This morning I have the pleasure of writing about a subject near and dear to my heart: the utterly backwards and disgustingly corrupted MPAA ratings system! Ohio State University and UPenn’s Annenberg Public Policy Center has completed a study that analyzed over 900 films which were among the top grossers of each year between 1950 and 2012. Among other interesting results, the study shows that gun violence in movies has doubled in those six decades.
The study also shows that the increase in gun violence is the steepest in PG-13 movies and that gun violence in this rating classification has more than tripled since the 1980’s (when the PG-13 Rating was first introduced). The study inspires wonderment: if simply talking about sex can win a film a hard R and gratuitous gun violence is a mere PG-13 – where do our priorities lie as a civilized culture? Why is the word “f*ck”, if said more than once in a film, more inclined to earn a film an R rating rather than, let’s say… blowing up the white house: clearly a distinct act of aggression and no way a portrayal as self-defense.
A movie with PG potential can easy be downgraded to a PG-13 for nothing more than its thematic elements, so one has to ask themselves, how the hell do so many feature films get away with killing hundreds of thousands of people but manage to keep from being demoted to an R?
The problem of course is in the market and what sells. Hollywood execs and creatives as well as their marketing monkeys are well aware that when it comes to American audiences, violence sells and this fact isn’t lost upon the MPAA, the controversial organization responsible for rating major releases. If gun violence sells, they’re going to figure out how to push the material through and make it accessible to the largest audience possible. This fact is evident in many of the comic book based movies that have been released over the past few years.
I consider myself pretty anti-gun in the grand scheme of things but clearly remember cheering in The Matrix when Keanu Reeves opened up the weapons loading program and the endless shelves of guns and ammo came streaming in. AWESOME. But why was it awesome? Even with all the recent shootings – why is this scene still so fricken awesome? I’ve had this discussion many times with many people from many different areas of the film and television industries and the general baffled consensus is that we are a backwards species that haven’t quite got our priorities in order. Until we can truly understand ourselves and our nature, we’ll never quite acknowledge or understand why sex incites fear but violence is an everyday affair and perfectly okay.
The MPAA ratings study that Ohio and UPenn conducted will be published in this December’s edition of Pediatrics.