Everyone and everything feels the effects of a failing economy, and the art industry is no exception.The music and fine arts suffer almost as much as the poor during these difficult, persistent recessions. But no industry suffers as much as the movie industry. Leisure activities are among the first eliminated when the economy predicates that civilians save money more fervently. The increase in ticket prices despite the state of the economy and less original movie ideas are causing Americans to stay home. The rise of illegal downloading and the decline of culture in America has also created an enormous deficit between the amount of movies put out and the quality of those movies. In harsh economic times, movies are stripped of their most important components to save money and to appeal to the largest crowd possible. The result is the PG-13 movie. The genius idea behind this is to put enough adult content in a movie – violence and sexual situations – for adults to want to see it, but leave out enough – nudity, rampant swearing – so that kids can see it. The product is a sanguine, flaccid under-developed waste of an hour and a half. In 82 years, only 7 PG-13 movies have won the Academy Award for Best Picture, because most of these movies suffer from forced, subversive editing and poor character development. PG-13 movies are a waste of film, resources, talent, time, and energy.
When studio money is short, instead of the constant editing and re-shooting that movies normally receive which ultimately reproduces a better product, they are either haphazardly pushed out at the cost of art and the consumer or grotesquely trimmed to meet regulation standards so that the most possible paying customers can watch the film. Scenes that are not well characterized by the actors are removed from the movie altogether instead of being re-shot, sometimes despite their importance to the continuity of the story. Lines are re-written to meet the limitation of curse words set by the movie’s proposed rating. Though seemingly harmless, these decisions directly affect the cohesion and drama of a film. A movie that shows great intellect and that was founded in complex ideals gets lost in the poorly articulated discourse. The movie fails because the message is lost.
PG-13 movies also flounder for other more technical reasons. They can rarely deliver great characters due to time constraints meant to please the average movie-goer. The average movie takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes; just long enough to convey a message, but short enough to keep the attention of most audiences. The average Oscar winning film lasts 2 hours and 20 minutes. In order for the audience to connect with the characters, proper development over the course of the movie is necessary. Better directors show a person’s character through distinct circumstances in a movie. The best directors give audiences glimpses of each person’s makeup through various situations that reveal themselves slowly throughout scenes of the film. Time is essential to skillfully display complex character; PG-13 movies do not allow for that development.
Though it sounds cliche, movies at their best are art imitating life. In a good movie, you forget that you are in a theater and just relate to the characters and the moment. What’s the difference between Gladiator and Robin Hood (2010)? Both had the same lead, Russell Crowe, and they hired good supporting casts. There were great, distinct characters in both movies. They both took place in a similar time period, so prejudice for or against movie settings was not a factor. The difference was the darkness and violence of Gladiator. The grit necessary to evoke emotion can not exist in most PG-13 movies. They are toothless renderings of real moments. When Crowe realized the fate of his family in Gladiator, the audience felt the raw emotion, the crippling pain, that he did. When he fought mercilessly against other gladiators, the audience felt his rage. Robin Hood could not produce those moments because it was bound by the rating system. The cinematography suffered because of the director’s pandering to a larger audience and limiting bloodshed. Medieval era fights were gruesome and gory, but that type of vile carnage was not relayed onto the big screen. Subsequently, the crowd could not connect with the film. The R-rating is necessary. What would Crying Game be with out the revelation to the audience at a little over an hour in the film? What would Pulp Fiction be without the swearing, drugs, and violence? Those movies would be dull, lifeless attempts at cinema. They would be PG-13, and they would be horrible.
The PG-13 rating was invented as a way to keep children away from subject matter that they are not emotionally ready to handle, but it is being used as a tool to make big pictures available to an audience that they were not created to accommodate. This practice manipulates avid movie-goers, it is irresponsible to children, and disgraceful to the work of talented film makers. No one benefits from PG-13 movies except the studios. And, that type of greed is killing art and cinema. People have stopped going to the movies, because studios have stopped producing movies worth spending hard-earned dollars to watch. And, if those studios continue to release watered down PG-13 versions of potentially great movies, then ultimately big studios desire to capitalize on underwhelming work will be their own undoing.