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The Batman’s PG-13 Rating Backlash Explained (& Why It’s Absurd)

There has been a sizeable amount of backlash to The Batman receiving a PG-13 rating but said backlash has been absurd from its conception. There’s a perception among some communities that a film needs an R rating to be marked as a truly serious product since R-rated movies usually don’t have kids going to see them. Not only is that idea subjective at its core, but the elements that determine if a movie will be rated PG-13 or rated R are fairly simple and irrelevant to the story, and it usually takes a lot for an R rating to come about.

One of the key marketing aspects of The Batman has been pushing it as a dark and serious take on the Batman franchise. Director Matt Reeves has stated that the film will be a psychological noir thriller that emphasizes Bruce’s detective skills, something previous movies haven’t given a lot of attention to. Batman stories with darker atmospheres that are more grounded in reality, such as Year One, The Long Halloween, Ego, and Zero Year, were cited as influences. The trailers and promotional images released for the movie further cemented the idea with violent and dark imagery coupled with dark music courtesy of Michael Giacchino. The Riddler, who is usually known to be one of Batman’s campier villains, is even portrayed as a dark and serious figure in terms of both looks and personality, with Reeves even citing the Zodiac Killer as inspiration for his character.

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All of those elements led to many people wanting the movie to have an R rating, and as such, many people were disappointed when the movie was announced to have a PG-13 rating. Since R-rated movies are perceived as being more adult by design, many people believe that it’s necessary if a movie wants to be as dark and serious as possible, which is what a lot of people wanted out of The Batman. That, however, is a popular misconception; a movie rating isn’t as restrictive on the content and subject matter a movie can have as some people think, so a PG-13 rating for Reeves’ The Batman won’t make it any less dark than it would be with an R rating.


PG-13 vs. R: How Movie Ratings Work


Many people associate R-rated movies with mature content because an R rating means that children are less likely to see it—willingly or otherwise—than they would be to see a PG-13 movie, but that’s usually not the case. The major factors determining a movie’s rating are violence, language, drug use, nudity, and sex. Most of those are either not allowed in G and PG-rated movies or not allowed in excess, and for PG-13 movies, it’s actually not hard to keep it from being pushed into an R rating. Sex and drug use don’t have specific criteria for keeping a movie PG-13, but nudity that’s either excessive or sexually-oriented will garner an R rating; a PG-13 movie can be heavily violent, so long as it’s not realistic and extreme or persistent; finally, profanity is fine, so long as sexually-derived words such as the F word aren’t used multiple times.


None of what goes into the decision to rate a movie PG-13 instead of R involves the actual story; it’s all factors that are usually not vital to the plot. The 2011 documentary Bully, for example, has content matter designed for children, yet it was initially released unrated simply for excessive profanity. More recently, Zack Snyder’s Justice League received an R rating for having more violence and profanity than the original Justice League, despite the overall story being mostly the same, save for a few changes and additions, and Demon Slayer: Mugen Train received an R rating when it was released in the West for how violent it was, despite the actual plot not being any darker than the rest of the series. The tone and overall story of the movie usually don’t factor heavily into its rating. In that regard, it makes sense that The Batman having a dark and serious story wouldn’t automatically give it an R rating.


What The Batman’s PG-13 Rating Means For The Movie


Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne in The Batman

As previously stated, The Batman being rated PG-13 shouldn’t affect the overall story. Despite the rating, the movie can still be very dark and mature with its story, as the story’s tone isn’t a major factor in deciding its rating. So long as it doesn’t exceed the guidelines for violence, language, drug use, nudity, and sex, there isn’t much to keep DC’s The Batman from being as dark as it wants.

Related: Why Nightmare On Elm Street 5’s Director Wanted To Make It PG-13

In regards to those categories, there’s still a lot that The Batman can do despite its rating. The movie can be violent, so long as it doesn’t get excessive or have too much gore, it can use profanity, so long as it doesn’t have a lot of sexually-derived language, nudity is okay if it’s only a little bit and none of it is sexually oriented, and there aren’t any specific restrictions for how much sexual content and drug use can feature in it. All in all, the restrictions of being PG-13 shouldn’t be anything too hard for the movie to contend with.


Why The Batman’s PG-13 Backlash Is Absurd


All of this leads to the backlash against Reeves’ The Batman being PG-13 makes no sense. Many people say that an R rating would have allowed it to be as dark and mature as possible, but as previously discussed, a movie’s rating usually doesn’t have a large effect on the general tone of the movie, and a PG-13-rated movie can usually be as dark as R-rated movie without any serious issue. This has been the case with many movies over the years, and superhero movies like The Batman are one of the most noteworthy examples.

In the grand history of superhero movies, there are comparatively few examples of movies receiving an R rating; two noteworthy examples are Watchmen and the Deadpool movies, but both of those movies received their ratings for factors such as violence and nudity, not because of the tone of their stories. Beyond those two outliers and a few others, most superhero movies usually receive PG-13 ratings because nothing they do regarding violence, language, drug use, nudity, or sex is done in a way that would justify an R rating. Batman movies have been no exception to this, as every previous Batman movie has been rated PG-13, at worst, despite many of them also featuring dark and serious content. Even Batman Returns and The Dark Knight, which were both notably dark for what usually passed for a superhero movie, were only rated PG-13, so it’s clear that a superhero movie can do a lot with a PG-13 rating.


The main reason why many superhero movies receive PG-13 ratings is likely because kids and teenagers are the intended audiences, and, as previously mentioned, it would be harder for them to be able to see an R-rated movie. Keeping superhero movies PG-13 allows for more accessibility from the target audience. At the end of the day, reaching as many people as possible is what the studios will prioritize. Even with that, of course, it should be readily apparent that a PG-13 rating only limits a movie in some relatively minor ways, so even with a PG-13 rating, there’s still plenty that The Batman can do while still telling a good story.

More: Michael Keaton’s Batman Secret Is Why Robert Pattinson Will Be Great

  • The Batman (2022)Release date: Mar 04, 2022
  • DC League of Super-Pets (2022)Release date: May 20, 2022
  • Black Adam (2022)Release date: Jul 29, 2022
  • The Flash (2022)Release date: Nov 04, 2022
  • Shazam! Fury of the Gods (2023)Release date: Jun 02, 2023
  • Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2022)Release date: Dec 16, 2022
  • Blue Beetle (2023)Release date: Aug 18, 2023

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