What Does That G Rating Really Mean?

How do you define a “children’s” movie? Perhaps it’s one that is based on a well-known story. Perhaps it’s one with lots of music and colors. Perhaps it’s simply one that’s rated G or PG. But what do those ratings really mean?

According to the MPAA, a G rated film “contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture…Depictions of violence are minimal. No nudity, sex scenes or drug use are present in the motion picture.” Live-action G rated movies include: 101 Dalmatians, Homeward Bound, Muppets from Space, The Princess Diaries and The Secret Garden. Animated G rated movies include: Aladdin, Cars, Mulan, Toy Story and Wall-E.

What does “minimal” violence look like? In an article entitled Violence in G-Rated Animated Films, 74 films were viewed and the violence portrayed was calculated and analyzed. Among the data collected, 62 fatal injuries were observed, of which 44 were inflicted on antagonist characters (bad guys). In all but two films, at least one protagonist character (good guy) participated in violence in some way. Only one film portrayed a protagonist resolving a conflict with an antagonist without the use of violence. We encourage the children in our care to resolve their conflicts nonviolently, but this is not the message that the vast majority of animated films promote, even at a G rating.

A PG rating stands for Parental Guidance Suggested, and according to the MPAA “should be investigated by parents before they let their younger children attend. The PG rating indicates, in the view of the Rating Board, that parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, and parents should make that decision…There may be some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity…There is no drug use content in a PG-rated motion picture.” Live-action PG rated movies include: Jaws, Poltergeist, Spy Kids, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Karate Kid. Animated PG rated movies include: Coraline, Ice Age, Shrek, The Incredibles and Up.

Did you see any PG rated movies that surprised you? This may be, in part, because the rating system as we know it was not enacted until 1984, when the movies Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom were released as PG rated movies. Due to the amount of violence and gore involved in these two movies, a mid-level rating was suggested and implemented, creating the PG-13 rating. However, movies made prior to that are still rated at the lower PG level. Movies rated at PG can run the gamut of content, depending on when they received the rating.

I would also like to point out a very important line in the MPAA description, that parents should make the decision as to whether their children view a PG rated movie, due to material such as nudity, violence and profanity. If PG rated movies are viewed in your child care program, I strongly suggest, if you have not already, that you seek out and secure parental permission for their children to view PG movies. Each parent has their own values and comfort levels, and it’s important to respect them in our effort to provide quality child care.

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