayal of violence in that the heroic characters abhor it but have no choice if they want to protect their families. What troubles me is that this series has the exact same PG-13 rating as three movies which I thought must be PG in their minimalist depiction of violence. All the violence both in duration and intensity of Tolkien's trilogy is absent from the three superhero movies. Captain America especially deserves a PG rating because of the three superhero movies, it is the least violent with the most heroic character. And I do think Thor should have a PG rating. The fighting in those movies is nothing compared to the Lord of the Rings series. The magnitude, intensity, and overall violent content of Tolkien's trilogy greatly surpasses those superhero movies to such an extent that they almost cannot be compared.

And then, I noticed something else. The Lord of the Rings series is PG-13 while the majority of the Die Hard series are rated R. The one exception is the 4th movie. The Lord of the Rings series is massively more violent than the entire Die Hard series put together, yet Die Hard has more adult rating than Lord of the Rings. I agree that cuss words should give movies an adult rating, but I also believe that actions speak louder than words. A PG-13 movie should not be massively more violent than an R-rated movie.

The more I compared Lord of the Rings with Die Hard, the more I reached the conclusion that this trilogy deserves an R rating for the extreme level of violent content. An appropriate portrayal of violence depicts the characters as having a horror of violence, a desire for peace or for protecting others, and either grief or outrage at what violence inflicts upon people. Lord of the Rings has this appropriate portrayal throughout the entire series, but I have reached the conclusion that it deserves an R rating. Appropriate portrayal is different from age appropriate content because an appropriate portrayal can cover all the storylines across the ratings from G to R. I have seen a horror of violence in G-rated movies. Children need to learn right and wrong behavior; why something is right and why something is wrong. It is all about giving the message verses the age that receives the message.

Readers, our culture needs to determine what is an appropriate depiction, but moreover, we need to continually evaluate and reevaluate what is age appropriate and why something is for a certain age. Age appropriate content is equally important than an appropriate portrayal. Watching something at the wrong age can seriously injure a child, but if we lump everything together without consideration for intensity, duration, and graphic depiction, then we lose our sense of perspective.


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