A few days ago, YouTube channel GoodBadFlicks uploaded the following video. It got pretty popular on Reddit, which brought it to my attention.
My whinese is a little rusty, here’s what I think he’s saying:
Point 1: Beloved R-Rated franchises (Die Hard, Aliens, Terminator, etc.) have turned to PG-13 installments in order to appeal to a wider audience, and these new PG-13 installments suck.
Okay, he’s half-right on this one. Many PG-13 sequels in R-Rated franchises have been bad, but it’s not because they were PG-13. You wanted more blood in Paul W.S. Anderson’s AVP? Luckily for you, there’s an unrated cut with some more blood that’s been digitally painted in. Y’know what? It’s still a shitty movie. The same can be said for Live Free or Die Hard, which is a joyless slog, regardless of how many times “fuck” is said. A Good Day To Die Hard went back to R, and all the violence in the world couldn’t save it from getting trashed by critics and fans alike. Fox pulled the same digital blood trick for James Mangold’s The Wolverine, which was a surprisingly brutal (but minimally bloody) flick to begin with. If it’s more blood you want, sometimes you can get it, but I’ve never experienced a scenario where adding more blood/profanity/sex/nudity to a bad PG-13 movie makes it good. Most of the flicks he mentions that were shot as R and mangled to get PG-13 ratings have their R-Rated cuts available on DVD. Additional adult content might make a bad film more enjoyable for some, but it doesn’t turn a pumpkin into a carriage. Just watch both versions of Babylon A.D. or Wes Craven’s Cursed and tell me what you discover.
Point 2: Films with PG and PG-13 ratings used to feature more mature content, and we need to bring that back.
He’s right: PG and PG-13 films used to have more explicit content. I missed the part where this is a problem, though. Dark, violent, gory, and sex-filled movies are still getting made. They aren’t released as widely as they used to be, and perhaps they’re smaller in scale, but if I can go rent The Pact 2 or Cabin Fever: Patient Zero on iTunes, then what’s stopping him? Also, he’s implying that children should have access to films with more adult content. That’s certainly… an opinion. Don’t be the guy that thinks he knows what’s appropriate for kids all across America. Just let their stupid parents decide.
Point 3: The Expendables 3 tanked because it was PG-13, unlike previous installments.
Okay, prove it. I’m assuming he has the hard data. No? Hmm.
Point 4: Films that feature adult content are harder to market, because adult audiences are smaller.
He’s right. And yet they’re still making ‘em. Some of ‘em even make a lot of money, like The Conjuring, which was rated R despite not having much profanity or extreme content. But do other R-Rated films suffer at the box office due to rules about when and where they can advertise? Maybe. I don’t think running TV spots for Sin City: A Dame To Kill For on the fucking Disney channel would have changed the tide for that flick, but I’m not in the movie business. Sometimes a film is shot to be PG-13, but the MPAA decides that no matter what gets cut, the film is still too intense or mean-spirited to be PG-13. The studio can appeal all they want, but sometimes the MPAA wins, and that can hurt a film’s box office potential. But occasionally, you get The Conjuring. What I’m saying is that even when a film’s audience seems very limited, box office performance isn’t as predictable as we would all like to think.
Point 5: Films that feature more adult content have more artistic merit. Just look: an overwhelming majority of Oscar-nominated films were intended for adult audiences.
Huh, an Academy made exclusively of adults prefers movies targeted at their demographic? NO WAY. Look, for most people, this whole movies thing is pass/fail. You either like a movie or you don’t, and the rating doesn’t really have much to do with that. If you see a movie that was intended for an audience that doesn’t include you, there’s a greater chance you’re not gonna like said movie. Pixar is the golden example of how films can be kid-friendly but still appeal to adult audiences, but not everyone can be Pixar.
Point 6: The MPAA rating system is broken.
Okay, maybe. But did the MPAA’s rules cause a cultural shift, or did a cultural shift make the MPAA change their rules? Perhaps both have happened since 1968 when Valenti’s rating system was introduced. Is the whole thing seriously broken at this point? I don’t know. I think the MPAA’s system for deciding between PG-13 and R is incredibly arbitrary and can affect films negatively. The same can be said for the decisions between R and NC-17.
Point 7: Jack Valenti was a shithead.
Finally, something upon which we can agree.
Just to tie things up in a nice bow: if you’re an adult, you have access to any kind of film. What’s in the theaters isn’t the best representation of cinema for grown-ups. You have to look in the right places to find the things that speak to you. I promise you won’t care what they’re rated.