Are Ratings Over-rated?

Ratings on videogames are a growing concern with parents who have young children and teens.  Parent’s prominent concern with video games has been violence.  Other complaints have to do with sexuality, and profanity.  Parents demand to witness a change in the upcoming years with the harshness of video game ratings, and let’s face it (they probably will) but, should games really be given a rating? Are reading materials rated? Is art rated? These materials try to appeal to a particular audience and can all be considered different forms of art. Art is meant to make a controversial statement, and placing a rating on these materials is completely absurd.  Some games that have recently been in the spotlight for not giving appropriate ratings for their games are “Mortal Kombat” which includes intense violence such as heads being cut off and hearts being torn out, and “Night Trap” in which vampires drill holes in victim’s necks.

However, the latest bestselling novels for young teens have just as much, sometimes more graphic violence and gore than popular videogames and movies.  The latest teen (ages 12-17) bestselling series “The Hunger Games”by Suzanne Collins  involves a post apocalyptic world that follows the story of two young teens which participate in a televised reality program in which participants fight until only one player remains alive. The violence in this series is extreme and bloody. This series is soon coming out in theaters, and there is controversy about giving the series a PG-13 rating instead of an R rating.   This compares to another teenage series that we all know and love:  “The Harry Potter Series” by J.K Rowling.   This series, which is read by millions of twelve year olds across the world, was lucky to get a PG-13 rating when all seven movies came out in theaters.  This series includes monsters that are in search of people’s souls, frequently using which-craft and magic for violent purposes, a vicious villain that relentlessly kills innocent people, and a number of brutal deaths. The violence becomes more and more severe as the series progresses.  Another series found on the bestselling titles for young adults is “Twilight” by Stephanie Myer.  This series includes provocative sexuality, premarital sex, teenage pregnancy, and graphic violence.  This series has seen four movies in theaters, and they are expecting a sixth soon.  Like “The Harry Potter Series”, these movies have been lucky to get away with a PG-13 rating.

The point is that anything could be taken out of context… When a parent walks in on an extremely violent scene in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, it is understandable to show some concern.  However, when one reads or watches the “Harry Potter Series” to the fullest extent, they realize that the series has very admirable qualities and aspects that most children would want their children to live up to.

Should movie and video game makers have to dilute the power and intensity of their work just to please a few?  Themes of violence and sexuality appeal to a huge amount of people because these themes are exciting, dramatic, and powerful.  This is not something that is new; these themes have been around since writing, art and theater existed.  Creaters such as writers, film- makers, game- makers, or artist’s prominent objective is to transport the viewer into a fantastical world; to show us something we haven’t seen.  Implementing government limitations on a fantasy is just ridiculous.


PS- I felt like if I posted a picture of “Twilight” on this blog, my post would get scrolled over immediately.

  1 comment for “Are Ratings Over-rated?

  1. March 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Implementing government limitations on a fantasy is just ridiculous.

    Well, the ratings you’re discussing here come from the ESRB (for games) and the MPAA (for movies), and both of these are industry groups for their respective media — neither are from the government. In both cases, though, their decisions haven’t always been popular and are somewhat shrouded in secrecy. In part, that probably comes from their overriding interest in helping publishers and distributors make money off of their product while simultaneously limiting liability.

    In any case, it’s true that we don’t rate books in the same way — with big stickers that warn of inappropriateness for certain readers. I wonder why that is? In your post, you imply that that has something with the artistic status of literature as a category of expression, but I don’t know that that’s the case. As much as I enjoyed The Hunger Games, I don’t think it gets a pass in terms of content-appropriateness simply because it’s a book. I mean, it would definitely be inappropriate for my 3-year old.

    So what else, then? Is it simply that the textual mode is less visceral or disturbing than the audiovisual modes of film and games?

    With respect to the Hunger Games, I can say that several scenes were pretty violent, but I felt somehow OK with this in a way that I don’t think I would be OK if I saw them depicted straightforwardly in the film. I didn’t realize it was going to be PG-13, so now I’m genuinely curious to see how some pivotal scenes are going to end up. I mean, the whole premise of the books revolves around a game where children kill each other, so if you were the director, how would you get around depicting that?

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