This Is Why ‘PG-13’ Is a Thing

2 minute read

Movie-going teenagers of the United States, say “thank you” to Indiana Jones.

Before 1984, the line between movies for kids and movies for grown-ups was an all-or-nothing proposition. Everyone under the age of 16 was lumped together, kept from rated-R showings unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. And then came Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The bloody blockbuster released that May was rated PG, much to the consternation of many parents. When Gremlins followed in June, it became clear that a movie might be neither adults-only nor kid-friendly–and the rating system needed a solution.

As TIME’s Richard Zoglin reported that June, the Hollywood establishment heard the complaints:

Last week the Motion Picture Association of America (M.P.A.A.) seemed close to making perhaps the most sweeping change in the rating system since it was established 16 years ago. Ready for unveiling is a new rating, known as PG–13, that would prohibit children under 13 from being admitted unless accompanied by a parent or adult guardian. The rating would presumably be used in the future for movies like Indiana Jones that are deemed acceptable for teen-agers but potentially harmful to younger children.

The PG–13 proposal has been endorsed by a number of studio chiefs and theater owners and by the chairman of the M.P.A.A. rating board. Even Spielberg, confessing in a TV interview that there were parts of Indiana Jones that he would not want a ten-year-old to see, advocated the creation of the new rating. The proposed change, however, has been opposed by M.P.A.A. President Jack Valenti. He argues that the current system is working well enough and that adding more classifications would cause more confusion. “Who is smart enough to say what is permissible for a 13-year-old and not for a twelve-year-old?”

It was on this day, July 1, in 1984, that Valenti announced that PG-13 was a go. The first PG-13 movie, Red Dawn, arrived in theaters that August.

Read the full story, here in the TIME Vault: Gremlins in the Ratings System

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