The overall content from the six major studios, Disney, Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers, Sony and Paramount, has substantially improved since the early 1990s. There are more movies being produced that reflect positive values and redemptive messages. I’m not sure a film like The Blind Side would have been made 15 years ago.
I believe there are four reasons that explain this turnaround in positive content as well as three issues that we should be concerned about. In other words, it’s not time to throw a party and celebrate yet.
Hollywood has abandoned medium-size and low-budget films. They are concentrating on what they call “tent pole” films. Today that is where the profits are. But it also means they must convince everyone to see their films. Otherwise they are looking at a financial disaster.
The new standard is PG-13. Hollywood has found an ally in the PG-13 rating and has turned it into a marketing tool. The PG-13 rating offers the best of two worlds. It’s appealing to teenagers and young adults because there’s just enough edgy material. But, at the same time, Hollywood has convinced you that it’s also family-friendly. It’s quite a balancing act. And with the right marketing approach, it can work. For this rating to be effective, Hollywood has traded in nudity and sensuality and replaced it with suggestive language and innuendos. Violence is still present, but it tends to be less graphic and more stylistic. The PG-13 rating also allows for a few choice words here and there.
Some have suggested that the PG-13 films of today resemble R-rated movies from the early 1990s. There’s no question that standards have changed over the past 15 or 20 years. Hollywood has decided to make less R-rated movies. Why make films that will restrict your audience. It’s bad business. The PG-13 rating allows Hollywood to appeal to a broader audience.
Family friendly is cool. Pixar has single-handedly recreated and redefined family-friendly movies since its conception of feature films in 1995 with the release of Toy Story. Since then, they have released one mega hit after another, including Finding Nemo, Cars, Walle, Monsters Inc., Up and most recently Toy Story 3.
What’s truly amazing about Pixar’s accomplishments is somehow they have made G-rated movies cool. Before they came on the scene, no self-respecting teenager would be caught dead watching a G-rated movie. But today Pixar appeals to everyone. How have they done it? They put the art of storytelling first and foremost. It’s always about the story. Through the use of CGI (computer generated images), they have created characters that are more fully human than humans appearing in live-action films. Because of Pixar, other studios have gotten on the family-friendly, G-rated band wagon. This helps to explain why there has been a 200% increase in family films since the early 1990s.