Film classification is a bit of an interesting topic because it highlights the cultural differences that exist from country to country, even those that lie next to each other! The whole purpose is to classify films into categories to give (ostensibly) parents a quick heads up as to what the film is likely to contain.
The US is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to film classification because, unlike many other countries, classification is not government-mandated. As a result, it is undertaken by the MPAA for its member studios. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest sussing out “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” by Kirby Dick which looks at the process and the secretive way in which it is conducted.
Above is the MPAA rating system which anyone reading this in the US should be familiar with. As you can see, there is no intermediate rating between PG-13 and R. What this means is that once a film goes over the PG-13 rating, viewing requires the accompaniment of an adult. It also leads to the somewhat bizarre scenario where a child of any age can see anything they want as long as someone over 18 is with them.
In many other countries though, there is an intermediate rating for ages around 15/16. Taking Ireland as an example, a 16 rating means that anyone that age or older can see the film at the cinema, unaccompanied. While 2 years does not sound like much, it is forever when you are a teenager, especially if you want to see a film without a parent looking over your shoulder.
The end result is that some films are classified as R when they probably could get away with being 16. Never mind the fact that some films that are rated 15 in Ireland are PG-13 over here, but that’s a discussion for another day. At the same time, such situations exist precisely because an R rating greatly reduces the potential audience size for a film and is avoided if at all possible.
How does this hurt animation?
It means there is a bit of a glut when it comes to animated films that are a bit more mature in stature than what we’re use to seeing. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of animated material out there that is perhaps a little too mature [wink, wink] for the average person. However, you will never see an R rated animated film on general theatrical release.
My hypothesis is that if an extra rating were added (say 16), we would be more likely to see animated films that bridge the gap between being for everyone and being for adults only, in other words, suitable for unaccompanied teenagers. Arguably Princess Mononoke would come fairly close to such a rating as it is a bit scary for younger kids but more than suitable for teenagers.
If such a move were enacted, it would also have the handy side-effect of encouraging more animated films to be made that target the so-called [Adult Swim] crowd. In other words, teenagers and young adults. Such a result could only be beneficial to the animated industry.
Have you any thoughts? Please share them below, I’m curious to see what others think of the idea.