More than ever, highly acclaimed books are migrating to the silver screen, and audiences have a much higher anticipation for their release. Chances are the viewer already has some idea of a storyline in place and, in most cases, it does not involve overdone, extra-vulgar content. It seems the filmmakers look to these exaggerations to generate viewership, but the reality is the audience wants a true, well-done representation of their favorite novel.
For example, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a popular, New York Times best-seller novel that earned film status in 2011. The many readers, including families and a large age range, rushed to the theatre to see the novel brought to life. The eager fans expected some vulgarity and hard-hitting scenes with the R rating, but what they came away with was not the quality book storyline, but scenes that would haunt even Hulk Hogan’s sleep. Clearly, this is not what many people have in mind when they purchase a movie ticket and cozy up with their popcorn, so gave yet another excuse to criticize the movie rating industry.
With the majority of the country identified as regular moviegoers, we cannot ignore this question. The Help, also rated PG-13, inspired me to not only read the book, but also further my knowledge in civil rights. I cannot help but think this is more valuable than a film that disrupted my thoughts more than told me a story, but viewers are not the only people who would benefit from a more appropriate rating system. The filmmakers and parent companies would operate in a more positive light, and from a financial standpoint, experience the profit increase from a wider audience. We can only hope that social responsibility would outweigh the fiscal benefits, but we would appreciate any improvement.
The movie review service “Rotten Tomatoes” has already instituted some change by providing accurate movie reviews by both critics and general viewers. Beyond a general likeability overview, the website usually speaks to the rating and offers a blunt opinion of appropriate viewer age. Case in point, a critic called The Hunger Games a “triumph of restraint”, implying that it does reflect the hostility of the book, but is still appropriate for its 13 and above age group. With the increasingly unpredictable rating system, sites like this have gained credibility and saved many children’s innocent ears and eyes.
Granted, there will always be the movies that directly target a mindless, but captive audience for their gory, cursing, naked film, and we will allow them that R rating. The main purpose is not to eliminate those films altogether, but to reduce their hype and support the movies that respect their storyline and rating. This habit will hopefully create a new norm for upcoming movies and our future generations expectations of the film industry. Ratings exist for a reason, so why not understand their rules and tailor our viewership to something we are proud of?