Liza Mundy recently wrote a well-researched article about the PG-13 rating system in The Washington Post. Here’s a teaser from the article:
Do You Know Where Your Children Are?
Most likely, they’re watching PG-13 movies. Those would be the ones with the foul language, oral-sex references and torture scenes.
…Keep in mind that this is a voluntary rating system. The ratings board is neither a government entity nor an independent board of, say, film experts and child psychologists. It is a panel that is owned and operated and financed by the major studios, as well as the National Association of Theater Owners, the trade group for movie theaters. Their salaries are paid by the very industry they regulate, the CARA panel consists of ordinary citizens, their identities kept secret, their only qualifications being that they (1) live in the Los Angeles area and (2) have children. From the start, the members of the CARA board have been told that they are not supposed to judge a film based on how they, personally, feel about it as parents, but to imagine how American parents in general might feel about letting children watch it. Unburdened by data or feedback — or possibly even a passing acquaintance with Middle America — they are asked to guess what community standards are, even as those standards are being shaped by the movies already out there.