The R rating. It's a powerful rating. The rating can really alter a film. If Spider Man was rated R and Spider Man 2 was rated PG they would look like two completely different films even with the same actors, director, and crew. The R rating has drawn a lot of controversy since it's conception. The R rating is meant to keep children and teens from viewing inappropriate films, but does it really make sense?
A film can get slapped with R pretty easily. In almost all cases, if a film uses the F-word more than 3 times, its given an R, if used in sexual context once, it is R, pervasive profanity also gets hit with an R. Heavy drug use and references, graphic and gory violence and torture, and graphic sex and even non graphic and sexual references can warrant R. There has been a few instances where PG-13 was granted instead; Titanic for one. Many adult themes can warrant R, but those above are the most common.
Now what's the problem with that? Kids don't need to hear the F-word 80 times or see bodies being mutilated, right? Well, right. But the problem with R is that it is too broad and too restrictive. The definition of the R rating is "no one under 17 admitted without parent or legal guardian." So, technically a 16 year old can't see Ted by himself even though the movie would appeal to him. Many theaters - like the one in my hometown, are cracking down hard. Parent's can't buy R rated tickets and give them to their kids the parent has to see the movie with them. Why? Is the parent going to shield their eyes and cover their ears? Why take them to the movie in the first place? You also can't buy more than one R rated ticket until you're 21. Really?
Most kid's and teens now a days play M rated video games, which is equal to R. Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Gears of War, Assassin's Creed, etc. 14, 13, and even 12 year old's play these games on a regular basis. If the games were made into movies, some, such as Call of Duty, may be produced to be rated PG-13 so the 12 and 13 year old's could see it, but R-rated content is still in the games. My generation is a lot different than my parents. Spend a day at a typical high and even middle school and you will be surprised at how many F and S-words, sexual jokes, and drug talk you would hear. Some teens can't see these movies, but yet they talk like that themselves. Why restrict them if they already hear it at school and play it on TV?
Various alternatives for the R rating is splitting it in two. R and Hard R - which has been proposed. R is too broad; Paranormal Activity 2 could be a PG-13, but the F-word was used around 9 times. 15 and 16 year old's would appeal to PA, but they can't see it. The King's Speech had PG level themes, but the F-word was used 12 times. It was argued that it was used as a form of dramatic expression and not as an expletive, but KS still was branded with an R (and later re-released as PG-13). Then you have movies like Texas Chainsaw, Saw, Superbad, Hangover, and American Pie. They are on the other end of the spectrum and deserve to be R. So how can Paranormal Activity 2 and Saw receive the same rating?
I think a rating such as 'SC-15' should be created. Movies like Paranormal Activity and lighter R-rated movies such Argo would benefit. PG-13 can also be too broad. Some PG-13 movies such as The Dark Knight or The Hunger Games really are too intense for PG-13, but would be backlashed for R. The Dark Knight would be perfect for SC-15. As long as you're over 15, you can go by yourself. Then the R rating can really make use of "no one under 17 admitted without a parent." SC-15, PG-15, NU-15, whatever, as long as the 15 is there.
Ratings really are optional. Spider Man didn't have to be rated, the MPAA is not a law, but Sony Pictures wouldn't release it that way. All mainstream movies will receive a rating because it is standard and helps identify the audience. 16 year old's may not be able to see Ted in theaters, but their parents will still buy it at Christmas for them, the same way they'll buy Call of Duty. I'm not saying get rid of the R rating, it really needs to be here, even bringing back a modified X rating is an option. I'm 19 so I don't really care what rating the movie is, but I believe that some rating between PG-13 and R should be implemented or the R rating should be split to separate the Paranormal Activity's from the Hangover's. Will this problem get fixed? We may some day see.