That PG-13 Rating Isn’t Telling the Whole Story…

Last Saturday, my seventh-grader and her girlfriend wanted a ride to the movies. Now that they're in middle school, they're allowed the little bit of freedom that comes with being dropped at the Cineplex, buying movie tickets and a snack, watching the film and then waiting at the theatre's front entrance for me to pick them up.

The girls checked the paper for a “chick flick.” Sure enough, a new movie starring Mandy Moore as the president's daughter just opened, and would run on two screens all afternoon. The girls could drift off on a Hollywood fantasy in less than an hour, Chasing Liberty across Europe in the hope that Mandy, already lucky enough to be Mandy, would also get the guy and live happily ever after. The movie's PG-13 rating is supposed to reassure me that it's appropriate for young teens.

Since the girls approached me for permission to go to the movies while I sat at my computer, I clicked to check out their selection. If you don't know, you should — especially if you're a parent.

Unlike other review sites,'s goal is to convey the facts about films rather than just a reviewer's opinion. Several topic areas are used to evaluate the movie, including violence, guns and weapons, blood and gore, sex and nudity, profanity, disrespectful behavior and bad attitudes, alcohol and drug use, smoking, imitative behavior, jump scenes and even tense or inappropriate music. In each of these categories, rates a movie's content as light, moderate, heavy or excessive.

Scrolling down, the site describes in detail each incident that might cause concern in the film, even listing the number of times certain swear words are used, and the exact nature of the nudity or sexual situations presented. The site also includes links to other reviews of the movie, as well as a review “on the merits.”

According to, Chasing Liberty depicts “moderate” alcohol consumption and imitative behavior. This is because Mandy's character gets drunk before making the moves on her target guy. The film is “heavy” on content featuring nudity and sex, and for disrespectful behaviors. It earned these rating because of the partial nudity we catch as Mandy's character flashes her naked bod at said guy, to whom she later loses her virginity (off screen…what a relief). She also apparently sports a bad attitude toward authority figures, especially the secret service team assigned to protect her. Are we surprised?

On the upside, there are no jump scenes (thank the Lord… we wouldn't want the kids in the audience to be surprised); it also says the film is “moderate” for “topics to talk about.” I'll say.

What our daughters watch in the movie theater matters to their self-image and their perception of what behaviors are appealing to others — especially to boys. If you agree, and unless you want to send the message that Mandy's on-screen antics are appropriate, you'd better “screenit” first.

It's a shame, really. These girls wanted to watch a wholesome “first love” story. Why are those so few and far between?

Oh, right. Hollywood.

Suffice to say, the girls went bowling on Saturday instead.

(Marybeth Hicks is a writer and author of the features “then again.” and “A View from the Pew.” A wife of 17 years and mother of four children from first grade to freshman year, she uses her columns to share her perspective on issues and experiences that shape families and the communities we share. Marybeth began her writing career more than 20 years ago in the Reagan White House. She also has worked in marketing and public relations positions in corporate and agency settings. Mostly, she spends a lot of time in her mini-van, where the real work of parenting actually happens. Learn more about Marybeth and her column at

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