Do Movie Ratings Still Work?

small samples.aiIt’s been nearly 13 years since I truly had to worry about what a film was rated.  As soon as I turned 18, I was old enough to see any film that was released.  However, that doesn’t stop me from feeling concerned when I see kids in attendance at films that they are perhaps a little too young to see.  While the rating of a film is merely a guideline and kids are generally allowed into films with high ratings, along as they are accompanied by an adult.  However, in this day and age, I wonder how many parents truly pay attention to what a film is rated? Movie ratings are a little complicated in Canada, since we often given two ratings for film.  First, there’s the MPAA rating, which is present on nearly all the advertising for the film.  Then, there is the rating by the provincial review board, which is the one I truly have to be concerned about.  I can probably go on for ages about how much more complicated the Canadian film rating system is, when compared to the MPAA, since there are separate provincial review boards, as well as one for home video. For simplicity sake, I am going to go with ratings given by the Ontario Film Review Board.

As a case study, I am going to use this weekend’s release of The Last Stand, since there was actually a whole row of very young children at the screening I went to.  According to the MPAA, The Last Stand is “Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, and language.”  I know that if I was a parent, I would think twice before bringing kids to a film with an R rating, especially since the MPAA’s description of the rating is  that people “under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.” However, let’s move on to the OFRB rating for The Last Stand, which is the rating that people in my neck of the woods should be concerned about.  According to the OFRB, The Last Stand is rated 14A with content advisories of “Course Language” and “Graphic Violence.”  You can actually go to film’s page on the OFRB website and read detailed observations about the film.  Of course, I doubt most parents will pay much attention to the film’s content advisories.  As a rule of thumb, the 14A rating is the Canadian version of PG-13, so I am assuming that most parents will see that rating and assume that the film is OK to bring kids to. However, The Last Stand is filled with much bloody violence, including a scene that has a guy exploding.  Sadly, the kids themselves will probably not be bothered too much by this, since they have probably seen violence just as bad in the Call of Duty videogames they play.  Ultimately its the parents choice about whether or not they expose their kids to this, but it does seem like the kids of today are much more desensitized to violence, than when I was a kid. Does slapping a rating on movies still work? Who knows?  Like I said, I haven’t had to worry about the rating of a film for years, so I don’t even know if cinemas still take the effort to police the ratings and prevent kids from seeing films they are too young to see.  It’s just something I worry about sometimes.

Sean Kelly Author

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described über-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).