Remember that pesky MPAA study that showed there was just as much, if not more violence being shown in PG-13 movies than in Rated-R flicks? And the amount of gun violence had tripled since the 1980s? Well boy, do the researchers behind that study have some new information for parents to clutch their pearls over. Brace yourselves: that violence in PG-13 movies is often coupled with drugs, alcohol use and sex.
Researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center and University of Pennsylvania pored over 390 popular films from 1985 to the present year in order to determine when violent characters engaged in other risky behaviors, such as smoking or drinking. The study showed that 89.7 percent of the movies contained violence, and to accompany that, 81.5 percent contained sexual content; the amount of sex in films did not change much over the years. But while films are as chock full of blood baths and breasts as they have been since 1985, the amount of smoking shown on screen has significantly waned.
While having a character smoking on screen would be almost second nature back in the 80s, the instances found in the study fell to 21.4 percent by 2010 (as opposed to 68 percent in 1985). Alcohol has been shown less as well, falling from 89.6 percent to 68.7 percent. Overall, violent characters engaged in accompanying “risky behavior” roughly 77.4 percent of the time, the study found.
There were several different criteria that went into the study; for example, the researchers used a five-point scale for measuring the seriousness of sexual content — meaning a kiss on the lips didn’t weigh as heavily as nudity. Additionally, the study didn’t take context into consideration, meaning it didn’t matter if the good guy in the film was engaging in violent behavior and then having a round of drinks to celebrate. Still counts.
The study ultimately showed that there is little statistical difference between PG-13 and R-Rated movies, except in the case of violence coupled with tobacco use, which is at a relatively low 30.1 percent to 57 percent comparison.
“Evidence shows that adolescents do engage in clusters of risk(y) behaviors, with their participation increasing with age,” the study states. “Youth, particularly those with impulsive sensation-seeking tendencies, may be at elevated risk for unhealthy behaviors as a result of their media exposure to problematic content.”
Their conclusion? The MPAA isn’t doing much to shield audiences from the content their rating system is supposed to be filtering. As for the MPAA, they believe they’re doing a fine job with their current methodology.
“It’s important to remember that a PG-13 is a strong warning to parents about the content of a film, and it is accompanied by a descriptor that gives parents specific detail about which elements of the film warranted the rating,” said MPAA spokesperson Kate Bedingfield. “The purpose of the rating system is to reflect the standards of American parents, not set them — the rating board tries to rate a film the way they believe a majority of American parents would rate it. Societal standards change over time and the rating system is built to change.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — a new rating between Pg-13 and R. It’ll be like the brunch of MPAA ratings.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter