Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Parents fret over appropriateness of movies for kids (Appleton Post-Crescent)

posted by Nell Minow

Cheryl Sherry’s column in the Appleton Post-Crescent discusses a new survey showing that PG movies with strong language sell fewer tickets than those with other kinds of parental concerns like violence or sex.

“The reality is that profanity, within PG, is the big demarcation between box office winner and box office loser,” research and marketing director Dan O’Toole told attendees at ShoWest, a conference where studios unveil upcoming movie lineups. “Parents are choosing PG films for their kids that have very, very low levels of profanity. We’re talking one-third the level of the average PG film,” he said.


Sherry called me for comment, and her column describes my background and approach and some of my thoughts on the rating system:

Minow, who has testified before the Federal Trade Commission on the MPAA’s rating system, said “overwhelmingly its biggest failing is they will give material a pass in a comedy they’d give a much higher rating to in a drama. So you have these movies like the Austin Powers movies getting a PG-13 rating, which have really, really raunchy humor. … Just because the MPAA is ratcheting down it’s system, doesn’t mean I have to follow suit.”

PG-13 has become the no-man’s land of the rating system, [Minow] added. “Many parents will shrug their shoulders and say, my 10-year-old is bright and can handle a PG-13. … But you do not know what you are getting. There can be PG-13s that are almost PG and there can be PG-13s that should be Rs.”

  • jestrfyl

    It is all subjective anyway. Personally I am appalled at the lack of creativity that writers show when having characters utter curses and epithets. Both Shakespeare and Twain were so much more creative, and their lines have endured much longer than the constant repitition of the same word over and over. Creativity in art can lead to creativity in life, even as we try to make each other angry or defensive.

  • Cindi

    What an interesting point! I am glad I don’t have to worry about it anymore! Thanks, Cindi

  • monkie

    “… But you do not know what you are getting. There can be PG-13s that are almost PG and there can be PG-13s that should be Rs.”
    …which is why so many of us rely on you :)
    Honestly, it’s the violence that gets to me in kids’ movies. I could handle explaining profanity and sexuality, but I have yet to find a plausible explanation for why people hurt one another.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks to all three of you for great comments! As my mom always said, bad language usually reveals a lack of imagination and specificity.
    Thanks for the kind words, Monkie! It’s the casual nature of so much of the violence that is especially upsetting. Just as with the language, it’s a lack of imagination on the part of moviemaker and audience.

  • Cheryl

    I agree language is my main concern right now. I have very young children and in our experience so far, language is what they pick up on…. they do not understand or may not be interested in the sexual content or scenes with violence but if the characters use a word or phrase they are not familiar with my kids tune right in and ask about it or sometimes just try to use it. I unfortunantely discovered Movie Mom after letting my 3 yr. old watch Zathura bases on another ‘family- oriented’ reviewer that rated it as appropriate for all ages! Boy did we have some deprogramming to do of his growing vocabulary!

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