Gun Violence in PG-13 Films has Tripled Since 1985


The best thing about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was that Indy enthusiasts no longer had to debate about which of the previous trilogy was the “worst” one. Still before the most recent effort, the film that would often be given that dubious honor was the 1984 (technically a prequel) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. At the time of its release, Temple of Doom shocked parents (including your correspondent’s) for its graphic scenes and generally scary tone. It was because of this that the Motion Picture Association of America or MPAA introduced a rating that was between the family-friend “PG” and the certainly-adult “R” ratings. Thus, PG-13 was born.

A study recently published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, showed that gun violence in PG-13 movies has “more than tripled since 1985.” According to the abstract for the study, “When the PG-13 rating was introduced, these films contained about as much gun violence as G (general audiences) and PG (parental guidance suggested for young children) films. Since 2009, PG-13-rated films have contained as much or more violence as R-rated (age 17+) films.”

While the MPAA does consider violence when issuing a rating to a film, most moviegoers tend to think of only the sexuality of the film or language with respect to ratings. Thus a movie that is careful to limit profanity and avoids showing female nipples could kill every single character in the film violently and still earn a PG-13 rating.

However, one thing the study did not consider was context. Films that may have had an overall anti-gun or anti-violence message tied to their scenes of shooting weapons at people were counted just the same films which glorified the violent behavior. Some suggest that such self-regulation in film is no longer necessary. Whereas before the internet, parents only had television trailers and the film’s rating as a way to judge content, today parents can find out detailed information about films before they are even released. 


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