‘Stranger (and more explicit?) Things’: Why parents are questioning Netflix’s maturity ratings
Despite the scary, disturbing and otherwise crass content present in the Netflix original series, “Stranger Things,” the show still holds a TV-14 rating.
Season 4 of “Stranger Things” took the entertainment world by storm this past month, pulling 1.15 billion hours viewed within its first 28 days of availability, according to IndieWire. However, the abundance of dark and crass content within the season left many viewers reeling, and it has some parents concerned about whether the show received an appropriate maturity rating for its bolder language, fight scenes and monsters.
The Parent Television and Media Council is a “nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization advocating responsible entertainment,” according to its website, and it is dedicated to protecting children from harmful and inappropriate media.
In a report released on July 7, the council found a drastic increase in violence and profanity in the fourth season of “Stranger Things” compared to the three prior season. The organization utilized content-filtering data from VidAngel, a video streaming service used to skip over potentially harmful or disturbing content in shows and movies.
Since the frequency of profanity in “Stranger Things” has increased by 217% since Season 1, the PTC concluded that Netflix’s TV maturity rating for the show was inaccurate.
“Stranger Things did not introduce the ‘f-word’ until partway through its second season, but then used it six times in Season 2, and five times in Season 3, and nine times in Season 4,” the PTC wrote. “It is useful here to remember that under the TVOMB content ratings system, the use of a single ‘f-word’ on basic cable and expanded-basic cable television programming has traditionally triggered a ‘TV-MA’ content rating.”
Violence in “Stranger Things” became more, as well; the PTC found a 307% jump in the frequency of violence. Some of the scenes in Season 4 were so graphic, that Netflix included a disclaimer before the first episode of the new season plays.
Netflix’s disclaimer reads, “We filmed this season of ‘Stranger Things’ a year ago. But given the recent tragic shooting at a school in Texas, viewers may find the opening scene of Episode 1 distressing. We are deeply saddened by this unspeakable violence, and our hearts go out to every family mourning a loved one.”
This disclaimer references the shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that occurred in May of this year, and warns viewers of the violent actions involving children in the first episode.
The PTC explained, “Parents deserve a ratings system that is transparent and consistent across platforms. Our report suggests there to be a vastly different standard between streaming content and broadcast content — even if that content is similarly-rated.”
It continued, “If a TV-14 doesn’t mean the same thing on Netflix as it does on CBS, it is of little to no value to parents.”
The video streaming and production company has consistently given “Stranger Things” a rating of TV-14 since Season 1. According to its website, Netflix currently rates the TV shows included in its streaming service from TV-Y to NC-17, and wrote that its TV show maturity ratings indicate the level of mature content for the entire series.
Netflix additionally noted, “In some countries, we may also show season-level ratings. Those ratings may differ from the show’s overall rating or mature content themes.”
“Stranger Things” is one of few Netflix Original Series that is TV-14. Movie Guide reports that 61% of its series are rated as TV-MA.