There’s only one time that a film rating becomes a news story, as far as I’m concerned, and that’s when a serious piece of work gets slathered with an NC-17 kiss of death. The NC-17 was created to be an alternative to the X rating, which the MPAA lamely never copyrighted, and which soon came to mean hardcore porn. Of course that wasn’t how the X began – I defy you to find me the hardcore porn in Midnight Cowboy, a film which I believe holds the distinction of being the only X-rated Oscar winner.
But my inbox has been hit with a small deluge of emails talking about the rating of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth film in the Potter series, hitting this winter. See, it’s been rated PG-13, a first for the series.
Internet, we had this talk back when Revenge of the Sith was getting rated. Why do you think that a more "mature" rating will make a movie better? Why does the "darkness" of a film automatically make it something to look forward to? I find myself drained by the darkness not only in the movies but in the world around me, and what makes the encroaching darkness of the latter books of the Harry Potter series so exciting isn’t how "fucked up" it is, but how wonderful it will be for our heroes to triumph over it.
So what earned Goblet a PG-13 and the creepy ectasies of fanboys? "sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images," Warner Bros tells me. Now, I’ve read the book this is based on and I will guarantee to you that this film isn’t really too violent or scary for an 11 year old. I am going to tell you that this rating is further proof of the endless pussification of the PG rating. For the love of God, Jaws was rated PG! I mean, sure, that was before PG-13, but what rating do you think that dismembered head in the boat hull with the eyeball hanging out gets today?
For me the test of Goblet won’t be the MPAA rating. It will be the film that Mike Newell puts together. And you know what? I don’t even think that it has as much "darkness" as you may hear. I think that Goblet is a story with a lot of adult stuff going on. It’s a story where Harry learns to deal with failure and loss and death. Those are adult things, when handled in a mature way, not "dark" things, not "edgy" things.