Are Movie Ratings Accurate?


Jordyn Rouleau, Staff Writer

Everyone has a favorite movie to rewatch, almost like a comfort blanket. As morbid as this sounds, my “comfort” movie is The Silence of the Lambs. It is very captivating and has a certain unnerving quality that keeps it on your mind. The characters have so much personality, and the eerie story of a serial killer going through a metamorphosis mixes so well with the interactions between a genius psychopath and a soon-to-be FBI agent. 

However, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), I shouldn’t be allowed to watch this movie without my parents being in attendance. The Silence of the Lambs is rated R due to the language, violence, and minor sexual content. I completely disagree with this.

The movie rating system was established based on movies that were appropriate for certain age groups. The ratings employed by the MPAA are G (General audiences), PG (Parental guidance), PG-13 (13 and up), R (18 and up), and NC-17 (No one under 17 is permitted to watch). The MPAA strongly suggests that moviegoers should follow these ratings.

I have some issues with this system. First of all, most of “the greatest movies ever made” are rated R. Let’s take The Godfather, for example. This movie is rated R due to violence, strong language, and brief nudity. However, this movie is considered to be one of the greatest movies ever created. It gives a view into a highly glamourized lifestyle: the Italian mafia. It shows the strong bonds between family and how loyalty is more important than anything. I, as a 16-year-old, have seen this movie four times, the first time being when I was 13, and can testify that it truly is an outstanding piece of cinema. 

I think this movie has too harsh of a rating because the subject matter isn’t as graphic and terrible as the rating makes it out to be. I’m not saying we should show this movie to a group of five-year-olds, but teenagers do have the mental capacity to take in this breathtaking movie without getting fixated on the swearing and blood. Other classic movies that are rated R are The Breakfast Club, Shawshank Redemption, The Usual Suspects, Saving Private Ryan, Good Will Hunting, and so many more. Teenagers love these movies because they are, like everyone identifies them, classic and amazing movies and to some degree, relatable to my age demographic. Case in point, The Breakfast Club, which is about teenagers.

Second of all, PG-13 movies have been adding more sexual and violent content over the past 30 or so years, so it defeats the purpose of their being an intermediate rating. The MPAA was put into effect in 1968, and the PG-13 rating was put into effect in 1984. After the new rating was added, previously rated R movies were added to the PG-13 category, while violence and sexual content increased in newly rated R movies. Generally speaking, more violent and sexual content has been added to movies, with the inclusion of minor swear words being added to some children’s films.

The rating system is based on a generalization of an age demographic’s maturity levels. Coming back to The Godfather, I know that teenagers are able to handle this movie because I know some who have seen this movie. The MPAA makes a generalization and plays into stereotypes by assuming anybody under the age of 18 is not mature enough to watch this movie. 

Another example is my comfort movie. The Silence of the Lambs is an amazing story to watch unfold, and the MPAA assumes that I’m too immature to understand and enjoy the enticing game of cat and mouse between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter. I also find it a little prejudiced that they think someone who is two years older than me can digest this movie and I can’t. 

I believe that a person’s movie choice is up to the individual. Some people are more mature than others, and I don’t think a rating should prevent a 15-year-old from watching American Beauty or 12 Years a Slave. Watching films such as these should be viewed as a cultural learning experience because they have been ingrained in our society and pop culture (hello, “fava beans and a nice chianti”, or “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse”). If you feel you can enjoy a movie that is designated for an older demographic, then you should have the freedom to watch that movie without being held back.

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