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Family Friendly Movie Guide

Robots, Zombies and Aliens: When is PG-13 Violence Okay for Kids?

By: Tara McNamara on October 10, 2011 at 9:27AM Comments (8)

Executive Producer Steven Spielberg , Director Shawn Levy and his DreamWorks gang are commercial geniuses. They’ve created a situation in which I, a movie violence watchdog, could fall for a drama in which a blood-thisty crowd cheers as boxers pummel each other to the death. It's so unlike me, and yet, Real Steel had me literally biting my nailsover the outcome of boxing matches. I cried, too. Here’s why it’s genius: because the fighting protagonists are robots, I somehow feel less concerned that children in the audience may be negatively affected. The cringe-factor is removed, permitting me to get wrapped up in the action and just have fun.  

The glee over robot violence does lead to a question parents need to ask themselves: what kind of violence is okay?
 
My family has a point of contention when it comes to violence in video games, one that is bleeding into our movie experience. The rule at my house is that video games which involve shooting and/or killing human beings are NOT acceptable. But, that opens the door: is it okay to shoot and kill animals in a deer-hunting game? Aliens? Zombies?  Terrorists? Underground Locust People?
 
After much heated debate with my teenage son, I decided to let the rating be my guide. M-rated games are completely off limits, T-rated games are okay as long as human beings are not the targets.
 
I honestly don’t know how reliable video game ratings are, but in movies, that middle-ground rating of PG-13 isn’t always trustworthy. Zack Snyder’s incredibly violent Sucker Punch managed to escape an R-rating because bloodless violence occurs with zombies, robots and giant mechanical samurais. That violence, to me, seemed mostly okay because it was unrealistic. The physical and attempted sexual violence against the young women of the movie, however, was so stomach-turning that I cannot recommend the film for any kid.
 
The Twilight movies are increasingly becoming more violent, but vampires are already the living dead. In African Cats, an alligator attacks young cheetahs, but that’s nature’s circle of life. In Super 8, a realistic-looking monster alien attacks townspeople, but it turns out (SPOILER ALERT!) that it’s more like self-defense. Figuring out what level of violence is acceptable is tricky!
 
So, how does a parent decide when violence in G, PG or PG-13 movies is too much? Fandango partner Common Sense Media outlines the facts and I weigh in with parent reviews at KidsPickFlicks.com, but ultimately, it’s a decision every parent individually has to make for each individual movie.
 
My personal guideline is to avoid graphic violence to humans, especially if the violence is without consequence. But even then, Real Steel contains a scene where an adult is badly beaten up. BUT, the brutality is in the dark, the audience can’t see it so clearly, and the attack was the consequence of previous bad behavior. And yes, there’s some brief bit of child jeopardy —and two wincing uses of the “s” word – but my call is that Real Steel is acceptable viewing for most kids. So, even my rules have wiggle room.
 
But, what do you think? What are the boundaries you set for your family when it comes to seeing violence on the big screen?
 
To read what kids think about Real Steel and other movies, go to www.KidsPickFlicks.com .

Tags: Real Steel

Categories: Family Films

Comments (8)Leave a Comment

  • Oct 11th 2011 10:21AM

    divaimaing  said...

    Not only was Real Steel appropriate for my children, It was also a really good movie. I love Steven Spielberg, so I should have known. Not being a robot or boxing fan I was reluctant to go. I imagine the film industry strategically inserted the pg-13 parts to get the 12+ boys to think it was cool enough. I might add, Hugh Jackman is a nice touch for the female grown ups. Great pick advice Kids Pick Flicks.

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  • Oct 11th 2011 2:42PM

    jDirk42  said...

    Spielberg almost had nothing to do with the movie actually. H ejust donated his money bc he thought the concept sounded cool. I'm not dumping on spielberg, I love him too, I just wanted to let you know that Shawn Levy is the real genius behind this particular movie.

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  • Oct 11th 2011 3:00PM

    divaimaing  said...

    Good to know. I'll keep my eye out for more Shawn Levy projects.

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  • Oct 11th 2011 8:32AM

     said...

    This article is typical American nonsense. Solipsistic parents, child-worshippers, as George Carlin called them, who seemingly worry day-and-night that their teenagers will be exposed to something they "shouldn't be." Instead of being the "content police," teach your children about art (if you know anything about it). Expose them to the great European films of the 1960's and 1970's, take them to art museums, provide them with film criticism. Moreover, relying on the rating system is the WORST thing a parent can do - do you not have your own set of values, morals, interests? Apparently not, as you let others make the judgment call for you. Encourage critical thinking in your children - not weariness, fear, and paranoia.

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  • Oct 11th 2011 7:13AM

    garneran  said...

    I have to say that you should be rating it for yourself. If you don't want your children seeing some violence then check the film before you go. This film was about much more than the violence that was in it. I also don't agree with some of the ratings for video games so my son plays a few that are rated M. So what, so did I as a child and I turned out just fine. It's the love and guidance in the home that make the difference.

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  • Oct 10th 2011 4:22PM

    billthenewcomedy  said...

    i am baffled.

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  • Oct 10th 2011 11:31AM

     said...

    Everyone is different. I've been watching rated-r since I was 5, and I'm fine. I get sooo pissed that parents(who don't have to take themselves or their children to see things) complain about things. Yet they take their kids to see alvin & the chipmunks and hop. That are filled with nothing but bathroom humor. Screw over-p.c. people is what I think.

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  • Oct 10th 2011 3:17PM

    sithlord519  said...

    i agree with you my mans people are way too sensitive. if parents care so much than they need to watch the trailers and read reviews first before they take there spoiled *** kids. people like that make me sick.

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