Not so innocent: PG-13 films increasingly push sex, language limits
(June 23, 2002)
By John W. Kennedy
Christians who watch
motion pictures and videos rated PG-13, PG and even G believing
the content is safe might want to give their decision some more
"The ratings are profoundly
misleading," film critic Michael Medved told PE Report. "PG-13 in
particular has been something of a Trojan horse. PG-13 is much closer
to R than PG in terms of content."
Movie reviewer Ted Baehr,
author of The Media-Wise Family, concurs.
"The purpose of movie
ratings is to confuse the issue," says Baehr, who publishes Movieguide
in Los Angeles. "The whole thing is just a sham."
The Motion Picture Association
of America, an anonymous seven-member board whose members are selected
by the major studios, determines film ratings. Moviemakers voluntarily
submit to the ratings which are based on the amount of sex,
violence and profanity in an effort to keep from government
"The ratings no longer
give parents a reliable indication of what they should be concerned
about because some of the most worrisome films end up as PG-13,"
says the Seattle-based Medved, author of Hollywood Vs. America:
Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values.
"Many movies rated PG-13
today would have been rated R 10 years ago. Theres been a
change in standards."
Those under age 17 are
not supposed to see an R-rated film unless accompanied by an adult,
although many young teens view the R rating not as a restriction
but as a dare to try to get inside. Last year, theaters stepped
up enforcement of the age restriction in an effort to avert congressional
Baehr, 55, points out
that before ratings came into existence in 1968 Hollywood abided
by the Motion Picture Code, which limited violence, graphic sexual
content, profanity, obscenity and irreverent treatment of religion.
Until that time, the Protestant Film Office and Catholic Legion
of Decency reviewed nearly every script for immorality and anti-Christian
bigotry. Now its clear that the movie ratings have been created
by an industry that doesnt accept Jesus Christ as Lord, Baehr
The MPAA board sets ratings
by a formula that includes counting swear words and unclothed body
parts. However, the immorality of the message isnt necessarily
Medved, 53, cites The
Fast and the Furious as a violence- and profanity-laced film
that "clearly glorified drugs, drinking, gang life and irresponsible
sex." He also decries last years Crazy/Beautiful as
more dangerous than many R-rated movies because it is targeted to
teens. "It romanticized and glorified a very attractive and irresponsible
hard-drinking, class-cutting, parent-defying, sexually free-spirited
high school girl," says Medved, who hosts a three-hour syndicated
talk show on the Salem Radio Network.
Studios seek the PG-13
rating for teen movies to gain a larger audience. PG-13 releases
have gradually increased the amount of sexual innuendo, profanity
and brief nudity allowed since implementation of the MPAA ratings.
Medved says some R-rated
movies have a more positive message than PG-13 or PG films. Baehr
says that some motion pictures, such as Amistad and Schindlers
List, have a great deal of Christian content despite an R rating.
contains an elaborate content analysis that reviews everything from
homosexual worldview to New Age elements. When Baehr in 1985 formed
the Christian Film and Television Commission, a nonprofit organization
that urges filmmakers to use Christian values in movies, only one
Hollywood film, The Trip to Bountiful, had such elements.
Last year, 98 theatrical releases including seven of the
top 10 moneymakers had overt Christian and/or redemptive
content, he says.
Baehr also is encouraged
that studios no longer are shying away from G-rated features. The
Princess Diaries last year became the first non-animated G-rated
studio film in six years. It grossed $108.1 million, landing it
in the top 20 moneymakers for 2001.
But even G-rated movies
may have objectionable content. Last year, a Harvard School of Public
Health study of 81 G-rated animated films since 1937 found that
more than one-third of them showed tobacco or alcohol usage.
Baehr warns that seemingly
benign films can be contrary to an evangelical Christian worldview.
He says The Other Side of Heaven, a recent PG release about
a Mormon missionary in the South Pacific, is theologically inaccurate
and mocks true miracles available through Jesus Christ.
"If a cleaner film is
just hiding nefarious occultic religious content, its not
better," Baehr says. "Every religion except Christianity is a false