PG-13 vs. R-rated gun violence:Is there a difference?

November 24th, 2013

Last week, the Associated Press released a study on gun violence in movies rated either PG-13 or R. The study was performed by The Ohio State University and the Annenburg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The study found that the occurrence of gun violence in PG-13 movies has increased over time to match that of R-rated films. In recent years, PG-13 gun violence has actually exceeded its R-rated counterpart.

The PG-13 rating was first used in 1984. The study found that since 1985, PG-13 gun violence has tripled its original rate of occurrence.

In the study, over 900 films were reviewed for their violent content. These movies were among the 30 top-grossing films each year since 1950. The study defined the scenes involving gun violence as “the firing of hand-held guns with the intent to harm or kill a living being.” This particular study also included animated movies. It found that as recently as 2012, gun violence was more prominent in PG-13 movies than those that were rated R.

This entertainment trend reflects current events all too well. Random “lone-wolf” shootings – whether they take place at elementary schools, marathon races or the Navy Yard – can appear to be virtually commonplace in today’s world. When these tragedies occur, the political left begins to rally for stricter gun control while conservatives fight for their right to protect themselves. The gun control debate increases in magnitude after public shootings happen, and eventually subsides over time. In movies, the violence ends, the villain is apprehended and order is restored – all in less than three hours. Unfortunately, the real world is far more complex.

One of the authors of the study, Daniel Romer, said, “Parents need to realize that just because a movie has been rated PG-13 does not mean that their 13-year-old should go to see it.” Romer also emphasized the effects of violence in the media on the actions of viewers. He said, “There has been a long line of research showing that continued exposure to screen violence among children, mainly on TV, predicts the emergence of later aggressive behavior,” said Rumer.

Does this trend indicate that the common adage “sex sells” should be replaced with “violence sells”? According to IMDB, the most popular movies released or set to be released in 2013 include “Thor: The Dark World,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” and “Ender’s Game” as the top three on the list. These particular movies boast a plethora of violent scenes, especially involving children.

The trend of violence hasn’t just restricted itself to movies. TV shows and video games have been affected, as well. Just this past October, gory post-apocalyptic “The Walking Dead” dominated the ratings game with a season premiere audience of over 16 million. According to IMDB, the most popular video game of 2013 is “Grand Theft Auto V.” The latest in this series of games is no less bloody or disturbing than its predecessors. Guns and violence have seeped into multiple forms of media.

Editor’s Note: Information from this article was found on, and