On this day in 1984, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which oversees the voluntary rating system for movies, introduces a new rating, PG-13.
The MPAA, which was founded in 1922 as a trade group representing the American film industry, announced its first rating system on November 1, 1968, in response to groups seeking better guidelines to help parents determine whether or not a movie was child-appropriate. Jack Valenti, a former assistant to President Lyndon Johnson and the president of the MPAA from 1966 to 2004, was instrumental in developing the new rating system in conjunction with the National Association of Theatre Owners and the International Film Importers & Distributors of America.
The initial rating categories were G (appropriate for all ages), M (for mature audiences, but all ages admitted), R (persons under 16 not admitted without an accompanying adult) and X (no one under 17 admitted). The M category was eventually changed to PG (parental guidance suggested), the R age limit was raised to 17 and on July 1, 1984, the PG-13 category was added to indicate film content with a “higher level of intensity.” According to the MPAA, the content of a PG-13 film “may be inappropriate for a children under 13 years old” and “may contain very strong language, nudity (non-explicit), strong, mildly bloody violence or mild drug content.” On August 10, 1983, the action film Red Dawn, starring Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen, became the first-ever PG-13 movie to be released in theaters.
Starting in 1990, every film given an R rating also received a short explanation as to whether it contained violence, drug use, nudity or hard language. This policy was later expanded to PG and PG-13 movies. Additionally, the X rating was changed to NC-17 (anyone 17 and under not admitted) because it was believed that “X” had come to connote pornography. Henry & June, which opened in U.S. theaters in October 1990, was the first film to be rated NC-17. According to the MPAA, the NC-17 rating “does not mean ‘obscene’ or ‘pornographic’ in the common or legal meaning of those words, and should not be construed as a negative judgment in any sense. The rating simply signals that the content is appropriate only for an adult audience.” All MPAA movie ratings are voted on by a Los Angeles-based ratings board whose members are all parents, from diverse backgrounds.
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