Family Movies News

Is PG-13 Safe for Kids? Hmm?

Tara McNamara, editor of, guests on our Fandango Freshly Popped Blog with her thoughts on the 'PG-13' genre…

Following Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, I spoke with a visibly shaken 8-year old boy who was completely freaked, saying the movie was "scary." He said several things frightened him, but most specifically, "the mermaids." The mermaids? Looks like The Little Mermaid's "Kiss the Girl" plea just took a darker turn…
Of course, this 8-year old had no business being in the theater. Pirates 4, like all the POTC films before it, is rated PG-13. And, like all the POTC films before it, parents seem to ignore the PG-13 rating and take their elementary school-age children anyway. The parents are understandably confused. POTC4 looks like a family film: it's heavily promoted on children's outlets and is merchandised with its own videogame and toy line.
The reason for all the confusion is that the PG-13 rating attracts teen boys, the target demo of cool. If a studio can get teen boys to come to a movie, older men, younger boys and teen girls will generally follow. And, sorry to tell you, but G and PG ratings are considered NOT COOL. No self-respecting teen is going to go see a movie "for babies."
Consequently, PG-13 has become a cinematic Rorschach test. Some PG-13 movies are pretty innocent but throw in a curse word or a punch to get the desired rating (Beastly, Step-Up 3D, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son). Some PG-13 movies have a cringe-worthy moment or two for parents, but otherwise are fine (Thor, Dear John, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time). Some PG-13 movies are flat-out shockingly inappropriate for teens (Sucker Punch, Jonah Hex, The Love Guru, You Don't Mess with the Zohan). The question I hear most often from parents is, "How PG-13 is it?"
In a recent Fandango poll, 75% of respondents said that they assumed that PG-13-rated movies should be suitable for their children. However, at the same time, 78% of respondents feel that PG-13 rated films are featuring more adult content than ever before.
MPAA ratings have evolved over the years. In 1984, the Steven Spielberg-produced Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom helped convince the MPAA to introduce PG-13. These movies were considered too violent and scary to get the gentle "parental guidance suggested" warning but weren't as harsh as an R.  Now, 27 years later, I contend we need a new rating. May I suggest "NS-10: Not Suitable for Under 10." (Or as I'd like to think of it, "No – Seriously – Don't Even Think About Taking Your Kids Under 10.")
An NS-10 rating would say that kids under the age of 10 shouldn't see the movie, even if the parents couldn't find a babysitter. An NS-10 means that parents shouldn't be fooled by the ads or the fact that Toys R Us is selling some super cool toys from the movie. An NS-10 would mean that kindergartners won't be crying loudly in The Dark Knight as The Joker impales someone's eye with a pencil. It would mean that young children won't have nightmares for weeks after seeing some over-the-top torture scenes in Iron Man and many other movies.
And, an NS-10 would mean parents won't sit in shock and shame when they realize they shouldn't have brought their 8 year old to see Land of the Lost (Chaka-full of masturbation and humping gags) like I did, even though the source material was a Saturday children's morning show. In other words, an NS-10 would mean neither the stupidity of the parents nor the evasiveness of the ads can play a part in our kids growing up too fast.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is a fun, adventurous romp with the comical pirate Captain Jack Sparrow that you and your teenagers will enjoy. Every kid is different, but you may want to let your 4th grader enjoy a few more years dreaming of mermaids who want to marry, not devour and murder, handsome princes.
To read what kids think about Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, go to
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