Now before you jump down my throat and say, "How dare you ignore movie ratings", hear me out! They make no sense! The MPAA are a bunch of people who are telling YOU what is right for your children based on their own personal opinions and beliefs, which may not always coincide with yours! Do you really want someone else telling you what is "appropriate" for your children and what isn't?
I recently watched this amazing documentary about the MPAA called, "This Film is Not Yet Rated" in which the secretive world of the ratings business is exposed through the use of a private investigator and Hollywood directors themselves. Some shocking revelations in the film include: the discovery that many ratings board members either have children 18 and over or have no children at all (typically, the MPAA has suggested it hires only parents with children between the ages of 5 and 17); that the board seems to treat homosexual material much more harshly than heterosexual material; that the board's raters receive no training and are deliberately chosen because of their lack of expertise in media literacy or child development; and much more.
This isn't new to us, though, so we usually tend to "prescreen" movies before deciding whether or not to let Dante watch them. Of course if the movie is "Caillou Smells A Flower and then Whines ABout it for 20 minutes" , we're not really going to go nutso and prescreen it. Although, Caillou's whining should get an NC-17 rating simply for the fact that it elicits murderous rage inside me when he does it. But we do do it for movies like Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, Iron Man, Transformers, and other types of "grown-up" movies.
Let me tell you, most of the times the ratings are screwed up. The MPAA is so concerned (as well as our society) that our children see a breast, or a nude body, or two people making love (especially if those people are of the same sex!!) that they disregard completely the violence and realistic "scaryness" of the movie itself. For example, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is a movie based on The Olympians book series by Rick Riordan. Before seeing the movie, Randy and I decided to read the book so we went out and bought it. The books can be found in the "young reader" section so we knew they were appropriate for kids. The book version of The Lightning Thief was wonderful. It dealt with Greek Gods and their mythology, battles with ancient monsters, and the quest of a boy named Perseus "Percy" Jackson to realize his duty of being a demi-god. All in all, it was a great book for kids and we read it to Dante at night. He loved it as well. The monsters were ferocious and fierce but not terryfying, the main protagonists were young kids about 7 or 8 years old, and the language and themes were appropriate.
Cut to the movie. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Randy and I rented it and watched it before deciding to let Dante watch it. The movie is rated PG, for "action violence and peril, some scary images and suggestive material, and mild language". Um, no. The movie should have been rated R in my opinion because it was extremely violent. "Some scary images" my foot! What was a whimsical journey through Greek mythology in the book became this violent, horror-type, ghastly idiotic movie with the protagonists as teenagers. The movie took a great book and turned it into an adult CGI infested load of crap that would not be appropriate for a kid who loved the books. And it was rated PG!!!
Same with Iron Man! Now, mind you, we let Dante watch Transformers (the new remakes) because most of the movie is CGI robots blowing eachother up. It's fantasy and there is no realistic violence. Transformers aren't real, so the sight of seeing them fight with eachother doesn't feature gory blood scenes and human suffering. So when Dante started asking about Iron Man, since he and his friends liked the cartoon, Randy and I decided to screen this as well, thinking that it just would be "robot violence" and that it would be ok. The movie was rated PG-13 like the Transformers were, so we were expecting more of the same type of Sci-Fi effects.
WRONG! The first ten minutes of Iron Man take place in the Middle East in which a Humvee is blown up by an IED and blood and guts are everywhere! It's like, "Here Dante, let's go watch Full Metal Jacket and eat some popcorn!" The next scenes involve Tony Stark being tortured by what we are let to believe are an Arab terrorist group with guns pointed at his bloody head and body. Cut to about an hour into the film in which the new Iron Man goes to wreak havoc on his ex-captors and we are met with an "ethnic cleansing" type scene in a Mid-East village in which families are being carted out "Holocaust" style and executed in front of eachother. This is PG-13?!?!?! Are you kidding me?!?!? What the hell are the MPAA thinking? Does someone need to expose a breast for it to be bumped up to an R rating? Seriously?
Consequently, no Iron Man flicks for Dante yet, which is a shame because the Iron Man scenes are incredible. Too bad for the torture and blood and guts.
So, if you have children, ignore the ratings and judge for yourself. We don't want our children witnessing human sufferring and realistic graphic violence, but have no problem with nudity and affection and sex (not porno sex, mind you), but you may disagree. But seriously, don't look at the ratings of a movie and write it off. Screen the flick beforehand and decide if it is appropriate for your children based on YOUR values. Don't let this mysterious board of the "moral majority" dictate what is right or wrong for your kids.