PG Films Loaded With ‘Cool’ Violence

UCLA Media Release, June 8 2008

Films rated fit for American teenagers are loaded with violence that appears “cool, swift and painless”, teaches them aggression and desensitises them to the pain and suffering of others. That is the verdict of a UCLA team who sampled all PG-13 films from the 100 top-grossing movies of 1999 and 2000. In the 77 films they found a total of 2,251 violent actions, with almost half resulting in death. Only a small number of these films showed negative effects of violence and only one, Pay It Forward, in which the young hero is stabbed to death, showed how horrific violence can be.

The research follows up on a 2005 study that looked at movie violence in all ratings categories of the Motion Picture Association of America. In that study, the researchers found that parents using the ratings system get very little guidance from it as to violent content. This time round they selected the PG-13 category because it has become a repository for action films. Lead researcher Theresa Webb said these are often Hollywood’s biggest budget films and have been found to be equally, if not more violent than R-rated films. This is partly the result of a “ratings creep” by which films that would have been rated R ten years ago now get PG-13 rating.

Webb maintains the film industry should recognise the power of movies to influence young people, and so provide more edifying material. Meanwhile she suggests websites that may help parents: Kids-In-Mind; PSVratings; and Screen It.