Is Disney pushing the boundary of PG13 with Marvel Universe Cross-Over?

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I am not a big fan of fast food chains that include promotional toys for PG13 rated films with kids meals. We don’t give them our money during those promotions. Cereal brands that pull the same trick are off the shopping list too. I think that it is pretty clear cut; if the kid isn’t old enough to see the movie based on its rating, then you shouldn’t be marketing to them. The same applies for TV commercials on cartoon networks that are clearly aimed at the younger set. Although, this is less clear, since some older kids and adults do watch these shows.

Even less clear cut is what I’m now encountering with Marvels cross-over between the PG13 rated feature film “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and TV PG rated ABC television show “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.”

In general, I won’t bring my son, who is 10 years old, to see a PG13 rated film unless I’ve seen it first (or get the okay from someone I trust who has seen it). Although I have seen the movie, I have not decided if Captain America: The Winter Soldier is okay for him to see. But let’s assume that I want him to wait till he’s a bit older.

There are things that happen in Captain America that will greatly change the direction of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, a show which we watch together (a father and son night). The last two episodes of AoS run pretty much concurrently with the event of The Winter Soldier. And already events in one have affected the other.

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I will give the AoS team the benefit of the doubt and assume they’ll fill in the blanks during Tuesday night’s show so that someone who only watches the show and not the movie will still be able to follow along. But there will undoubtedly be things my son would understand better had he seen the Marvel films, particularly The Winter Soldier.

Disney is trying to have it both ways. They want to reap the better box office results that comes with a PG13 rating (teens are known for rejecting PG rated movies as too wimpy), but also attract an audience younger than that rating by marketing the movie with a cross-over storyline in a PG rated TV show.

I resent Disney putting pressure on me to take the kid to see the PG-13 film so he gets the full experience. But on the other hand, I understand why they did it. In general, I think it’s great to have both Marvel TV and Marvel Cinematic operating in the same universe with the same characters. Still, I’d rather they follow the Lady Sif model of cross-over. There a character from the films was introduced, but (so far at least), the actions of that episode haven’t had far reaching implications in either the TV or movie universes.

Disney is usually pretty good about this. They don’t even promote their PG films with kids meal toys anymore. How do you feel about the cross-over between a PG13 film and a PG rated TV show? Should Disney discourage it? or is it okay to walk that line?

(Note: this story was updated slightly to clarify my main concern.)

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21 Responses to Is Disney pushing the boundary of PG13 with Marvel Universe Cross-Over?

  1. AW says:

    First of all, realize that film ratings are completely inconsistent and should not be relied upon, period. It’s highly likely that a PG vs PG-13 for this film is due to a fleeting bad word or an instance of violence that has a bit of blood. Also realize that they WANT the film to be rated PG-13, for marketing reasons. Teenagers likely think PG films are weak.

    Second, you’ve had almost a week. I don’t think Disney is to blame for your lack of diligence in resolving this. You do know there are websites online where parents make very detailed lists and summaries of all the content someone could ever hope to find objectionable, don’t you? I just did a Goggle search and found at least two right off the bat. They catalog everything one could ever care to know.

    Finally, you just may want to lighten up a bit in general. It’s your kid, your life, but since you are putting this out there in a blog, you are inviting comment. Nothing your kid is going to see in a Marvel film is going to somehow traumatize him, wreck him for life, or ruin his childhood. If there is something you don’t like, use it as a catalyst after to talk about right/wrong, whatever. Trying to control everything his eyes see and his ears hear is futile anyway, the real key is knowing how to deal with it as a parent after. At ten, unless he is homeschooled and has never had a conversation with peers out of your presence, I can assure you he has seen or heard things way way more objectionable things than you will find in this film.

    So make your guys night going out to see Captain America. Nice surprise for him. DVR the show for tomorrow night.

    • John Frost says:

      Ratings maybe inconsistent, but they are what the entertainment industry wants us to work with. If they WANT a film to be rated PG13 for box office reasons, that doesn’t exclude them from being held to a reasonable standard to not market to younger kids who they are, by choice, eliminating from potential box office totals. In other words, they can’t have it both ways.

      As for due diligence, I think you misread the post. I do my research like a responsible parent. It just so happens, I’m on the fence with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” But that’s neither here nor there in regards to the central question of this post. Should a PG13 movie have a tie-in with a PG TV show. My kid is 10, and you’re right, that’s probably on the border. But he’s a young ten and what if he was 7, 8, or 9. All acceptable ages for watching a PG show (although Agents of SHIELD does have a lot of fighting for a PG show, I may not let my 7 or 8 year old watch because of that, but that’s out of a personal desire to have him grow up slowly, not a complaint about the ratings system).

      Frankly, the argument of “he’s already been exposed to worse” is not a very good motivator to expose him to more. It makes me want to be more protective. I realize that’s probably folly. But again this isn’t about any one parent’s decisions to see or not see a PG13 movie with their children, it’s about a movie studio trying to have it both ways by marketing to young children via a cross-over story with a PG show, while simultaneously reaping the larger box office of a PG13 rated film. I want to read arguments for why Disney should avoid it the same way they avoided marketing movies with fast food toys or why it’s acceptable in this case. I’m not totally convinced either way at this point.

      • Aaron Morrow says:

        Television PG ratings aren’t consistent with film PG ratings. A program rated TV-PG DLSV would likely be rated PG-13 in theaters due to those content descriptors. Since Agents of SHIELD already has suggestive dialogue, coarse and crude language, sexual situations, and violence, I do not feel as if any boundaries are being crossed here. If television used TV ratings, I personally would have rated much of the series PG-13.

        Notice I’m not offering an opinion of whether or not any parent should let their kids watch the show and/or any Marvel movie. I just think that because TV-14 is often used for content that would get an R in the theaters, like The Walking Dead, it’s important to treat the ratings systems as separate entities.

      • John Frost says:

        This may be where my disconnect is. The rating systems appear to be connected because they use common ratings.

  2. Chris says:

    Hmm, that is an interesting point of view that I hadn’t thought of (probably because my daughter isn’t old enough to watch either yer).

    It would be poor storytelling to force someone to watch a movie in order to understand a show so your son is probably fine just watching AoS tonight – they will explain what’s relevant to the show and he can get filled in with the rest later.

    To your point, if Disney is going to walk that line, they should make it clear to audiences what’s on either side of the line.

  3. jeffk says:

    I’m going to have to side with AW here. If your 10-year-old is watching Agents of SHIELD every week—a show that has already featured the graphic shooting of a main character, an ongoing sexual relationship between two team members, and pretty gross footage of a man’s exposed brain being operated on while he’s awake and screaming—I don’t think there’s much for you to fret over in a PG-13 movie. Those ratings are arbitrary, and basing this argument on them kind of misses the point.

  4. Bob Brinkman says:

    JeffK nailed it in one. Keeping in mind that the series is PG, which means it may be unsuitable for children, the target audience for the show is the people going to see the movies.I have to agree that there are moments in SHIELD that I think would’ve been a little over the top for a kid to begin with.

    As for PG-13? PG-13 is more a marketing ploy than a rating. It allows studios to make a movie that seems “edgy” without it being R.

    If you don’t want your son to see the movie? That’s fine. However, I think that grumbling about the two films crossing (especially since TV and Movie ratings don’t match up) is a bit lame.

    • John Frost says:

      I’m not afraid to be wrong here. But I disagree with your assertion that ratings are just marketing ploys. They’re there because the system is intended to be useful for parents to help decide what shows and movies they should let their children watch. There is a difference between what is appropriate for the average 7-10 year old and the average 13-15 year old. At least that’s what the ratings are telling us. PG – Parental Guidance… be there to guide your kid is a lot less strict than PG13 – we recommend this film for teenagers and older with parental guidance.

      Finally, I’m not grumbling about the cross-over. I like the cross-overs. I’m just raising the discussion about whether it’s appropriate for a PG13 movie to cross over with a PG show in such a way that it requires watching the movie to get full entertainment value. Isn’t that Disney trying to have it both ways? Should they not be held to the standard (in this case PG13) they choose when doing their marketing?

      • Bob Brinkman says:

        PG-13 really is a marketing ploy. Indeed, it is the target for most movies this day because an R means a reduced audience while a PG means reduced interest from males 18-24.

        Keep in mind that Sheena (Rated PG) had frontal nudity, and current PG-13 movies often have more violence than 1980′s era R movies. Often it is just a strange little cut that makes the difference between R and PG-13.

        It took the cutting of 13 seconds of footage to take Lockout from an R to a PG-13.

        It took the cutting of 5 seconds of footage (Coulson’s actual impalement) to take Avengers from R to PG-13.

        Frozen was given a PG rating for “mild action and rude humor” while the Little Mermaid (rated G) showed the impalement of Ursula.

        PG-13 movies simply make more money. Period. Indeed, every movie in the “Marvel Cinematic Universe” has been PG-13. If you look at PG-13 movies, you can see a slide in both directions towards movies being rated PG-13 whether they really should be or not.

        Still, an interesting topic for discussion.

  5. Brian says:

    It’s a bit of apples and oranges…TV ratings don’t line up 100% with movie ratings. In addition, each episode is rated individually, so the series itself is not rated TV-PG, the episodes are. If one steps further toward more mature, it would be bumped up to TV-14. And I think TV ratings are often under-rated.

    Also, to call this a “crossover” is a stretch. Cap isn’t showing up. The effects of the movie are showing up, but they will do so in a way that you do NOT need to have seen CA:WS, but if you did, it would “enhance” it.

    • John Frost says:

      There are characters from the movie that were in the TV show. It’s a cross-over or if you want to call it ‘shared universe’ that’s fine too. The point about having it both ways still stands. But I do appreciate that TV ratings and movie ratings don’t line up. I did a quick survey of Agents of SHIELD and did not see any TV-14 episodes. But I may have missed one.

      I’m okay with ‘enhancement’ of the story via a shared universe. I suspect that is all it will be tonight. My post was titled ‘pushing the boundary’ not wiping it out.

  6. DFT says:

    As others have already noted, tv ratings and movie ratings aren’t the same. Having said that, I have found as much or more objectionable content on Agents of SHIELD than in most Marvel movies. I frequently fast-forward or skip parts of SHIELD when watching with my kids. There’s more sexual content and innuendo in the tv show than in any of the marvel films (except Iron Man).

  7. George says:

    Cap: WS is more intense than AOS thanks to the screen size, sound system and duration (and the SFX budget that allows for, like, 17 trillion more bullets in WS), but the actual outcomes and types of violence are comparable (just not the scope), and the sexual content in AOS is arguably more direct and explicit than in the Marvel movies. I think Disney/Marvel welcome as many eyes to their product as possible, but I think the marketing for ALL of their films and tv shows is directed towards teen and young adult males, and I don’t know that anyone at the studio is intending for these to be marketed to different audiences at all. If they get rated differently, so be it, but I think Disney/Marvel intends them to be for the same audience.

  8. Earl says:

    Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is a spin off of the Avengers, and the events of The Avengers, which was PG -13, created Coulson’s current character on the show. In the fall, AoS featured content in the fall that crossed over to Thor: The Dark World, which was PG-13, so I don’t see an issue with a Cap crossover.

    A quick search of IMDB shows that there isn’t a single movie in the Disney – Marvel Universe that is not PG -13, and all of them influenced the story of S.H.I.E.L.D. Why be upset now 22 episodes in, when the show has always been based on PG-13 content?

  9. Joe Sethers says:

    I think you are making a serious mountain out of a molehill. You can raise your kids how you see fit but honestly, there is nothing in that show that’s wrong nor is Disney “pressuring” you. to take your kids to see things. And how a poor kid would want to watch Agents of SHIELD is beyond me haha.

    Nothing in CA2 would keep me from taking my 11 yr old daughter. She’s a pretty mature 11 yr old though.

  10. Ernie says:

    I understand John’s point here and was in a similar situation with my 7 year old son and Star Wars. My son is developmentally delayed and when he gets fixated on something it is hard for him to control his obsession. His particular one was Angry Birds, then AB: Star Wars, then AB: Star Wars two and now Lego Star Wars. The problem is that it exposed him to this world that in some ways he is ready for but in a lot of ways he is not. My wife and I agreed that he can watch the movies but only with me in one area so I can judge and adjust to his reactions. We have watched all six movies and now are watching the Clone Wars. I allow him to watch the lego series on his own. Back to point – Disney is banking on all of us Marvel fans to get our kids involved in the universe by targeting them with Cartoons on Disney XD and AOS and the movies. It is a catch 22 for them because of the reputation that comes with the name. We expect them to help us police the content, but in reality we know our kids better then anyone else. Should they do the crossovers I actually think they should. It enhances the experience and entices the viewers. For younger viewers you may need to fill in some gaps ( I have to do it with my wife and she watches the movies with me). Just think of it like this, in a few years when your son is old enough you can watch the movies and then go back and watch AOS on demand again and rediscover the joys you are having now is a whole different way,

  11. Jeff says:

    I really don’t think you have to worry too much about the newer versions of these Marvel films. If you consistently watch AoS then you should have no problem with CA: WS. I took my son to see The Avengers when he was 6. I hesitated and went on the last day playing in the theaters in New Jersey. I asked friends who saw it and said for a few moments with Coulson, all would/should be ok. That said, my son is a Marvel fan for life. I am even into it now. We also share AoS on Tuesdays. For Christmas I received the brief case containing, IM, IM2, Hulk, Thor, CA, and The Avengers. We have only watched IM and IM2. My son had the most angst and got upset when the middle eastern men were rounding up the women and children and beating up the men. TOO REAL FOR HIM. Hulk is definitely next then Thor. Told to watch in order. We want to speed up the process so we can still watch IM3, Thor2, and then catch CA: WS in theaters. I think we have a few weeks to do that.
    With this being said, he watched last night with his mom because I had a meeting and the first thing he did was jump in bed this morning and asked if he could tell me one thing that happened at the end at which I yelled NO! We are planning on watching tonight. He’s already thrilled to watch it again.
    I don’t think your 10 year old has anything to worry about.

    • John Frost says:

      Thanks Jeff. Again I’m not worried about my 10 year old and whether he’s ready or not. I’m concerned about Disney marketing movies for older kids on shows they’re encouraging younger kids to watch. I think it’s a gray area and am interesting in hearing if people think Disney went too far this time.

  12. Bob Brinkman says:

    I just saw the movie today. To be fair? I don’t know as I’d take a 10 year old to see it. It is a great movie, (Captain America meets Three Days of the Condor) but there is some stuff in there that yeah… I wouldn’t take a 10 year old to see.

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