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Film ratings prove to be a bad filter, critics say

SHARE Film ratings prove to be a bad filter, critics say

A study in the journal “Pediatrics," published online today, demonstrates that gun violence has more than tripled since 1985 in PG-13 movies, even surpassing R-rated films.

"Sure, someone under the age of 17 can go see a movie like White House Down," writes Esther Zuckerman at The Atlantic Wire, "which was perfectly packed with guns, no problem, but this 23-year-old writer gets her ID checked at About Time, where sex is implied and a couple of curse words are thrown about."

Brad Bushman and colleagues at Ohio State University analyzed 945 films released from 1950 to 2012. Each movie was among the 30 top-grossing films of that year, and they randomly chose 15 of those top 30 movies to scrutinize. Undergrads watched every film and counted every violent act — they defined a violent sequence as "physical acts where the aggressor makes or attempts to make some physical contact with the intention of causing injury or death."

Dan Romer told the New York Times that violence is extremely prevelent in comic book movies, fantasy movies and movies based on popular young adult novels, like “The Hunger Games,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Snow White and the Huntsman.”

“We think that the PG-13 rating is no longer very helpful,” he said. “If they’re going to allow content like that in PG-13 movies … it sort of goes against the grain of how they define the difference” compared with an R-rated movie, he added.

Another example was "The Untouchables," which was considered extremely violent in 1987 when it was released.

“It had gun violence in it that was comparable to a lot of the movies we’re calling PG-13 in the last five years," Romer, director of the Adolescent Communication Institute at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, told NBC. "I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘The Untouchables’ today would get a PG-13."

There is evidence to support the idea that violent movies, TV and video games cause violence in real life.

"One often-cited 1967 study found that the mere sight of a gun made people act with more hostility, deciding to deliver a harsher electric shock to another study participant," Melissa Dahl wrote at NBC. "More than 50 other studies since have found similar evidence of the 'weapons effect' — the idea that just seeing a weapon can increase aggression."

Judi Dench's latest "Philomena" earned an R-rating that the actress is protesting alongside Harvey Weinstein, owner of the studio that made the film.

“ ‘Philomena' received an R because of two instances of a profanity that appear in the film. Weinstein, in this case, is absolutely right; there is no logical reason for 'Philomena' to be rated R when say, 'Captain Phillips,' which features a violent real-world situation that (spoiler-alert) ends in bloodshed, is rated PG-13," Esther Zuckerman wrote at The Atlantic Wire.

Email: ataylor@deseretnews.com