Integrity, creativity and the almighty buck

It seems that just about everything these days comes with a rating. Movies, video games, comic books, computer software, websites, even music. I’m not sure when this particular phenomenon became the norm but these days it seems like you can’t buy a Christmas or birthday gift – or anything else for that matter – for a child or young adult without first checking to see if it’s age-appropriate.

My major problem with this, however, stems from the pitifully inadequate – and personally dreaded – Motion Picture Association of America PG-13 rating.

You see, I was there, and experienced first-hand, the creation of PG-13. By that, I’m saying it had a profound effect on my childhood from the day it was first introduced (we can, in part, thank George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” for that one).

Back then, PG-13 was instituted as a way to protect children from too much violence, nudity and foul language. In recent years, however, it seems more like a marketing tool, less about our youth’s values and more about making as much money as absolutely possible. And while I understand that most everything these days boils down to how much money one can accumulate, it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

My major beef with the entire process revolves around the simple fact that the motion picture industry is so obsessed with making money, it’s willing to sacrifice the creative integrity of a film simply to market it to a larger crowd. To put it simply, as an adult, there are times I’d like to enjoy a good, old-fashioned R-rated flick.

And when you think about it, what once required a PG-13 rating in my younger days can now be found on one of cable television’s thousand-plus channels, at three o’clock in the afternoon, just in time for the kids to get home from school.

But these days, commercialism, materialism, consumerism and capitalism all require the watering-down of the entire entertainment industry, and in many ways our way of life, at least enough so both can be marketed to their utmost. That’s way too many “-isms” for me, yet for some reason or another, “-isms” seem to dominate our society these days (in my case, at least, it’s typically journalism, but that’s not so bad).

A quick Internet search for a list of “-isms” brought to my attention that, according to one source, there are 234 of the pesky things. While I can’t vouch for the authenticity of that figure, you must admit it represents a wide range of philosophical, moral and political ideals.

Some aren’t quite so bad as others, when you think about it. Optimism, egalitarianism (the belief that human beings should share equally in rights and privileges) and universalism (the belief in universal salvation) all seem OK to me, yet even the most optimistic fool can trip over his own shoelace and end up under the bus (a feeble attempt at sardonicism by yours truly).

Regardless, using violence, nudity and foul language as an excuse for any type of rating these days is pure fiction and seems more-than-a-little ridiculous to me, whether it concerns a motion picture, video game or anything else for that matter. I grew up watching violent movies (John Wayne westerns, Star Wars and the aforementioned Indiana Jones all spring to mind), playing violent video games and, let’s be honest, we’re all exposed to foul language just as soon as the first of our buddies picks up a phrase or two.

I suppose what I’m getting at is this – parents have, or should have, a much greater impact on their children’s upbringing than any movie or video game, no matter its rating. I certainly enjoyed my fair share of PG-13 flicks when I was twelve or younger, usually as soon as my parents made certain it was acceptable. And that’s part of the problem, if you ask me. We’re so concerned with rating what’s OK and what’s not that we’ve lost a most important concept – common sense. I wonder if there’s an “-ism” for that?

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunbrian.

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