Marvelette Missives – Do Ratings Matter?

On Geek Watch One this week, we briefly touch on the now-defunct Comics Code and the MPAA and the seemingly arbitrary manner in which comics and movies are rated. Yes, this stems from a discussion of Deadpool and R-rated comic book movies. But obviously it’s larger than that. It did, however, get me thinking about whether these ratings or designations really matter at all anymore.

Now sure, if you’re a parent and you want to keep an eye on what your child is reading, you’re going to stay away from the comics that are now frequently marked “mature content”. And of course you’re not going to take them to an R-rated movie (unless you’re one of the complete dumbasses who thinks that because it’s a comic book movie there can’t possibly be anything that bad and then complains when they have to leave the movie early BECAUSE OF THE R-RATED CONTENT!). But I digress.

As someone who reads a mix of comics and sees any manner of movie (except chick flicks… I hate chick flicks), I really don’t pay much attention to the rating systems. I’m an adult, I have no problem with sex and violence and strong language, so it makes little difference to me if a movie is PG or R, or if a comic has “mature” on the cover. And I dare say that most people are like that. Obviously there are some who can’t take a lot of violence or, perhaps, they’re planning on going to a movie with dear old mom and really don’t want to suffer through watching a graphic sex scene next to her. So a rating can be a good early warning system that has them looking into why the rating was chosen.

If anything, what a movie, comic or even tv show is rated will get my attention if it’s a lesser rating than what I expect. A good example was Expendables 3 that chose to go for a PG-13 instead of the R rating of the two earlier films. I don’t know that it really affected the final film too greatly, but I do think it resulted in smaller numbers at the box office (opposite of the results they were aiming for) because fans of the first two wanted that R. So if I see something that’s “family friendly” or PG when the premise or storyline would be improved with more mature content (or the original it’s based on is obviously more adult), I’m likely to steer clear of it.

So ratings systems do matter as a means of letting people decide their comfort level with a property. But considering how arbitrary they have always been (these ratings are ultimately decided by different panels of people with different ideas of what each rating means, after all), it’s best to use them as a loose guide and look into things a little more to decide if that movie or comic is for you.