National reaction to the new PG-13 rating

From the July 8, 1984, Deseret News

I've had my say about the new PG-13 rating but you might be interested in the thoughts of some national figures on the new interim rating that fits betwixt PG and R.

"Only parents are qualified to make personal family judgments about their children's viewing habits," said Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, which oversees the ratings board. In announcing the new rating, which is not retroactive but will be used for films rated after July 1, Valenti said the system was never designed to discourage paying customers, but rather to act as a guide for parents in helping choose films for their children.

"The PG-13 rating is a worthless sham, and an attempt to distract concerned Americans from a problem of the utmost importance," according to Dr. Thomas Radecki, chairman of the National Coalition on Television Violence. Radecki, a psychiatrist at the University of Illinois' school of medicine, quoted in a wire story, also said he favors abolishing the ratings board in favor of regional panels managed by the public. (His is the same group that came down on the cable Disney Channel recently, citing violence in Donald Duck cartoons.)

Roger Ebert, movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times and the syndicated review program "At the Movies," says, "It's a good idea to create PG-13 as a way of giving the original PG category its teeth back. In the last analysis, as Valenti points out, enforcement of the whole ratings system is really up to the nation's parents. PG-13 will give them useful information. In some cases it will alert them to movies not suitable for kids under 13. In a lot more cases, I suspect, what it will really signify is a movie not suitable for viewing by adults."

"The PG-13 is a step in the right direction," says Christian Science Monitor movie critic David Sterritt. "But the real answer to protection problems is for parents to take the PG initials at their face value — to read reviews, check with friends and neighbors, phone theaters with specific questions, and generally provide the ‘parental guidance' that's needed. If parents shouldered more of the guidance burden themselves, they could expect less from — and be better served by — the shorthand of the rating system."

In its weekly editorial, the current issue of TV Guide suggests the MPAA release specific information about why films are rated PG or R, so parents will know a film contains excessive violence, nudity or profane language. Apparently written before the PG-13 rating was announced, the editorial echoes a complaint mentioned to me repeatedly by parents locally.

The capper is an item reported in USA Today Friday. One of the first films to receive a PG-13 is protesting the rating. "You don't change the rules at half time of the Super Bowl," says producer Kerry Hersch. "The rating shouldn't apply to films that were already finished." Hersch's film "The Zoo Gang" received the rating for "sexual innuendo," which she says is an inaccurate perception of her movie, intended as a family film about teenagers who start a dance club.

One wonders if even the ratings board itself knows what to do with this new PG-13.

My only prediction is an obvious one. With PG-13 acting as the disposal for films that are too strong for PG but too weak for R, I suspect we have seen the last of the oft-ridiculed G rating. Oh, maybe the next "Smurfs" cartoon will get a G. But for all intents and purposes, the PG-13 may have finally laid the G to rest.