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Protecting Our Children

Parental Alert: Unrated, Re-edited PG-13 Films are Often R's

By JoAnn Hamilton
August 23, 2004

“When is a PG-13 movie not a PG-13 movie? When it has been re-edited and repackaged for home viewing in a racier, unrated version. It's happening more and more.” Examples of such movies are: King Arthur, White Chicks, XXX, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and The Chronicles of Riddick.

In a Focus on the Family Plugged In article, “Working the System,” Tom Neven and Bob Smithouser wrote: “While parents may be new to this backdoor attempt at creating edgier DVDs, (many) teenagers are well aware of Hollywood 's latest cheat in the ratings game. In fact, some young people look for the unrated cut. They prefer it. And leading retailers are making sure they have no trouble finding it.”

Let me explain what I learned from this article. PG-13 movies consistently bring more money into the box office. Directors know this, but they have a double agenda to their marketing strategy. They film what they want, then cut the material so it squeezes down into the PG-13 rating. After the film runs its course, the PG-13 label is disposable. Now the unrated DVD with all the material included in the film is released in an unrated version. Parents think that no rating means it has been edited. Film producers know what they are doing. Releasing the film unedited, but also unrated, invites repeat viewership. Many teens realize what is happening and ask, “What did they add? How far did they go?” This maximizes the money earned on the film.

According to the May 2005 article in Plugged In, Blockbuster Video, the nation's largest renter of DVDs, has decided to stop carrying the PG-13 version of movies when there's an unrated counterpart. Also, there is no effort to alert parents that this unedited version is any different than the movie shown in the local theater. They do, however, apply a “Youth Restricted Viewing” sticker to alert clerks to ask for ID.

Wal-Mart carries both unrated and PG-13 versions of these movies. “Unrated editions typically get stocked in the main aisle where all movies are filed alphabetically. Plugged In found the PG-13 versions displayed in different locations where shoppers aren't as inclined to look.

Cash registers will prompt an ID check if an R-rated movie is scanned. However, that same safeguard has not been put into place for unrated movies at Wal-Mart.

Some creative retailers revel in upping the raunch factor. For instance, the formerly R-rated “Bad Santa” is now called “Badder Santa” and is unrated. “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” is also sold as “Unrated, uncut and uncalled for.”

It is actually easier for teens to purchase or rent DVDs that are unrated (and actually contain material that should get an “R” rating) in content than to buy tickets for an R-rated movie.

Sometimes the Amazon website describes what has been added, i.e., “more graphic violence such as severed limbs, spattering blood and arrows through heads,” but that is the exception.

Discerning parents just have to work harder to protect their children from this downward spiral.

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