The rating descriptors of movies rated by the MPAA vary greatly. The main purpose of these descriptors is to provide detailed information on the objectionable content that contributed to that film’s rating and are usually grouped under different levels of violence, profanity, sexual content, nudity, alcohol or substance use, and thematic material.
Initially used for films rated R in 1990, descriptors were encompassed for all ratings except G-rated films as an overwhelming majority of those films have little to no material that would offend parents for viewing by their kids.
Ratings also factor based on a film’s target audience, how people pay attention to them, and how they make sense.
Most MPAA rating descriptors make use of intensity words to convey the level of content of each category present. These include:
|Brief||This type of content occurs in only one scene.|
|Mild||Any type of content that isn’t severe or harsh.|
|Some||This type of content occurs in at least two or more scenes, but does not appear throughout the film.|
|Strong||Any type of content that is either graphic or coarse.|
|Pervasive||This type of content is prevalent throughout the film.|
Sometimes you may see other adjectives that don’t fit with the ones above. Below are some examples of what I compiled.
|A substantial amount of X||Strong or pervasive|
Unblurring the Lines Between Certain Descriptors
A number of descriptors may be identical to the amount of content present in the films the MPAA rates, and some may be confusing, so let me unblur these lines in the following descriptors.
|Sexual content||Film includes references to sex or sexuality, or in some cases some sexually suggestive material, but no nudity.|
|Sexuality||Film includes scenes of simulated intercourse without any references or dialogue.|
|Crude and Sexual Content/Humor||Film includes sexual references intended to be humorous in nature.|
Now, let me include the adjectives that can help you unblur the lines between certain descriptors.
|Bloody||Includes realistic blood and/or mutilation of body parts.|
|Action||Includes aggressive behavior against an individual, community, or themselves.|
|Grisly||Content intended to cause horror or disgust. Usually reserved for violence.|
|Disturbing||Same as above, but not as intense.|
|Bodily humor||Equivalent to crude humor, anything involving flatulence and belching would fall under here.|
|Scary||Contains material that could potentially frighten small children.|
Here are some suffixes that would accompany some descriptors.
|Content||Mostly reserved for sexuality, but can be used for violence (for example, disturbing violent content).|
|Images||Mostly reserved for the adjectives above (for example, grisly images, scary images, or disturbing images)|
|Material||Usually reserved for sexuality or substance.|
Examples involving Video Games
During the process of establishing a video game rating system, it was a shame the MPAA couldn’t step in and rate all games in the same way as films. If they did, then it wouldn’t make the process as confusing and parents could use the same ratings as films when deciding on games to buy for their kids.
|Grand Theft Auto V (2013)||Rated R for strong violence and pervasive language throughout, some graphic crude and sexual content/nudity, drinking, and drug use|
|Doki Doki Literature Club (2018)||Rated R for some disturbing violent content and bloody images, language, and suggestive references.|
|Omori (2020)||Rated R for disturbing thematic material involving suicide, violent images, and brief strong language.|
|Maneater (2020)||Rated R for graphic shark attacks and grisly images, some crude and sexual content, and language.|
|Gal*Gun (2011 – present)||Rated R for sexual material throughout – all involving teens.|
Half the Persona series is rated R, sexual material being the reason why. Below are the MPAA conversions of all games that carry a restricted rating.
|Persona 3||Rated R for some sexual content including nudity, language, and violent images.|
|Persona 4||Rated R for language throughout, and for some sexual content and violent images.|
|Persona 5||Rated R for violence and disturbing images, some sexual content including nudity, brief strong language, and drug material.|
Let me touch on the games that would end up being rated NC-17, alongside their censored counterparts.
|Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas||Rated NC-17 for strong graphic violence and pervasive language including offensive slurs throughout, an explicit sex scene, and drug use.|
Rated R for strong violence and pervasive language including offensive slurs throughout, some graphic sexual content, and drug use.
|Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two||Rated NC-17 for explicit sexual content/nudity throughout, brief strong language, and some violent images including sexual assault.|
|Dungeon Travellers 2||Rated NC-17 for bizarre sexuality/nudity, language, and some bloody images.|
Rated R for sexual content/nudity, language, and some bloody images.
|Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude||Rated NC-17 for explicit sexual content/nudity and pervasive language throughout, and for some drinking.|
Rated R for pervasive crude and sexual content including nudity and language throughout, and for some drinking.