​Violence and The Media Rating System

Have you ever wondered if the current movie rating system is good? If you have assumed that it has no flaws and is up to code, well you’d be wrong. ​In 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) established a system of movie ratings for parents to use as a guide to determine the appropriateness of a film's content for children and teenagers. The rating system is voluntary, and there is no legal requirement that filmmakers submit their films for rating. ​The movie rating system needs to change. The current movie rating system is outdated, biased, and desensitizing the people.

One of the biggest issues with the media rating system is that the media censorship is extremely outdated and is in need of an urgent change. In this article, “The Movie Rating System is Pointless” the author writes “In 1968, this changed to the rating system we all know and love today: General Audiences to NC-17. That being said, it has been 52 years since the MPAA has last properly revised its rating system, and, at this point, it’s simply outdated” (Bisharyan). This shows that the media rating system has not been modified to work with the constantly changing climate of the United States. Also, the author states “​The members of the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), who determine ratings, consist of average American parents with children ages five to 17, with the expectation that they will be rotated out every five years. Dick’s documentary revealed this not to be true, with parents overstaying their time on the board, having children over 17, and failing to keep up with our changing culture” (Bisharyan). This shows that they really haven’t changed the families who actually help determine the rating a movie gets; the same people with the same opinions have been rating the movies for years.

Another big issue is that the MPAA is very biased on which movie gets which rating. In this article, “The Movie Rating System is Pointless,” the author states, “​There is also a strong bias against films with LGBTQ+ themes. The film, “Love is Strange,” which centers around a homosexual couple, is rated R, despite its lack of nudity or violence. Meanwhile, Tarantino’s gore-heavy “Kill Bill” shares the same rating — posing the question of what truly makes a film “adult​” ​(Bisharyan). This shows that the MPAA shows bias against certain themes that they disagree with or don’t support, the rating system shouldn’t be based on feelings and opinions but facts over feelings. The author of “​How the MPAA Movie Rating Scale Fails Our Children” states​ “Although the MPAA asserts that CARA exists as an independent body and that the MPAA does not directly control it, the MPAA chairperson appoints the CARA chairperson, who in turn selects the CARA rating board members (​Movie Ratings​, par.13; Albosta143). Thus, the MPAA chairperson can have a direct influence in the choosing of the CARA rating board members and subsequently the ratings of films themselves. This is a problem because the MPAA and CARA have opposing missions” (Wilmoth). This shows that the MPAA controls everything and they don’t want people with different opinions to get fired because then things wouldn’t go their way.

Also, another issue that needs to be brought up is that the current media and censorship system has desensitized many Americans. In this article, “Violence in the Media and Entertainment” the author says “​Several researchers have described an increase in xxxxxxxviolent content in movies, despite a national rating system. For example, studies have found that 91% of movies on television contain violence, including extreme violence. Although film ratings and advisory labels can help parents decide on movies to avoid, certain labels, such as “parental discretion advised” and the R rating, have been shown to attract children, especially boys. In 2003, 10 million adolescents aged 10 to 14 years, including 1 million 10-year-olds, had been exposed to that year’s most popular R-rated film” (AAFP). This shows that there really isn’t much reinforcement and more and more people are getting exposed to violence and they are losing the human part of themselves. Also, the author states “​One study found that between 2012 and 2017, there were twice as many negative themes—most commonly associated with violence—as positive themes depicted in the 25 top-grossing R-rated films. Researchers have also noted that the amount of gun violence in top-grossing PG-13 films has more than tripled since the introduction of the rating in 1985. In 2012, PG-13 films actually contained more gun violence than R-rated films. Further, violence is even present in movies that are not considered to be violent, such as animated films” (AAFP). This shows that even children are being exposed to violence in every movie they watch, it has become unavoidable.

On the other hand, some people might say that the current media rating system needs no change. In this article, “5 Fascinating Facts About MPAA’S 50-year-old Rating System” the author states, Before there were ratings, there was a complex self-regulatory code that limited creative output. It’s uncommon to run into a movie before the mid-1960s that has many of the touchstones of a modern R-rated film, such as violence or profanity. The reason for that was a program called the Hays Code, implemented by William Hays, the president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association, which later became MPAA, ​as the association’s G is for Golden retrospective report notes​. Like the current rating system, it was self-regulatory, but weaknesses in the often-rigid system​ led Jack Valenti, a former press secretary for President John F. Kennedy who became the head of MPAA in 1966, to work on an alternative approach that became the modern rating system” (Smith). Yes, I agree that having a media rating system is good but it’s simply not good enough. In this article, What's Wrong with the Ratings?​ ​The author says “According to this analysis, an effective ratings category structure should examine movies and films in the light of these four context areas. Rating categories also need to determine the age groups most likely to be affected. In general, I recommend at least two categories, roughly three to seven and eight to 12. A separate category for adolescents would recognize both their more fully developed sensibilities and their likelihood of identifying with and modeling the actions of teenage or young adult characters. An effective system would also have to take special note of the impact of violence, horror, and sexuality on young viewers. The subtleties of these developmental differences and their complex interaction with media make the current five-category MPAA rating system highly questionable. They also make the task of ratings reform far from easy. But I do not believe they make it impossible. Above all else, those of us who are struggling to reform ratings or find other remedies to the problem of media violence must consider the varying capacities of children. We must recognize that all children are different. We must also remember that younger children perceive the world differently than older children, who in turn think differently than adults. Losing sight of this important principle is to lose sight of those we are trying to protect” (Wilson). This shows that the rating system is questionable and that they have lost sight of the purpose of themselves and forgot that they need to protect the children.

The current media rating system is very flawed and needs a big rework. The media rating system is outdated, it is biased, and it is desensitizing the people of the United States. You may have started misinformed but now you are much more informed about the many flaws of the system that is failing the people of the United States.

Work Cited

Bisharyan, Julietta Bisharyan. “The Movie Rating System Is Pointless.” ​The Aggie​, 16 Mar. 2020, theaggie.org/2020/03/16/the-movie-rating-system-is-pointless.

Wilmoth, Josh. “How the MPAA Movie Rating Scale Fails Our Children - ReelRundown - Entertainment.” ​ReelRundown,​ ReelRundown - Entertainment, 11 July 2013, reelrundown.com/film-industry/Is-the-MPAA-Rating-Scale-Enough.

N/A, N/A. “Violence in the Media and Entertainment (Position Paper).” ​AAFP Home​, AAFP, 2004, www.aafp.org/about/policies/all/violence-media-entertainment.html.

Wilson, Barbara J. “What's Wrong with the Ratings?” ​What's Wrong with the Ratings? | Center for Media Literacy | Empowerment through Education | CML MediaLit Kit TM |​, 1990, www.medialit.org/reading-room/whats-wrong-ratings.

Smith, Erine. “5 Fascinating Facts About MPAA's 50-Year-Old Ratings System.” AssociationsNow,​ 1Nov.2018, associationsnow.com/2018/11/5-fascinating-facts-mpaas-50-year-old-ratings-system/.


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