Hey friends, welcome back! Today, I’m doing last Friday’s Let’s Talk Bookish discussion. As always, Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, hosted by me and Dani @ Literary Lion, where we discuss certain topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.
This Friday’s topic was: Should Books Have Content Ratings? (Dani)
This is Dani’s topic for the month, and it’s an interesting question that I haven’t really thought of before. I feel like books kind of do already have content ratings, but it just isn’t on the level of the ratings for movies/tv shows.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
I feel like books do already have some content ratings, by way of age groups. Books are already classified as Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult, etc and that kind of serves as a content rating that gives you an idea of the themes that might be included or discussed in the book.
But what is a content rating exactly? According to Wikipedia:
A content rating usually places a media source into one of a number of different categories, to show which age group is suitable to view media and entertainment.Wikipedia
So technically, we kind of already do that in the book industry. However, it’s not the exact same as content ratings for movies/tv shows are.
One book classified as Adult could be very explicit while another book classified as Adult could be rather clean. You really won’t know unless you do your research about the book. It being classified as Adult just tells you that the characters are Adults and that it’s intended audience isn’t kids/teenagers. Does it mean that it’s inappropriate for kids or teenagers to read? Maybe for kids, but I think some teenagers would be perfectly fine reading it depending on what it’s about.
In contrasts, with movies/tv shows, if it’s rated PG-13 or R (in the US), then you know that it’s not clean and/or it’s really violent. Basically, it’s most definitely not suitable for kids, and if it’s R, then not for teenagers either without adult supervision.
Should books have ratings like movies do? In my opinion, I don’t think it would hurt if they do.
I don’t really see a negative of having similar content ratings for books; it can save parents, and even kids, a lot of time because the rating gives them an idea of how appropriate the book is for their child/for themselves. And some people might not even care about the ratings, so it’s a win for those who do want to know, and it doesn’t hurt those who don’t care.
Or maybe it could hurt them. I guess it could possibly stigmatize a book and make readers self-conscious of who knows what they’re reading because the rating makes it seem like a very inappropriate book. I mean, for example, what would The Poppy Way be rated as if it had a content rating? PG-13 would be much too mild for some things that happen in it, so R? It would be really awkward to recommend an “R-rated” book when according to the rating, it’s too “old/inappropriate” for even myself.
There’s already a slight stigma that comes with reading a book outside of your age range, and content ratings might just make it worse. However, I can’t deny that it also has its positives and would help a lot of parents who want to watch what their kids are reading.
I’m not really well versed in movies, I don’t think I’ve even watched a movie rated PG-13 before, so I’m not sure if I can really compare the two. But based on how I understand it, say a 13 year old wanted to watch an R-rated movie, and their parents couldn’t care less. Maybe if they went to a movie theatre, then they could be refused admission without a parent/guardian because of the rating. But if they watched it at home using an online streaming service, I don’t see how they could be stopped from doing so. Sure, it might ask if they’re over 18, but if that kid really wants to watch it, they’d just say yes and voila, they get to watch it.
I don’t actually know if that’s how it works, but I’m just hoping that it’s something like that.
Similarly, if a 13 year old wanted to read an adult book, there’s literally nothing to stop them from doing so. Nothing. Except their parents, and if their parents don’t care, then yeah, they can read whatever they want.
Now, I don’t know how normal it is for kids to watch movies that they “aren’t supposed to” but if it is as often as I’m guessing (kids are kids. they totally would) then content ratings don’t really stop them. Likewise, even if there were content ratings for books, I don’t think it would stop them either. So it really would only matter for parents or people who want it and the rest of the world just wouldn’t care.
Besides the potential stigma that might come with content ratings, I don’t think there’s any other negative of including them. If a kid so badly wants to read an Adult book, they will, ratings or no, so nobody else really loses anything. And people can get over stigmas eventually, so I don’t think there’s much harm in including content ratings.
Is it the responsibility of parents or should there be a standard book rating system to deem what’s appropriate?
This is one of the questions that Dani asked that I wanted to address.
I think it’s the responsibility of parents to deem what’s appropriate for the kids, and a rating system could help them with that. However, I don’t think there should be an authority that deems what’s appropriate. Most likely, that authority is going to use a system that will be based on ages to deem what’s appropriate, and as a kid who’s suffered plenty because of age restrictions that don’t take into account the fact that I’m not like most kids my age (not that I blame them
too much), that system would easily become my number one enemy.
I would positively hate it and it would take the joy out of reading for me, because I won’t be able to read my kind of books. Imagine having to be stuck reading Young Adult all the time until you turn 18.
That. would. be. torture. I would be physically in pain if I have to deal with all that teenage angst and drama all the time.
So no. I don’t there should be a rating system that deems what’s appropriate, but there can be a system that tells you what to expect in a book, and parents can use that to decide for their kids. The difference between the two is that one tries to say what’s appropriate for certain people without knowing them, while the other just states what to expect from the book without trying to restrict certain readers.
And those are my two cents for the day.
Be sure to visit Dani’s LTB post to join the linkup!
Some questions for you:
- Do you think books should have content ratings? Why do you think they don’t already do?
- Is it the responsibility of parents to determine what’s appropriate, or should there be a system that does that?
- Do you think content ratings would create a stigma that hurts some readers?
- Confession time: have you ever watched a movie that was technically too old for you?
Chat with me in the comments below!