Theatrical Animation Needs A Rating Below ‘R’

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Neil Emmett over on Cartoon Brew has a post where he discusses how to make animation more adult. The issue is incredibly complicated and Emmett chooses to base his analysis on the televisual side of things. Back in 2011, I published a post looking at the theatrical side of things; namely the ‘R’ rating used in the US and how it actively hurts the chances of animation that isn’t overly ‘adult’ but is certainly incapable of being seen by kids.

The Current Setup

As I discussed in my post, the R rating is a bit of an anomaly in the world of ratings. It prohibits anyone under 17 from seeing a film unless they’re accompanied by an adult. Other countries systems provide for unaccompanied teens through intermediate ratings like the 16 one from Ireland, above.

By permitting teens to see films by themselves, you are facilitating the time-honoured teen pastime/social event that is going to the cinema. The R rating eschews that entirely by mandating an adult presence. Furthermore, the only other rating is the NC-17 one which practically all the major chains refuse to screen.

Lastly, the R rating represents a dramatically smaller potential audience for films than the next lowest one, PG-13. So much so, that studios perform a bit of a dance around it. A film is either going to be a very close PG-13 or a very close R. The middle ground is quite thin when it comes to film. The logic here is that if your film is going to be R, you might as well go whole hog.

A Proposed Rating System

The issue currently at hand is that the entire business model surrounding films and TV is changing, Ratings exist on TV merely as a guide to viewers and parents. Theatrical ratings are similarly voluntary but are a hangover from the days when the government threatened regulation.

The internet has no such ratings (although Netflix provides them anyway). While things are almost certainly heading that way, there remains a lot of money in the theatrical market and likely will be for some time.

Animated films can still flourish for older audiences. All they needs is a fuller ratings system that permits teens to see films by themselves. A 16 rating is a good step in that direction.

The reason is obvious, teens have shown no bones about simply finding alternatives to theatrical entertainment. Live-action films don’t suffer because they don’t encounter the same stigma that animation does when its audience ages.

By facilitating the screening of films that are not suitable for kids but not mature enough for an R rating, studios and cinemas could greatly improve the market for animated features.

What do you think? Is this a good idea or is it a case of too little, too late?

2 thoughts on “Theatrical Animation Needs A Rating Below ‘R’”

  1. I don’t understand why the 3 year difference between PG-13 and 16 means anything. For that matter it seems to me the 18 year ranking of R is rather pointless too. In truth everyone develops at a different rate, and the vast majority of kids are pretty immature and inexperienced until partway through their 20s when they finally figure out “Hey, I’m NOT invincible and I DON’T know everything!” Yet even then, some people don’t reach that stage until much later in life. I’ve known 50 year olds who are lacking wisdom some 15 year olds seem to have.

    It’s a flawed system for a flawed species. Age has little to do with development. Parenting much more so.

    1. I agree; age is not a function of personal development and vice versa.

      I believe the reasoning is that teenagers undergo such rapid development in such a short space of time that what IS suitable for a 16 year old may not be suitable for a 13 year old.

      The issue though is that when dealing with audiences engaging in social viewing, there has to be some sort of yardstick that the individual can use to determine the nature of the content. In rating’s case, that individual is almost exclusively parents.

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