When KIDS FIRST! Film Critics review a film, they give it an age recommendation so that parents are aware what their kids might witness in the movie. Every film has a rating such as G, PG and so on. However, as I watch movies, I am noticing that many things have changed regarding the censorship of the language used in films.
Film ratings are done by the MPAA, the Motion Picture Association of America. Whenever you see a trailer or movie poster there is always a MPAA rating, usually at the bottom. They’re there to inform parents, as well as kids, of what to expect during the film - whether it’s language or subject matter.
Let’s go over the ratings in film and what they mean.
PG: Parental Guidance, Some material may not be suitable for children such as language, subject matter and visuals.
PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13 for brief language, visuals and violence.
R: Restricted. Those under age 17 are required to be accompanied by a parent or guardian due to extreme language, visuals and even nudity.
NC-17: No child age 17 and under admitted.
It used to be that the “F” word was used only in R rated films. Now, I’m hearing R-rated language in PG-13 films where a 13-year-old or younger can here it. I was researching this subject when I stumbled on an article on Huffington Post that said, “Using the F-word outside of the R-rated world certainly isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact, prior to the adoption of the PG-13 rating in 1984, the F-word would periodically pop up in PG movies. Even after the creation of the PG-13 rating, movies like “Big” and “Beetlejuice” sneaked in the F-word and still secured a PG rating.”
The word is sneaked. I have seen both of these films and I did not catch this the first time I watched it. Today, films are not simply “sneaking” the word in, they are blatantly throwing it out there. An example of this is “The Wolverine.” It’s rated PG-13 for violence and language. The studios and the raters know that most kids will want to see this film because it’s a superhero film. Of course, there is some of the usual language, but that’s what the parents expect. However, what they don’t expect, and I didn’t when I watched it, was a close up of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) saying “Go F# yourself!” There are two problems with this. One, it’s not necessary in this particular scene. The second problem is that we are not warned. Do you see on the description for the rating that includes, “F bomb used, be forewarned?” There is no history of using this word in any of the other X-Men films with the Exception of “First Class” (which was removed on the DVD)
Does this mean that it is assumed that kids have heard the word and therefore are indoctrinated to it? Should we just assume they know what it means and that makes it okay to use? Is it acceptable as “show and tell word”? I know kids are smart, but they are kids! They are still learning. They still have a certain innocence. The point is, the word is not expected. Even if it’s used only once, why is acceptable in a movie that is rated PG-13?
In some cases the “F” bomb can be appropriate. In “The Fault in Our Stars,” Hazel Grace uses the word once out of anger. I don’t picture many little kids begging their parents to watch a romantic film such as this. Its audience is primarily teens. Also, it is based on a book and the screenwriters wanted to stay true to the original source material.
The article on Huffington post also says, “Officially, the MPAA’s Classification and Rating Administration’s guidelines state: ‘A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context.’”
What I take away from that is that if we say the “F” word once, it can be considered a PG-13 movie. It’s up to the parents to find out for their kids if there is anything in the film to watch out for. Making it the parents’ job to this much research on the film, doesn’t it go against everything the ratings are supposed to do? This brings me back to the question of why these ratings are here to begin with - to warn us! I’m not saying movie ratings are not reliable we just need to be more cautious. You never know what could be in a movie. That’s what websites like KIDS FIRST! are here for. We inform kids and parents what to expect in a film. People need to stop assuming and find out the facts.