Monday, July 10, 2006

A failure to communicate?

What, exactly, does a rating of PG-13 mean?

I, fool that I am, somehow labored under the delusion that a PG-13 rating meant the film in question had been conceived and created for an audience of at least 13 years in age and, thus, contained material not designed for younger children.

Clearly I was wrong, though, because my 9-year-old has been bombarded over the last several weeks with constant, aggressive advertising and merchandising for both Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean 2.

He got a Pirates Happy Meal yesterday.

We puzzled over toy Superman mighty fists in Target last week, the package featuring a photo of a child well under 13 waving the mighty fists.

Target also boasted Pirates playsets for gradeschoolers.

Ads for the films appear regularly during cartoons that few self-respecting 13-year-olds would be caught viewing.

What is with the mixed messages? Are these movies appropriate for younger children or not?

I saw the first Pirates movie and it was cute, but I didn't screen it for my son because I thought the stabbings and mentions of raping and pillaging and such were a little much for him. He hasn't seen X-Men either, though the first two are on my list of top ten favorite movies of all time. In fact, a few weeks ago the mother of one of his friends offered to take the boys to see X-Men 3 and I thought, "Why?" Since my son is not an envelope pusher (at least not in that regard) he asked if they could see Cars instead. I was just so struck by the fact that this mother never questioned whether her 9-year-old would see that movie, or whether my 9-year-old would as well.

It's not that I think seeing PG-13 movies would kill them, but what's the point? Really, why not just go see Cars?

I don't think people who let their pre-teens watch Spiderman are Bad Parents, but I'm beginning to think there are Bad People somewhere down the line in all this. Or maybe they simply underestimate adult viewers? I loved Spiderman, but it wasn't because I was so jazzed to see Kirsten Dunst's wet t-shirt contest entry. That scene was so incongruous and unnecessary to me, especially when I looked around at all the teeny children in the audience. Just make the superhero fly and defeat evil! That's what we're here for!

It's so easy to fall into the trap, though, of superhero + Happy Meal + Lego playset must = little kids, and when the ads target our kids directly like that it's difficult to avoid their influence. I admit I'm lucky in a way; my son has not inherited the family love of horror and prefers to avoid being scared, so I'm not subjected to much begging when it comes to borderline entertainment.

Perhaps it's just as simple as studios wanting to expand their audience, using McDonald's to entice little ones while simultaneously dangling the potential for nipples in front of older moviegoers. So they've even managed to turn the rating system that was envisioned as a protective measure to their advantage? It's disturbing.


At 2:46 PM, Blogger Tense Teacher said...

Yeah, I pretty much hate the Madison Avenue advertising set; parenting is tough enough without their "help."

At 7:11 PM, Anonymous noell said...

I'm with you on this.

It's all about the money.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Contrary said...

We visited McDonald's more often than usual lately because of the Cars toys in the Happy Meals (we never did get Doc Hudson. Argh!), but now they have Pirate toys in them. Skulls and the like. For my 3 year old. I don't bleeping well think so.

We'll just avoid Mickey D's until they get more age appropriate toys, thank you.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Shell said...

It annoys me almost as much as having them ask "boy or girl?" when I order a Happy Meal. I always want to retort with something like "What fucking difference does it make?" but then I remember that my son is, you know, right there, so I bite my tongue.

At 2:38 PM, Blogger Janet said...

You make a really good point on the happy meal front.

I still remember getting carded going in to Free Willy. And here's the kicker. At the time I was over 13 and the movie only had a PG rating.

I know. I don't get it either.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I think you are right.

I hate this dilemma. My seven year old wants to see all of these things, but no way. Innuendo and bad language aside, he gets scared pretty easily. There is no way that most kids can (or should) understand all the crap being slung their way...


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