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Weekend Roundtable: Parental Guidance Suggested

My little secret is out. As I hinted at pretty clearly in last week’s Roundtable, Mrs. Z and I are expecting our first children (that’s right, plural) imminently. Some of our astute readers may have back-tracked and noticed a theme leading up to this in other recent post topics (Movies About Parenting, Annoying Movie & TV Children, Sibling Rivalry, Favorite Childhood Cartoon Series). This week, I want to call out some movies that are ostensibly made for family-friendly viewing, but that actually feature content inappropriate for young children.

This topic at least partially grew out of an observation I noted in this week’s Blu-ray Highlights post about how creepy it is that the otherwise-charming film ‘Big’ shows the Tom Hanks character (whom viewers know is a 12-year-old boy pretending to be an adult) losing his virginity to a fully-grown woman. Other good examples of things we’re looking for here would be kids’ movies that turn out to be super violent, or have unnecessary swearing, or gratuitous nudity, or references to drugs and sex.

Shannon Nutt

I’ve only seen it once, and that was way back in 1995 when it was released in theaters, but the movie that immediately popped into my head was ‘Jumanji‘. A Robin Williams vehicle co-starring a young Kirsten Dunst, the movie is about a jungle-based board game that comes to life and all the dangerous and deadly wild animals that spring out of it. Granted, almost all of the animals are computer animated and cartoonish by today’s CGI standards, but this PG-rated (yes, PG, not even PG-13!) movie includes man-eating plants, stampeding animals, creepy spiders and (the worst of the lot) monkeys hurling knives at children. I was in my mid-20s when I saw this film, and it scared the willies out of me. I’ve never seen it again. How in the heck did the MPAA give this thing a PG? I could argue that it’s R-rated material, but at the very least it deserved the PG-13 label.

Jack Lilburn

I remember being absolutely terrified of ‘The NeverEnding Story‘ when I first saw it as a kid. To be entirely honest, I didn’t fully comprehend just how disturbing the film was until I rewatched it in my 20s. The idea of a nothingness tearing through a children’s book universe and obliterating everything in its path is WAY too apocalyptic for 7-year-olds. I know that the horse comes back at the end, but good god man, you see it drown in mud in the first hour! Atreyu stabs a giant man-eating wolf to death! Giant big-breasted sphinxes immolate knights trying to pass through the gateways they guard. I mean, there’s even something slightly creepy about the speech patterns of giant, flying dog Falcor – and he’s probably the nicest character in the movie! Maybe that’s what makes the film so memorable, but just the thought of that weird, three-faced character hanging out in the background in the Ivory Tower scenes sends a cold chill down my spine.

Mike Attebery

I’m sure a lot of guys my age remember ‘Doc Hollywood‘. One moment you’re sitting in the theater with your family, watching a fish-out-of-water tale about a cocky big city plastic surgeon who crashes his Porsche Speedster into a wacky country town. The next minute, your eyes are bugging out of your head as one of the most mind-blowing women you’ve ever seen comes bursting out of a cool morning lake, completely topless, and proceeds to stay that way for a very enjoyable amount of time. I’ve heard lots of stories about VHS rental tapes showing significant wear and tear in this portion of the movie, and I believe it. I can still remember my father’s girlfriend turning to me in the theater and going, “Michael, is this movie rated R?!” Nope.

M. Enois Duarte

It definitely says something, possibly troubling, about our current culture when newer films like ‘Frozen’ and ‘Super 8′ are rated PG and PG-13, despite the fact they’re more family-friendly than Disney’s films from the early ’90s and the action-adventure flicks of the ’80s. (It mostly proves how pointless and unfairly discriminating the rating system ultimately is.) How is that movies from previous decades could get away with more and still be considered family films?

Don Bluth’s animated classic ‘The Secret of NIMH‘ is a perfect example of the MPAA’s ridiculously arbitrary guidelines. Compared to ‘Frozen’, ‘Despicable Me 2′ or ‘The Croods’, the 1982 family favorite is disturbingly dark and violent for children, yet it was stamped with a G-rating. The story features a variety of adult themes about survival, sacrifice and the heartbreaking pain of loss. It also shows several scenes of children in peril and a mother under constant life-threatening situations. In spite of this, I still think that it’s a fantastic animated feature that children will enjoy – and they do, as I discovered when I showed it to my daughter when she was only 6-years-old. Films used to take more risks with original ideas and themes that the whole family could enjoy together, and the MPAA surprisingly didn’t stand in the way of that. But today, everyone wants to play it safe in order to receive a desired rating.

Luke Hickman

As creepy and strange as Tim Burton’s PG productions typically are, for the most part, they’re just fine for children. ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and ‘Corpse Bride’ come to mind. I’ve never worried about my children watching them. But I have no idea why my parents let my brothers and I watch PG-rated ‘Beetlejuice‘. While the style and tone are pretty much the same as ‘Nightmare’ or ‘Corpse’, those two animated flicks didn’t show a character drop the F-bomb and honk his genitals. As kids, we thought it was hilarious. We’d kick things over, exclaim “Nice f–king model!” and honk our own junk. I don’t want my own kids doing that stuff, but it makes for a great nostalgic moment from my childhood!

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

I wonder if there was an epidemic of kids squirting each other with pee-filled water pistols in the wake of ‘The Boy Who Could Fly‘? I certainly thought about doing that a lot back in the day.

Josh Zyber

It’s funny how much both standards are cultural norms have changed over the last few decades. These days, Hollywood bends over backwards to water down movies in order to secure the lowest possible MPAA ratings, so that the films can be marketed toward a wide family audience. However, when I grew up back in the ’80s, even films indisputably aimed at children would deliberately throw in adult content for the specific purpose of getting higher ratings.

Case in point: The 1986 animated ‘Transformers: The Movie‘ was almost rated G, until a couple lines of dialogue were redubbed to add swearing: “Oh shit, what are we gonna do now?” and “Open, damn it! The inclusion of profanity was enough to bump the picture up to a PG. Why do this? The producers believed that the target audience (boys from about 8- to 14-years-old) would think that a G-rated movie was too “kiddie,” whereas a PG movie with swearing would be perceived as edgy and cool. In this instance, the ploy didn’t work. The movie bombed, though that had little to do with this issue. Nonetheless, this was hardly the only movie of the era to pull a similar stunt.

Honorable mention to the 1976 cheesefest ‘Logan’s Run‘. While not necessarily a children’s film, it’s generally the sort of simplistic sci-fi parable that kids enjoy, and the majority of content in it is tame enough to be watched by a 10-year-old. That is, except for two wildly out-of-place moments, including a psychedelic slo-mo orgy and a jaw-dropping topless scene by gorgeous star Jenny Agutter. Neither has any particular bearing on the plot of the movie, but both were surely appreciated by teen boys and adult men of the day (not to mention by me today!).

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What allegedly family-friendly films have you seen with inappropriate content wedged into them? Tell us in the Comments.

48 comments

    • Mike

      I don’t really think movies that were released prior to the PG-13 rating count. You should know better than to let your kids watch Jaws.

      • Jon

        I’m aware of the time frame in terms of what ratings choices are available, but if my choices are PG or R when it comes to Jaws, there is no way I’d classify it as being on the PG end of the spectrum.
        A college girl is taken down in the first 5 minutes. The finale on the Orca? Unquestionably graphic. But I think the thing that puts it over the top is how an 11 year old boy is eaten and becomes a major plot point. We don’t see it take place, but we clearly see the boy in the 5 minutes leading up to then. What other PG movie puts a child in jeopardy and sees it through to where the child loses in the harshest possible way?

  1. Freakyguy666

    It’s interesting to point out the opposite end of this spectrum as well (i.e. PG movies that should be rated G). One example is Frozen. If anyone could explain why that movie is PG I’d appreciate it!

  2. Dan007

    Back to the future, rated PG… absolute classic in my book. I had watched this a couple years ago with my 5 year old boy, I did not remember how much “language” this movie had. To quote IMDB,

    “Four uses of “Shit”. There are also a dozen uses of “Hell” and “Damn”, and three uses of “Son of a Bitch” and “Bastard.” Two “Asses” and one “Asshole”. Two or three uses of “Go*damn”. The names, “Jesus” and “God” are misused a number of times. A black character is called “spook”.

  3. JM

    “Gun violence in PG-13 movies has more than tripled since 1985, and has become more prevalent in PG-13 movies than R-rated ones.”

    Hollywood is taking the blood and tits out of everything for how much more profit? 10%? Just to sell violence to a larger number of kids.

    Can we please go back to the days when the US government paid Hollywood to tell us who the action movie villains are. They should all wear grey sweat pants with USDA on the ass.

    Maybe if America’s children were eating higher quality fats/nutrients and their brains were developing correctly all this “clean” entertainment would be harmless instead of whatever it’s currently doing to their little plastic lobes.

    How many studies document the dangers of nipple?

    19 year old Angelina Jolie sideboob was PG in ’95 / *** by Roger Ebert.

    Barry Lyndon, I believe, had PG orgies in ’75.

    Disney’s ‘The Rescuers’ had that little topless lady in the window. ’97 VHS.

    The Fifth Elements.

    Romeo And Juliet – We had to be exposed to that shit in high school.

    The Simpsons Movie was child pornography.

    Now, ‘Airplane!’ is entirely classic. I would let babies watch it.

    ‘The Woman In Red’ was PG-13 full frontal, but it’s Gene Wilder, so…

    ‘Titanic’ is fine, because it’s Art.

    The copycat crimes post-’A Clockwork Orange’ I still wouldn’t ban a movie for.

    Maybe the reason American parents freak out about movie nudity is because it leads to Spring Break?

    Maybe if Francis M. Pottenger, Jr. Jr. showed four generations of cats ‘Spring Breakers’ on a loop, we could finally prove which causes which.

  4. JM

    Yes, please tell us what the comment filter censors.

    I’ve had so many sentences not be approved, some entire films are impossible to discuss.

    • Timcharger

      JM, I don’t think there was anything offensive in my comment. Seriously, honest.

      I was suggesting to Josh to bookmark some websites that would be resource for him in deciding what films are appropriate for his kids when they are older.

      I was actually trying to be helpful to the upcoming new father.

      • David Voss

        I think posting links in the comments are always placed in moderation. I know some of mine in the past were. It may just be the site’s policy and not a knock on you.

      • Yeah, it was probably the links. I have admin access and yet, when discussing GRAVITY a few months back, was limited to one or two outgoing URLs in one particular comment.

        You are not NC-17, Timcharger.

        Well, not in this one case. :)

          • Freakyguy666

            Apropos to this discussion regarding what was acceptable back in the 80′s vs now, is the fact that the late Paul Walker began dating his girlfriend when she was only 16 and he was 33. Yet I don’t believe anyone made a big deal of this…so I don’t think things have not really changed as much as some may lead you to believe.

      • Josh Zyber
        Author

        Tim, our spam filter automatically flags comments with multiple links off the site, regardless of what they are. 9 times out of 10, those posts are simply spam. The others, I have to review and approve. Sorry it took so long for me to do so, but I was offline most of the day on Friday.

    • Timcharger

      Bullsh*t it isn’t! F*ck, I’m naked as I type this. I’m smoking, too. And my middle finger is up in the air. :)

  5. 1. Congrats to Josh and Mrs. Z!!!

    2. I fucking love THE NEVERENDING STORY and THE SECRET OF N.I.M.H.

    3. I’m not sure when, should the Misses and I procreate successfully, I’ll be sharing certain movies with Palmer Jrs, but man the ’80s had some incredibly complex and terrifying movies aimed at us youngins, and I don’t think it was a bad thing at all.

    Granted, the first times I saw most movies then were via TV broadcasts, so language and nudity issues were reduced.

  6. I’ve never worried much about the adult content that I allowed my children to see growing up. I’ve always felt that the dangers of this have been way overblown. That being said, I was still taken aback in the Christmas season of 1992 when I took my 3 and 6 year old to see the PG rated Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. I had seen the first film and expected the same cartoonish violence but there was a point in the film when Kevin was on the roof of a building and he begins throwing bricks down on their hapless heads. I was amazed that nobody else seemed to see a difference in this. Silly, fanciful, Rube Golberg traps were one thing, but throwing bricks off the roof of a building was something all too easy to emulate.

  7. Clash of the Tits and Ass always comes to mind.
    Also pretty much all the James Bond movies with all the suggestive material and all the pimp slapping he did in his early days, plus the title sequences with the running naked ladies.
    Barbarella I believe is also PG rated, but early on, not only can you see the back of Fonda’s Honda for a quick second, you also see her topless. The whole movie is quite sexual like when she pays the hairy guy with old fashioned sex. Great family flick.

  8. EvilResident

    Uhhhhmmmm on topic… I am amazed at the language in Monster Squad. Still one of my favorite movies of all time, but woah.

    • “E.T.” has “penis breath” as an insult. Would that make the final cut in a movie aimed towards kids today? I doubt it.

      I grew up in Europe, so I always saw nudity and heard foul language in movies. It never bothered me.

  9. Elizabeth

    I always find it funny when I hear people talk about censoring what their kids can see or can’t. Except for porn, my parents let me (and my two older sisters) watch anything I wanted. One famous example is “Avenging Angel.” I had seen the commercials and thought the scene where Angel is standing over some creep and says, “When you get to hell tell them an angel sent you.” and then shoots him was really cool. So I asked my dad to rent it from the video store for me. Not only does he come home with it, but the two other films in the series that I was unaware of at the time (apparently there’s a 4th also). Never mind that they were rated R for both sexual content and violence and I was maybe 13. Nothing was off limits so long as it wasn’t in the room behind the curtain.

  10. Jonstamos

    I’ll nominate Disney’s The Black Hole. Anthony Perkins’ graphic (but bloodless) evisceration is the highlight of a movie with strange tone problems. You have ostensibly a family space adventure with zombie cyborgs, a mad scientist, plenty of death, and finally some weird heaven/hell ending with a resurrection motif.

    Shout out to a great cast though.

  11. malakai

    Not a movie but a children’s variety show called The Muppets.. Full of sexual innuendo.. If children only knew back then what they were watching… Of course, Roseanne made a lot of things a lot more clear for children. I had an aunt that considered Porkys porn, but she and her young children watched Roseanne every time it came on.

  12. I think under today’s standards even Roadrunner is considered PG.

    Most of the recent animated titles are PG.
    Despicable Me 2, Planes, Turbo, Monsters University, The Croods, Epic. Who’d a thunk, huh?

  13. William Henley

    I want to second The Never Ending Story. I thought I was single-handedly going on a crusade against this movie. I was about 5 when this movie came out, and every single parent I knew thought it was the greatest movie ever and the perfect babysitter. Problem was, me and my friends were all terrified by this movie, and I remember us crying whenever we were told we had to watch it. A giant rock coming to life, the boy’s horse dying, oh and that giant turtle – I would run and try to burry myself in the couch cushions whenever that scene came on. Giant snails, a Nothingness that is violently destroying the land and nothing anyone can do about it. Then there was the wolf chasing the boy around. Even though I always knew that part was coming, it scared me to death. I honestly cannot think of a movie that scared me and my friends more as a kid. Although….

    The Secret of NIMH may be a close second. Yep, I am seconding this movie. Now, this really isn’t a bad movie at all, I just don’t think it’s kid-friendly, mainly for the issues M mentioned above. It deals with themes that many young kids just do not have the mental capacity or the life-experience to handle. I think this movie is the perfect example of yet another rating that the MPAA needs to introduce (which television already seems to get) – a GA-7+ rating – ie this movie is safe for kids over the age of seven. I first saw this movie when I was four, and much like Never-Ending Story, this movie traumatized me as a child, and to this day, it is hard to watch this movie without it bringing up those childhood fears. I honestly think that if I had waited a couple of years more before I saw it, I would have been fine.

    An American Tail – I am going to put this in the same boat as NIMH – In fact, I could probably put all of Bleuth’s movies in this boat. There is nothing wrong with this movie per-say, but it deals with themes that really young kids will have trouble with, and why I really think there needs to be a GA-7+ rating. I was right at 7 when this movie came out, and by that age, I was old enough to understand many of the themes in this movie, and to understand that the world is not all guys riding in on horses to destroy the bad person and rescue the princess. It was almost empowering that I felt that I could grasp what this movie was about. This was not a movie as a child I wanted to watch over and over again, but at 7, I could understand what the movie was about. I don’t think I could have grasped it if I was any younger, though – the very idea of a child being seperated from his parents might be a bit traumatic for children in their early development years – at two, three, four, five years old a child needs to understand that the parents are going to be there for him, and that they have a stable home and family enviornment. Lack of that safty and stability can cause emotional scars that, even if the child does not show them on the surface, can affect them later in life. I think the key thing I am trying to get across is just because a movie is rated G doesn’t mean that it is safe for all children – movies should be introduced to children at proper development times of their lives. Bleuth’s movies are a perfect example of movies that need to wait until the child is about 7-8 years old.

    The Rescuers – Another movie that may need the GA-7+ rating (isn’t this a Bleuth movie as well?). Talk about a movie that I just could not grasp as a child – I just could not comprehend a child not being loved by anyone and being abused and put into life-threatening situations by people who were just were out there for their own greed. As an adult, I love this movie, but it is a little dark for young children.

    Return To Oz How the heck does this movie not have a PG-13 rating? At least they were smart enough not to slap G on this. Despite the fact that the movie just isn’t that good, it is pretty scary for a children’s movie. The movie starts out by pretty much saying “don’t tell anyone you have bad dreams, they will send you away to a horrible place where they will try to electricute your brain”. Then you have them land in the Deadly Desert, the beautiful Oz that we knew from the ’39 movie has been destroyed, it is overrun by Wheelers which are scary, you have a headless witch that steals people’s heads and keeps them on display locked up in cases, you can bring inanimate objects to life, you have the ground opening up and swallowing people, talking rocks again that brought back horrible memories of Never-Ending Story when I saw it, and then you can turn living people into inanimate objects (this was scary as a child who had a lot of energy and had trouble sitting still). This movie just totally missed it – it was too scary for its target audience and too stupid and corny for an older audience. It may be why very few people have ever seen this movie.

    Oz The Great and Powerful – Three of the four main characters in this movie are liars and deceivers and con-men. Your main character does use these “virtues” to save the people of Oz. I love this movie, but young children may get mixed messages from this.

    The Golden Compass – The main character’s biggest virtue is that she is a liar (in fact, she earns the nickname of Silvertounge), and the movie preaches that ANY authority is bad. The movie may also be scary for young children. I absolutely love this movie, but it is certainly not a family show – do you really want to teach your kids not to have any respect for anyone in an authority position, and to lie to get their way?

    Willie Wonka and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are probably other examples of movies that need a GA-7+ rating, mainly for a few scary moments.

  14. Doc Hollywood IS rated PG-13 just so everyone knows, that isnt a PG movie and topless scenes were quite common back in the day with PG-13 movies, I remember being quite fond of Critters 2 when that guys turns into the woman :)

    Most of those are great movies and I really cant think of anything else right off hand, but PG back in the day meant parental guidance and it was common to have adult themes and often some language and nudity then, now we care too much about that stuff and for some reason think its going to destroy our kids minds when HEY, we all watched this stuff as kids and turned out perfectly fine. Of course today the parents dont do any parenting it seems so the movie ratings boards feel like they have to do it for them

  15. Normal person

    Umm… Who cares?! Oh no, one bad word. Oh no, a little bit of nudity. Geez. You must be traumatized for life from older movies.

  16. Penguin

    You know, it’s called parental guidance for a reason. You the parent must decide not the mpaa. Plus if you are unsure about the content, look at a trailer, read a review, read a synopsis. If you think the scary animals will frighten your children don’t go. Also, in my mind, pg films are really meant for kids over 10 and under 14. You aren’t supposed to take 4 year old to jumanji or whatever

  17. RollTide1017

    My dad rented The Neverending Story when my sister and I were young and it scared us to death, we didn’t even make it half way thorugh. I have never watched it since, it’s just not a memory I care to revisit.

  18. Freakyguy666

    Apropos to this discussion regarding what was acceptable back in the 80′s vs now, is the fact that the late Paul Walker began dating his girlfriend when she was only 16 and he was 33. Yet I don’t believe anyone made a big deal of this…so I don’t think things have really changed as much as some may lead you to believe.

  19. Matt

    The craziest PG-rated film ever is ‘Sixteen Candles’. Not only does the sweet and innocent Molly Ringwald drop the F-bomb in the first 5 minutes but there is an actual close-up of bare breasts in a shower scene, the main character partaking in a fairly graphic “sex survey”, and many instances of sex talk and underage drinking and profanity. I can imagine some parents taking their teens or pre-teens to what probably sounded like a cute, harmless PG-rated film about a girl turning 16 and ended up mortified, or letting them go with their friends and hearing about it later. It was John Hughes first movie, so it wasn’t like anyone really knew what to expect. As a 13 year old, I had no complaints and my parents didn’t care, but I can only imagine the reactions from the more conservative parents.

  20. William Henley

    Is there any reason why comments in this thread seem to be thrown up randomly instead of in chronological / nested order?

  21. Now you’re in trouble Josh, you are gonna have twice the chance that one of your children is gonna dislike your opinion of the hobbit films.

    JK Congrats!!

  22. Buddy Love

    G.I. Joe was far more juvenile-focused than most action movies (in acting, plot, and marketing), yet seemed to delight in head-shots, torture, etc. It came off as a weird mismatch.