Here's a question for you: Would you let your 10-year-old watch one of the Indiana Jones movies?
For me, it's without hesitation. Yes.
They seem so benign, don't they?
Sure, there are some guns, and there is violence. But the stylized nature of the films, and the limited number of battle scenes relative to what else we see these days -- whether it be cartoons, video games or other movies -- makes it seem innocuous.
That was not the case in the spring of 1984.
As the second Indiana Jones movie was set for release, there was a relatively major uproar over the film's PG rating.
If you don't recall Temple of Doom, well, good. It was the worst of the franchise, and if Sean Connery had not helped save the series in 1989, the second movie may have been the "jump the shark" moment for Indy.
It was simply not very good.
However, the film was highly anticipated after the first blockbuster, and after the storyline became known, a lot of people were worried about the concept of having a child in the film being put in harm's way.
According to the May 21, 1984, edition of the New York Times, famed director Steven Spielberg himself admitted he would not allow his 10-year-old to see the movie.
The ads for the movie included this line: "This film may be too intense for younger children."
The disclaimer today might be that the movie is too cheesy for any audience, but I digress. (And by the way, I put the first film right up there with Star Wars in terms of how much I loved it.)
Beyond the debate on the Indiana Jones sequel, there had been growing clamor in the U.S. to insert a new film rating between PG and R. Temple of Doom reignited the national conversation and actually helped prompt real action.
Just months later, in the summer of 1984, the PG-13 rating was added.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Aljean Harmetz's NYT story on this was the diminished role of the X rating.
According to the article, an X rating was respectable for a serious adult movie in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange received an X, as did Last Tango in Paris.
But by the 1980s, the connotation for an X-rated movie was that it was pornography.
Here's an interesting water-cooler stat for you: In 1973, 28 movies received an X rating. In 1983, only one did.
When looking at today, most parents don't hesitate to bring a 10-year-old to a PG-13 movie.
Is that a good thing?
I have no idea. But it does show that the ratings system may need yet another tweak and may merit some actual enforcement.
Having said that, I probably would show any of the Indiana Jones movies to my 6-year-old boy. Maybe I'm just a bad parent -- and not just for wasting 118 minutes of his time on Temple of Doom.
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