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PG Movies: The Truth Behind the Rating

After digging for the truth behind Hollywood’s PG-13 rating (and being a bit horrified at what I found), I thought it worthwhile to give G-, PG-, and R-rated movies a bit of the limelight, too.

Let’s start with PG-rated movies.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) defines PG movies as containing material that may not be suitable for children. “Parents are urged to give ‘parental guidance,’” the site says. “May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.”[1]

Beyond telling parents to investigate the themes in PG-rated movies, The Classification and Rating Rules (CARA) effective in 2010 states, “The more mature themes in some PG-rated motion pictures may call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity. But these elements are not deemed so intense as to require that parents be strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance.”[2]

But wait. There’s more: “There is no drug use content in a PG-rated motion picture,” the document says. Whew. Least it’s got that going for them, right?

Not really. While not an illegal substance, in 2007, the MPPA announced that it would begin considering depictions of cigarette smoking when assigning a rating. However, in 2010, Rango received mixed reviews due to the amount of smoking in the film: at least 60 instances according to the non-profit organization Breathe California.[3] The group went so far as to call the film a “public health hazard” and criticized it for having received a PG rating.

In an interview with USA Today, Stanton Gnatz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California-San Francisco said, “A lot of kids are going to start smoking because of this movie.” He continued saying that youths who frequently see smoking onscreen are two to three times more likely to begin smoking than peers who rarely see it depicted.[4]

I’d encourage you to take a look at this video about CARA. It’s less than three minutes but provides a thorough explanation of CARA’s role and who makes up the panel. Any guesses? Parents. Moms and dads just like you.

In the clip, Joan Graves says that the rating system evolves over time—not day to day, but certainly over decades. For instance, when the MPAA first introduced the rating system, there was no PG-13 rating. It wasn’t introduced until Keep this in mind before you pop in that old PG-rated movie from your childhood. Be forewarned: should the movie had been made today, it may have been given a PG-13 rating. A perfect example is the Steven Spielberg’s 1977 movie Jaws, which blurred the lines between PG- and R-rated films. Hence the addition of the PG-13 rating several years later in 1984.

How have you seen the PG rating change over time? What about in the last decade? Sound off in the comments below.



[1] “Film Ratings.” Mpaa.org. Motion Picture Association of America, n.d. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

[2] “Classification and Rating Rules” (PDF). Classification and Rating Administration. January 1, 2010. pp. 6–8. Retrieved February 17, 2015.

[3] Rubin, Rita. “‘Rango’ Has Smoking Foes Fuming – USATODAY.com.” USATODAY.COM. USA TODAY, 7 Mar. 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2011-03-08-rango08_ST_U.htm>.

[4] Rubin, Rita. “‘Rango’ Has Smoking Foes Fuming – USATODAY.com.” USATODAY.COM. USA TODAY, 7 Mar. 2011. Web. 17 Feb. 2015. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2011-03-08-rango08_ST_U.htm>.

About Samantha Arroyo

is a freelance writer and contract copywriter who lives in the seacoast region of New Hampshire with her husband, Eric-Thomas,of five years. She currently serves alongside her mother as the Marketing Director for God’s Girls Christian Store and More, a online retail store serving the southern New England region. Her work has been featured in several print and online publications, and she is the recipient of two Faithwriters’ Editors Choice Awards for her short stories, which are scheduled for publication in the Mixed Blessings series. Her first book, Fragile: 30 Days of Hope for the Anxious Heart, is now available at samanthaarroyo.com. She can be reached at [email protected].

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  1. The rating of movies is no better than the morals (or lack of morals) of the people who do the rating.

  2. John, it was interesting, too, when I watched the video and learned that parents are the ones on the panel. I’d like to know what the “selection process” looks like.

    It was interesting to learn, too, that PG-13 ratings didn’t come out until 1984, so prior to that year, there was only a choice between PG and R. Hence why I’m shocked at some of the ratings on older movies from the 70s.

  3. I just watched the video and it says it all. The rating standard changes over time within the context of the culture. She said so herself. Well, look how the culture has gone. Guess what folks, God’s truth does not change. Truth is truth!

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