New Research Reveals PG-13 Movies are Becoming More Violent

2-Mar-2011 12:30 PM EST

Academy Communications

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    Stonehill College Professor Ron Leone

Newswise — Ron Leone is associate professor and chair of the communication department at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., and a film scholar who studies movie ratings. His latest article, published this week in the Journal of Children and Media sheds new light on the phenomenon of “ratings creep” in the United States.

The term refers to the belief that various types of adult content escalate in films with the same rating over time, and Leone’s latest study shows that films rated PG-13 today are significantly more violent than those with the same rating a generation ago.

In their latest study, “MPAA Ratings Creep: A longitudinal analysis of the PG-13 rating category in U.S. movies,” Leone and his colleagues analyzed the content of a sample of PG-13 movies from three different years: 1988, 1997 and 2006. They documented each incident of violence, sexual content, nudity, use of adult language and presentations of substance abuse--the same criteria members of the MPAA’s Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA) consider when assigning a rating to a film.

“Our quantitative content analysis of 45 films indicated a significant increase in violent content in these films, despite the ratings remaining the same,” says the Stonehill College professor. “We searched for evidence of ‘creep’ in all categories, but our results pointed to one conclusion,” he says. “In the PG-13 rating category, the only area of adult content on the rise was violence.”

According to Leone, none of the other four areas showed any statistically significant evidence of ratings creep. “Said another way, today's PG-13 movie was yesterday's R movie,” he says. “This is important,” he notes, “because it is at this level--the PG-13/R threshold--that it matters most, as this distinction serves as a line of demarcation between restricted and unrestricted access by children to movies.”

More information on the study can be found on the British journal’s Web site:

“Our results suggest a leniency toward violent content by the MPAA ratings board that parallels America’s parents’ greater comfort with children being exposed to violence than other types of adult content in the unrestricted PG-13 rating category,” says Leone.

Professor Ron Leone’s Stonehill College faculty page:

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