A Proposed PG-15 Gun Violence Rating For Films Grossly Oversimplifies A Complex Issue

Film/TV Editor
05.24.18 8 Comments

20th Century Fox

Earlier this month, a new study from the Annenberg Public Policy Center out of Philadelphia advocated for a PG-15 rating on all films containing gun violence. The study arrived without much fanfare until, inevitably, the latest school shooter killed 10 people at Santa Fe High School in Galveston County, Texas. On that same day, the second season of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why (which may, according to UPROXX’s Alan Sepinwall, have no substantial reason for returning) canceled its premiere party out of respect for the victims.

The season, which is still available for streaming on Netflix, includes an episode about a teen who plots to murder his fellow students with a massive arsenal. Clearly, Netflix felt that creating hoopla and celebrating the show would be improper in close proximity with a mass shooting, which has recently become a common refrain (Eli Roth’s Death Wish remake and the Heathers TV reboot were both rescheduled after mass shootings). In the case of Death Wish, the film that eventually surfaced never really explained why it needed to be remade as toothless commentary. Yet one wonders — will there ever be a “proper” time to thematically tackle gun violence within a film or TV episode?

The answer to that question would be no, since these events likely won’t stop happening until something is done with America’s gun laws to curb them, but here’s a different question in regard to parental associations: when it comes to film ratings, would a PG-15 rating make any difference? Once again, probably not. An extra cushion of two years from a PG-13 rating would not stop anyone who’s intent upon carrying out a shooting, no matter their age.

To assume that a new film rating system could curb mass shooters is, obviously, a drastic oversimplification of a complex issue. It’s also important to differentiate here between films like Death Wish, which aim toward social commentary, and summer blockbusters, which only aim to entertain while including gun violence. There’s also the fact that nothing has changed over the decades as far as violence in popcorn flicks go. In a new Deadline column, Michael Cieply points out how, as always, all of the major studios have gun-filled tentpole releases throughout the summer. And as Cielpy argues, there’s nothing amiss because one can’t really pinpoint entertainment as a cause for violence.

Indeed, films haven’t grown more violent in recent years. Fans watched the Star Wars heroes take out their foes in the late 1970s, and they’ll do so in 2018, which boasts a summer full of gun violence at the movies. Hell, at one point in Deadpool‘s opening credits, the antihero literally luxuriates in a shower of bullets (as a Flashdance throwback), and all the way to the (SPOILER ALERT) end-credits scene, the film elicits belly laughs through ultraviolence. It’s also fair to assume that Chris Pratt will be toting a rifle again in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. And while these films don’t pretend to be anything but violent, they don’t arrive with preachy commentary for or against gun control.

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