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|Written by Alexandra Trottier|
|Tuesday, 10 November 2009 00:00|
In the 1990s, the Ontario Film Classification system was officially divided into four categories:
a) Family (F) or General (G): Suitable for all ages.
b) Parental Guidance (PG): Parental Guidance Advised.
c) Adult Accompaniment (AA): Film restricted to persons 14 years or older, unless accompanied by an adult.
d) Restricted (R): Film restricted to persons 18 years or older.
Unofficially, there was also a fifth category -- PG-13. With a PG-13 rating, anyone 13 years or older could get in to see a little more action, a couple of extra swear words, stronger sexual innuendos, mild use of drugs and alcohol, and, most importantly, the possibility of seeing a nipple.
Neve Campbell's character Sidney, in Scream, put it best: "Would you settle for a PG-13 relationship?" she asked, right before flashing her boyfriend.In my mind, PG-13 was like the training bra on the path toward the erotic AA movie and the final revelation of what was lurking behind the restricted curtain. Used in the United States for films such as Clueless and Can't Hardly Wait, this rating was typically used to attract the tween to teen market.
Since 2001, the OFC has added a fifth official category -- 18A. Dividing Adult Accompaniment into two distinct categories, 14A and 18A, minors can only receive admittance to films with these ratings when accompanied by an adult.
With the removal of PG-13 and the addition of 18A, the current film ratings system in Ontario has become less restrictive. Movies that at one time would have been rated "R" have now been given a pass with the stamp of 18A. While this rating appears to be a strong reminder of a film's inappropriate content, it also seems merely a lazy way for the Ontario Film Classification system to avoid taking on any real responsibility when it comes to the security of the audience, while avoiding dissension from angry film studios. These mild ratings are to the benefit of directors and producers who receive greater profits from more ticket sales. Now Mom and Dad don't have to worry about finding a baby-sitter or sitting through yet another 3D animation. They can simply have junior tag along with them to the latest horror, violent, or highly sexualized flick.
My favourite example of this is the latest Rambo movie, in which, despite the grotesque violence of the film, writer-director-star Sylvester Stallone appealed the R rating down to 18A. Arguing on the grounds that he must maintain respect for the real war his film depicts, Stallone stated that it's wrong to water down the violence in a story that sheds light on a horrific contemporary issue.
Now, I hate to sound like Mrs. Lovejoy (a.k.a "Won't someone please think of the children?" from The Simpsons), but I feel that the precedent set by Stallone is dangerous. There seems to be confusion regarding the difference between censorship and stronger ratings. While Stallone apparently felt that restrictions would hurt the artistic integrity of his film, he failed to realize that this would not endanger its levels of brutality but would merely keep minors from being exposed to it.
With the removal of PG-13, the addition of 18A, and the Internet's unlimited accessibility to viral videos, minors are now viewing more mature content at a much younger age than any other generation has before. With the unrestricted freedoms of the Internet, self-expression has become, for the most part, unregulated. While I fully support these freedoms, we must take precautions when it comes to our youth, who must be reminded that certain luxuries come with age. To do so, we must put on the appropriate bars where we can: in the theatre. It is also necessary to maintain open dialogue with minors and encourage them to ask any questions they may have about the variety of images they see.
Just to clarify: I am not pro censorship. I believe that filmmakers have the right to showcase pretty much any content they wish. However, it is simply a fact that rules differ between adults and children, and for good reason. Our age, maturity, and life experiences help us to decipher the truths from the falsities, and teach us to take what we see with a grain of salt. Just like school attendance, child labour laws, and wearing a seat belt, restrictions on sexual and violent images should become mandatory laws when it comes to children. The unfortunate truth is that the discretion of parents cannot always be trusted, a fact proven by the historical need for governments to step in when it comes to ensuring the safety of youth.
 Officially this was part of the MPAA rating system, but would occasionally find its way into Canadian theatres.
 PG-13 can rarely still be found in Ontario, on Canadian websites that have unfortunately not yet transitioned away from the MPAA rating system.
 Source: http://movies.about.com/od/rambo/a/rambo011808_2.htm