PG-13 movies are now more violent than R-rated movies, study finds

By Daniel S Levine,

The differences between R-rated films and PG-13-rated films are getting smaller. A new study found that some PG-13 films are even more violent than classic R-rated ‘80s action films and today’s R-rated movies.

Researchers have found that gun violence continues to rise in American films, a fact that critics have been noting for years. The researchers, supported by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, looked at 945 films from 1950 to 2012, notes The New York Times. They watched five-minute segments from the Top 30 grossing films from each year, noting the appearances of gun violence.

It’s not surprising that gun violence in film has doubled since 1950, but the researchers’ most noteworthy find is the fact that PG-13 films have been getting more violent than R-rated movies. The number of gun violence incidences has quadrupled since 1985, when PG-13 was created.

Psychologists have grown worried that the rise in violence does have an effect on reality. “Of course it’s not the only factor, and it may not even be the most important factor, but it isn’t a trivial factor — and it’s one we can change,” Ohio State University psychologist Brad Bushman told NBC News. Bushman was the lead author of the report, which will be published in December in Pediatrics.

One of the big examples from the study is Die Hard. The film’s first sequel, 1990’s Die Hard 2, was rated R. But 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard was rated PG-13 and had more gun violence. The same is true for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), which was rated R and Terminator Salvation (2009), which had more violence and was PG-13.

The main difference between R and PG-13 is language and sex. As Harvey Weinstein noted just last week, the second your film has the F-word in it a second time, it gets the R-rating, no matter what.

“We treat sex as R,” Daniel Romer of the Annenberg center told the NY Times. “We should treat extreme gun violence as R.”

But the fact is that as long as audiences continue to turn out in droves to see these violent films, Hollywood will keep making them. “Violence sells...We recognize that, and the movie industry realizes it,” Romer said, noting that studios are “taking films that have a lot of violence and putting them into the PG-13 category.”

PG-13 movies make significantly more than R-rated films because children can see it. The MPAA requires children to be accompanied by an adult for R-rated films, unless they are over 17.

image: Sony

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