Well, this is concerning: Ohio State University and Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania have found that in the past 20 years, gun violence in PG-13 movies has more than tripled. When the PG-13 rating came into existence, it had the same amounts of gun violence as G or PG films. These days, it’s not uncommon for them to have more gunfire than R-rated films.
To land at these results, researchers watched 945 movies sampled from the 30 top-grossing movies each year from 1950 to 2012. They noted every time one of those movies had a violent scene, as well as each time those scenes included a gun that was fired.
Films of every rating saw a sharp increase in violence over the 62-year timespan studied. That said gun-related violence in G and PG-rated movies has decreased slightly since 1985. It’s remained about the same in R-rated movies.
What’s curious about this is that the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) has remained fairly strict about how much sex is allowed in PG-13 films, even while its restrictions on gun violence have seemingly gotten pretty lax. The simple fact of the matter is that violence makes more money — and so do teens. PG-13 films are profitable because as we all know, teenagers are willing to shell out tons of cash on entertainment.
While this new trend is disturbing, it’s hard to say whether it actually has a negative effect on viewers. While lots of people feel it contributes to the culture of violence among young people, others, like Stetson University professor Christopher Ferguson, feel otherwise. He asserts that “youth violence is at its lowest level in 40 years,” even as media violence is ever-increasing. “My concern,” he says, “is that we’re distracting ourselves from more serious issues.” He has a valid point there. Issues like untreated psychological disorders, home life, and educational gaps seem like they’d be higher priorities in national attempts to stave off gun violence. Either way, it’s something to consider next time you head to the theater for some James Bond.