On June 8, 1984, my mom took my brother and me to see Gremlins. It was a birthday present for me (thanks, Mom!). I loved the scenes with the cute little mogwai Gizmo, and I even lasted through the cocoon scenes. Then that first gremlin attacked; I spent the rest of the movie under my seat. We may have even left the theater early.
In my mom's defense, when we saw the movie, it only had a PG rating and the trailer for it was fairly benign. Eventually, the Motion Pictures Association of America would site Gremlins (along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) as two of the movies that influenced the creation of the PG-13 rating. The rating indicates that parents are strongly cautioned that material in the movie may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13. And that "there may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence." Which brings us to the reason for this post.
The December issue of the the journal Pediatrics explores violence in films. Their research indicates that violence has more than doubled since 1950, gun violence in
PG-13 films has more than tripled since 1985 and since 2009, PG-13-rated films have contained as much violence as R-rated films.
Although part of me is glad that we have the MPAA rating guidelines in the U.S., I don't completely trust them when it comes to what my son is/will be allowed to watch. (Someone will have to leave me info about rating systems in other countries in the comments - I would be interested to learn how they work and if parents trust them.) My son is still really little, and I am very picky about what he watches. I know he is far from able to handle the death scene in the Lion King or the first 5 minutes of Finding Nemo, but for movies that I haven't seen already, I rely on other parents. I especially like Parent Previews for their in-depth information and reviews about the movies we think our son might like to see. I also like to use them for a prompt about movie content I may have forgotten about.
What about your household? What movies were you nervous about letting your child see for the first time?