The 1939 film The Wizard Of Oz was rated G. The 2013 film Oz the Great and Powerful was rated PG. The difference? Maybe a little violence and a womanizing leading man.
AP/Walt Disney Pictures
If you're a parent with small children, summer is traditionally a
time when there's lots for them to see at the multiplex. That's not untrue this summer. But if you're specifically looking for a film with a G rating, you may just be out of luck.
years ago, out of the more than 600 films submitted to the Motion
Picture Association of America, 16 got rated G — the most in a decade.
Last year, even if you counted re-releases, only 10 films got rated G.
And this year, of the 250 films that have opened so far, not a single
one has been rated G. Not one. Which is not to suggest there haven't
been family-friendly films this year; they're just rated PG.
For instance, in Oz the Great and Powerful, based on L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz
books, all it takes is a bit of digital violence, and a womanizing
leading man, for Oz to become a place where parental guidance is
suggested. What's happened to the G rating? Well, let's start
with what it is. In the words of the Motion Picture Association, G is
for General Audiences — all ages admitted, meaning there is nothing in
theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that the ratings
board thinks would offend parents whose younger children view the
There was a time, before the ratings system started in the 1960s, when virtually all
Hollywood movies would have qualified for a G. Back then, to avoid
government censorship, the film studios subscribed to the "don'ts and
be-carefuls" of the Hays Code, which was drawn up in 1930.
its requirements: that no picture should ever "lower the moral
standards of those who see it." The code banned nudity, sex and
violence, as well as the mocking of religion, illegal drug use, and one
thing that would be fine in a G-rated film today: interracial romance.
Also banned: revenge plots, lustful kissing, the showing of a crime
method in enough detail that it might be imitated, and of course, rough
language. This last is why Gone With the Wind — the most
popular picture ever made — stirred up controversy when Rhett Butler
turned suddenly salty in his reply to Scarlett's plaintive, "Where shall
I go, what shall I do?"
His "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a
damn" was startling stuff in 1939, though by the time the film was
finally assigned a rating in the 1970s, community standards had loosened
up enough that it still got a G. That was also true of Ben-Hur when it was re-released, despite the whippings and chariot races. And it was even true of Liz Taylor's sultry Cleopatra
and a lot of pictures aimed at adults — at first. But when the ratings
got better established, G films went from being marks of films for
general audiences to being marks of films for children. And once
children got wind of that, they didn't want to see them.
studios quickly discovered that for films aimed at more than tiny tots,
it was wise to spice up that uncool G with a little suspense or language
to get the PG that was more attractive to hip 11-year-olds.
days, with virtually all live-action blockbusters rated PG or PG-13,
the G represents a ghetto largely made up of nature films and animation.
Not all animation, though. Shrek, Hollywood's biggest animated franchise and a film that makes being gross a point of style, is rated PG.
not that a G rating gets in the way of making money. Pixar-Disney has
figured out the formula. They've had the top-ranked G-rated film every
year but one in the past decade — from Ratatouille and Wall-E to The Princess and the Frog and Tangled.
other studios aiming at kids' audiences have done just as well, if not
better, without the G. Every one of the big animated franchises not made
by Pixar-Disney is rated PG — including Despicable Me, Ice Age, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar. And Pixar goes there, too — with the likes of The Incredibles, Brave and Up.
may still mean suitable for general audiences, but parents seem to have
decided it means suitable for babies. And that means even animation is
trending away from the G. Forst posted 6/9/2013