Does PG Mean Anything Anymore?
September 20, 2016
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
(Cut to a montage of images for the following PG-rated films...)
NC (vo): (excitedly; to heavy metal music) Gremlins, Jaws, Beetlejuice, Watership Down, Raiders of the Lost Ark...
(Suddenly, as the montage continues, the music becomes more childlike, and NC sounds less excited and more hesitant)
NC: (looks up; eye twitches) Um...
(Cut to a poster for...)
NC (vo): Mr. Magoo...
NC: What do these movies all have in common? They're all, strangely enough, rated PG.
NC (vo): At least, that's what the always logical Motion Picture Association of America says. For those who somehow don't know, America has five ratings for films: G for "general audiences of all ages", PG for "parental guidance suggested", PG-13 for "some material might be inappropriate for children under 13", R for "restricted, anyone under 17 needs an adult", and NC-17 for "you must be 17 to watch".
NC: (shrugs) Doesn't sound like a bad system, except when we ask the question: How is this...
(The infamous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Major Toht's face melting and René Belloq exploding in a fire, is shown briefly)
NC: ...in the same league as this?
(A pretty harmless scene from Inside Out is shown, with Joy dancing, playing "First Call" on the accordion and awakening Fear, Anger and Disgust)
Joy: Hello! Did I wake you?
Anger: Do you have to play that?!
Joy: Well, I have to practice!
NC (vo): Or, the bigger question: Why is this movie that obviously doesn't need parental guidance suggesting it...
NC: ...when it seems identical to...
(Cut to a clip of Toy Story)
NC (vo): ...another movie that doesn't suggest it? They're even made by the same company!
NC: Well, to better understand, it's probably best to look at the history of the rating system.
(Cut to the infamous incineration scene from Raiders, where Belloq and the Nazis meet their end)
NC (vo): You see, years ago, there was really just only three ratings: (the following pop up in green) G, PG and R. And... everything else...
(Cut to a shot of a movie theater marquee displaying "first run adult films open all night")
NC (vo): ...was just porn. (the letters, G, PG and R, pop up again) But if you had one of these three ratings, you're not porn...
(Cut to another shot of an old movie theater)
NC (vo): ...and you could be shown in the majority of theaters. That mostly made sense.
(Cut to a poster for the Disney movie Bambi)
NC (vo): One was acceptable for most people...
(Cut to a shot of Gremlins)
NC (vo): ...one might be a little iffy for some...
(Cut to a poster for Friday the 13th)
NC (vo): ...and one was clearly just for adults.
NC: Because of this, the ratings were a little bit more relaxed than you may think of them today.
(Cut to alternating snippets of the original versions of Planet of the Apes, The Haunting and True Grit)
NC (vo): Films like Planet of the Apes, The Haunting, and True Grit are all movies that no one in their right mind would call G nowadays, with several swear words, off-screen violence, on-screen violence, tons of deaths, and some pretty dark intense situations. But the idea back then was people knew there'd be some risk going in. As in, you can't shield everything from everyone. That didn't always make the ratings right. Hell, all three of these films can have some very disturbing scenes in them. But they seemed ethically sound and not overkill. Everybody of every age wants entertainment after all, and they knew there had to be some intense moments to keep you engaged. That's just kind of the gamble you take when you see a film, even if it is rated G.
(Cut to footage of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)
NC (vo): But as movies went on, the envelope was pushed more and more, and some movies weren't really extreme enough for an R, but PG didn't seem to cover it either.
NC: When (poster for this movie pops up in the corner) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came out, they didn't know where to place it.
(The infamous heart-rip-out scene in the movie is shown)
NC (vo): It was certainly more than a PG, but not too much more than Raiders of the Lost Ark...
(Cut to the infamous dinner-at-the-palace scene)
NC (vo): ...which was also pushing the PG rating! Thus, the PG-13 rating was born, a compromise that seemed to fit in between the two.
(Cut to footage of The Dark Knight)
NC (vo): The upside is, the loopholes for this rating allowed, in many respects, much more violence for our blood-hungry 13-year-old minds to take in, resulting in, funny enough, even more violence than a lot of R-rated films.
NC: (resignedly) The downside is, for years, this is all people wanted to make.
(Cut to footage of Beauty and the Beast)
NC (vo): You see, because of this rating, there was suddenly more of a distinction between G and PG.
(Cut to footage of The Chipmunk Adventure)
NC (vo): G was now seen as not really general audiences anymore, but kids.
(Cut to footage of Thumbelina)
NC (vo): And eventually, when you saw that rating, you would think, "Oh, a kids only movie."
(Cut to footage of Who Framed Roger Rabbit)
NC (vo): PG could suddenly buckle down a little bit more, and let things that could fly in, say, Planet of the Apes, The Haunting, and so forth, suddenly not fly now.
(Cut to a montage of posters for G-rated movies, many of them Disney: The Little Mermaid, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, The Muppet Christmas Carol, The King and I, Anastasia, Charlotte's Web, Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, The Princess Diaries, The Oogieloves in The BIG Balloon Race)
NC (vo): Because of this, the G rating was now being stigmatized as baby movies. Which, hey, we're grown adults and 10-to-16-year-olds who want to be grown adults. We don't wanna watch that crap! G movies suck now!
NC: A lot of kids hated them so much, we started marketing...
(Cut to an old commercial for a RoboCop action figure)
NC (vo): ...R-rated movies as toys!
(Cut briefly to a commercial for a Terminator 2 mobile assault vehicle)
Commercial announcer: Terminator's back to fight evil with his mobile assault vehicle!
(Cut back to the RoboCop toy commercial)
Commercial announcer: ...talking electronic RoboCop, in three action-packed sizes!
NC: It was... a little messed up. Cool, but a little messed up.
(Cut to a clip of Thumbelina)
NC (vo): This meant, obviously, not as many people wanted to see them.
NC (vo): Because of this, what were obviously G-rated movies started throwing in one or two elements that are completely pointless, but helped get that PG rating.
(Cut to footage of Casper)
NC (vo): They do this to show: "Hey, there's something in this movie you're not supposed to see, and that makes it a little risque, right?" Remember the out-of-nowhere swear words in (posters of...) Casper or Iron Giant?
Carrigan: (died, but turned into a ghost) The bitch is back!
(Cut to a clip of How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
NC (vo): How about the mountain of awkward adult jokes in Dr. Seuss movies?
(Cut to a clip of The Cat in the Hat)
Cat: (holding a garden hoe) Dirty hoe!
(Cut back to The Grinch)
NC (vo): Yeah, thank God your parents are there to help you understand those totally childish moments parading as adult moments. Clearly, this was made for people with a more mature mind.
NC: What they missed, though, is that a lot of great films are G-rated...
(Footage of The Secret of NIMH is shown)
NC (vo): ...and actually got away with a lot more by being clever and, dare I say it, necessary.
NC (vo): Disney was the reigning champion of that for years. For decades and decades, they produced nothing but G-rated material. By turning their limitations into their advantage, they gave us some of the most messed-up stuff. A lot of it was dark, nightmarish and intense, but not always in the way that would get a PG rating, because they had the luxury to find new avenues that people wouldn't think of if they had the luxury of a PG movie.
NC: Films like Bambi or Lion King have intense scenes of...
(Cut to alternating footage of such scenes from said movies: Bambi losing his mother and Simba his father)
NC (vo): ...family members getting killed. Hell, sometimes you even see the body! But because they worked in that this is a part of life that's important and worth understanding, it can still count as a G film. Perception is everything.
NC: That all changed in 1979, though, when Disney released its first PG film, The Black Hole.
(Footage of The Black Hole is shown)
NC (vo): It sucked.
(Cut to a shot of the Touchstone Pictures logo)
NC (vo): So they opened a new studio where they could get away with more PG material called Touchstone.
(Cut to a shot of the poster for Sister Act)
NC (vo): It seemed to work for a while, but PG eventually did work its way into dominating Disney films once again...
(Cut to footage of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)
NC (vo): ...and even finally moved onto PG-13 with Pirates of the Caribbean. And while I like that film fine, it does raise the question: "How far away are they getting from Disney's original plan, entertainment that anyone could – and should – be allowed to see?"
NC: (puzzled) Is there an... R-rated film...
(Cut to a poster for Deadpool, with the word "Walt Disney's" above the title and the title character wearing mouse ears)
NC (vo): ...in the future?
(Cut to two clips of Disney films, one of Hunchback (Frollo's "Hellfire" number) and the other of Snow White (the scary forest), in order)
NC (vo): More importantly, is it even needed? I remember much more disturbing imagery from Hunchback of Notre Dame or Snow White...
NC (vo): ...than anything in Lone Ranger or the other Pirate films. So what's even the point of trying to get the higher rating?
NC: There was, however, a point when G films were becoming popular again, and that was with the invention of Pixar Studios.
(Footage of Toy Story is shown)
NC (vo): They started off making Toy Story, a smash hit G-rated film. For a long time, every Pixar film was G, and every movie was trying to be just like them. The adult-talking, childlike characters with celebrity voices that talk about children's scenarios and make them intelligent and adult, all without having to resort to the gimmick of the PG rating. Then a little hit came along called...
(Cut to footage of...)
NC (vo): ...Shrek, and it showed that a PG animated kids' film can be a little naughtier than Pixar. Suddenly, Shrek was the movie everybody wanted to try and be like, even though Pixar was doing fine with its G-rated storylines.
NC: But then something terrible started to happen to Pixar: they started to suck.
NC (vo): Not suck hard, but... hard enough. And as a lot of suits in Hollywood usually think, it must be because they're not hip enough.
(Cut to a montage of clips for newer PG-rated Disney animated films: Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia, Frozen)
NC (vo): Yeah! Let's throw a P in front of that G for... I don't know, innuendo? Some scary imagery? What's that line in Frozen no kid would get?
(A clip of Frozen is shown of the line in question...)
Kristoff: Foot size?
Anna: Foot size doesn't matter!
NC: (points at screen) Yeah! (throws his arms around) Throw that in there to get the PG rating that shows we're edgy!
(Cut to more footage of Frozen)
NC (vo): Thus, the G movie practically feels extinct again, even though most parents don't even bother watching a Pixar or Disney film with their kid.
NC: At least, not for (makes "finger quotes"; mockingly) "parental guidance".
(Cut to footage of Inside Out, a PG movie that obviously should be G)
NC (vo): It feels like they just put it on there so if you want to complain about something stupid, they could just point and say, "Well, there's the PG warning," resulting in...
(Cut to footage of the Disney movie Zootopia, another PG movie that should be G)
NC (vo): ...unneeded adult scenes that only last a second to prove that a movie is somehow "naughty" or "edgy" when really, it's nothing of the sort.
NC: Sometimes, it can even work in the other direction.
(Footage of the newer Alice in Wonderland movie is shown: some its more graphic scenes that are clearly not PG as the NC explains...)
NC (vo): Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland has eyes stabbed and plucked out, heads floating in water with people climbing on them, and even a pretty graphic decapitation scene! It only got a PG rating when this is borderline R!
(Cut to footage of...)
NC (vo): Dark Knight wanted to get that ever-marketable PG-13 rating, so they cut corners by showing nobody drinking, very few swear words, and little to no sex, which balanced out all the shit-ton of super-intense violence and even gory imagery.
NC: In fact, movies like Hunger Games...
(Cut to footage of The Hunger Games)
NC (vo): ...and other PG-13 films actually had more violence in them than most R-rated movies now. But as long as they don't show too much blood or say a curse word, (sounds confused) it's okay to see children slaughtered...?
NC: This is no surprise, though, as the rating system for some time has been incredibly inconsistent and... (looks up in thought) What's the word I'm looking for? (suddenly becomes upset) Insane!
(Alternating images of Beetlejuice and Spaceballs are shown)
NC (vo): For example, the F-word could be used once in PG movies for years. You'll notice them snuck into films like Spaceballs and Beetlejuice that got a PG rating.
(Cut to a shot of a poster for Be Cool)
NC (vo): Now this changed recently to PG-13, and it has to be used when not talking about sex.
(Cut to two images of Wolverine in X-Men: First Class and The Wolverine (2013))
NC (vo): So... when Wolverine dropped the F-bomb in two X-Men movies, putting complete and total attention on it, but if he said it one more time or used it talking about sex... only the 17-year-old mind can understand that!
NC: South Park made a great mockery of a similar rule...
(Footage of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut is shown)
NC (vo): ...declaring that if over 400 swear words are used in your film, it'll get an NC-17 rating, which most theaters won't play.
NC: How many did they use? (the following number pops up in green...) Three hundred and ninety-nine! Insert slow clap here. (a clip of Cool Runnings showing an athlete clapping slowly appears in the corner; NC shakes his head)
(Cut back to the South Park movie)
NC (vo): Thank God they didn't use that one more swear, or else that would've been too much! Oh, by the way, it's totally okay that you show a giant clitoris and make that part of the story, but if they said one more swear word, that would've been too far!
NC: Actually, a lot of things involving sex in the rating system don't make any sense.
(Footage of Romeo and Juliet is shown)
NC (vo): Now, don't get me wrong, I think sex should be taught at the right time and very delicately, but by age 13, I think most kids have an understanding of what it is, as well as the responsibilities that come with it. Now, I'm not saying they practice those responsibilities, but they know what they are.
(Cut to a shot of a poster for The Words)
NC (vo): Yet the number of times you show people humping can make the difference between an R and an NC-17. Things like three humps will get it an R, but four would get an NC-17. Why?
(Cut to a shot of a poster for Where the Truth Lies, showing a nude woman (with her back to the viewer))
NC (vo): Nudity is something that has to be blocked out a lot, even though you can...
(Cut to another shot of X-Men: First Class)
NC (vo): ...say the F-word once...
(Cut to another shot of Hunger Games)
NC (vo): ...and show children getting slaughtered...
(Cut to a shot of Two-Face in Dark Knight)
NC (vo): ...and faces getting burned up...
NC: (shaking his finger at the camera) ...but God help you if there's a nipple in there! (beat) Something... everybody has... (shrugs in confusion)
(An image of a film rating poster is shown)
NC (vo): On top of that, the way the ratings are done are bizarre, too.
(Cut to a shot of the video cover for This Film Is Not Yet Rated)
NC (vo): If you check out the movie appropriately titled This Film Is Not Yet Rated, they go into the details about how you can't see the people who are rating it.
(Cut to a shot of the movie itself)
NC (vo): Nor know their identity. Nor reference past films that got a different rating, even if your does the exact same thing. All of that is bonkers.
NC: Bottom line: the rating system has been, and continues to be, incredibly outdated, and even kind of meaningless.
(An image of a young boy on his laptop computer is shown)
NC (vo): In this age of the Internet, where any information can be found at any time...
(Cut to another shot of kids at computers)
NC (vo): ...children, teens and adults are learning more and faster than they ever have in the past.
NC: The rating system needs to reflect that.
(Footage of some scary moments in Snow White are shown again)
NC (vo): Now, don't get me wrong: I know it's all subjective. One kid can watch the G-rated Snow White and be fine; another can watch it and get nightmares. It's never going to be a perfect system, nor should it be. It's art, it should be subjective.
(Cut to footage of Wreck-It Ralph)
NC (vo): But the rating should reflect our current environment and be more consistent.
(Cut to footage of Drag Me To Hell)
NC (vo): Why is Drag Me To Hell, an over-the-top gore fest, PG-13...
(Cut to footage of Love Is Strange)
NC (vo): ...but Love Is Strange, where a gay couple kiss, rated R? Yeah, there's nothing else in this movie except a gay couple kissing and sleeping in bed – totally clothed! That, was deemed more inappropriate...
(Cut back to Drag Me To Hell)
NC (vo): ...than this! It makes no sense in our current environment.
(Cut to a shot of a group of protesters holding signs all reading "NO")
NC (vo): I guess it's easy to say things have either gotten too inconsiderate, or things have gotten too PC, but the fact is, they're both right.
(Cut to another shot of another protester holding a sign reading "Power To The People", with a peace sign in the O in "people")
NC (vo): None of it makes any sense from any angle.
NC: It's a different world now, and the rating system is changing, but... not the way that reflects it.
(An image of people sitting in a movie theater is shown)
NC (vo): I know these aren't law, and a lot of younger people can still sneak into R-rated films and such, and I know there'll always be loopholes and everything,...
(Cut to another image, this one of a woman in a movie theater, looking rather bored by the movie)
NC (vo): ...but if the idea is to help guide people to what will culturally be accepted to the mass public, this current system doesn't really do that.
NC: This should be G, (pointing to a shot of Inside Out on the left) this should be R, (pointing to a shot of Drag Me To Hell on the right) and both should be glad that they're a G and an R!
(An image of a movie screen is shown)
NC (vo): The secret to cinematic success isn't the rating, it's making a good film.
(Cut to a poster of Toy Story)
NC (vo): Toy Story was a hit despite it being a G-rated kids film.
(Cut to a shot of Deadpool)
NC (vo): Deadpool was a hit despite it being an R-rated superhero flick. How did they do that? What was the secret?
NC: (cupping his hands over his mouth) THEY WERE GOOD!!!
(A shot of the famous HOLLYWOOD sign is shown)
NC (vo): Changes need to happen on both sides: we need a system that makes more sense, and we need studios that can stand by their movies, not their ratings.
(Cut to footage of the live-action Mr. Magoo)
NC (vo): Because if someone is honestly gonna tell me a parent should be present when watching Mr. Magoo, I think everybody's trust needs to be brought into focus.
NC: Because that should obviously be an NC-17; it shouldn't be shown anywhere. I'm the Nostalgia Critic, I remember it so you don't have to. (gets up from his chair and leaves)