Movies may be art and intended by writers and directors to tell stories, but as far as the funders and distributors are concerned, films need to make money and get the biggest possible audience. Achieving this may involve lying about a movie's content, showing all the best parts, or (when it comes to family movies) changing the rating.
Perception means a lot — G ratings often indicate something for kids, while R ratings tend to indicate something for adults (but not always), with PG and PG-13 movies falling in between. So with a lot of otherwise perfectly clean, family-friendly movies, the word "damn" and/or "hell" might be added to the script, just to drop that dreaded G rating. (The phrase "brief mild language" appearing as a content warning is a giveaway.) With a PG rating, the movie will have a better shot at avoiding the "kid stuff" stigma that keeps teen or adult viewers away.
Adding a little swearing makes the film easy to edit for TV or airplane viewings without it interrupting the story. Sometimes stronger profanity is unnecessarily added, or the characters pay an irrelevant and fleeting visit to a strip club, or scenes are made more violent. Content is sometimes added to get an intentional PG-13 rating, or removed from a potential R-rated movie for the same reason. It's all about trying to get a certain audience to watch the film.
Ironically, the average G-rated film makes more money than the average R-rated film, but maybe only because G-ratings are rarer. In the United Kingdom, the practice is sometimes known as "twelve-ing" or "fifteening" since many producers target the BBFC 12/12A or 15 ratings instead of the PG rating, which has gained a similar reputation as the MPA (Motion Picture Association)note G.
This is NOT about movies that just happen to have a high rating. It is only about when something clearly unnecessary and unneeded is added to bump the rating higher, because without it the rating would be lower than what the company wants. Also note that it's not always certain what caused a movie to get (or not get) a certain rating, as outside a few guidelines, the MPAA ratings are a black box.
- In the United Kingdom, 15 is the most common rating for any film not specifically marketed as family viewing and (according to the IMDB) the most common rating overall (same with R in the US).
- This is true, of 100 films around 60% will get 15 and 12A rating, 10% will get 18, 10% will get a U and 20% will get PG. Even the word "cunt" alone doesn't justify an 18, as both Kick-Ass and Shaun of the Dead feature the word and only get a 15 (mentioned by Simon Pegg on the commentary who bemoaned "15 rating horror" and then got one).
- American-made films do occasionally suffer due to the differences in ratings between the United Kingdom and United States. This is because the U.S. ratings go from 13 to 18, and the UK system goes 12 to 15 to 18. While some R- or NC-17–rated films fall naturally into the 15 range, others get cut to force them into it, as it is deemed more profitable than 18. For example, the subway fight between Smith and Neo in The Matrix originally had the headbutts cut out of it in the UK version; however, the uncut version with headbutts intact was passed with a '15' certificate in 2006.
- In the United Kingdom, the movie Spider-Man has been mis-associated with an overhaul of the BBFC ratings system. A large number of parents thought its 12 rating (legally enforced) was too high, and they wanted their younger children to be able to see it, leading some local councils (who have the final say on film certificates) to let the film be released as PG or PG-12. This coincided with the introduction of, and replacement in cinemas by, the 12A rating (still legally restricted to this age, and still labelled as just 12 for video, but adults may bring minors if they feel the film is appropriate). The first film to be rated 12A upon its original release was The Bourne Identity.
- In the United Kingdom, the BBFC for a while offered a Uc rating for home video releases only, which indicated material particularly suitable for young children. It was abandoned in 2009 following reports that any child old enough to have any influence over what they watched was rejecting videos with that rating as obviously boring.
- Inversion: In the late 1960s and early 1970s, many films that would certainly get a PG or PG-13 today were rated G. Examples include the gory Hammer Horror film Dracula Has Risen from the Gravenote , the first Airport movie, the 1969 True Grit movienote , the aforementioned Planet of the Apes (1968), The Italian Job (1969), and The Monkees' psychedelic Cult Classic Head. One of these films, The Andromeda Strain, even carried this content warning on the original poster: "Rated G but may be too intense for younger children." However, since the MPAA rating system had just been created, the G rating didn't have the "kids only" stigma yet; it still meant "for general audiences".
- Even nudity wouldn't necessarily bar a movie from a G rating in the early years. The 1973 version of Tom Sawyer has a scene in which Tom and Huck go skinny-dipping, and their rears are briefly visible as they dive under the water.
- Films made prior to the inception of the rating system (unless they were reissued later), tend to be rated G by default, partly because of oversight regarding the many changes on the system since 1968 and the perception that all pre-1960 films were family-friendly entertainment (an assumption not dissimilar to the Animation Age Ghetto). This even considering that several Code-era films contain content that would, at minimum, justify a PG or, in some cases, PG-13. For example, biblical films like The Ten Commandments (1956) were actually quite violent, and crime films like The Maltese Falcon had their fair share of blood. Many movies from The Pre-Code Era have content that would guarantee an R rating—such as the first batch of Universal Horror films; various gangster movies like The Public Enemy (1931) and Scarface (1932); sexually provocative silent films like Metropolis and Pandora's Box; and the controversial M, Freaks, and The Mask of Fu Manchu. An attempt in the 2000s by anti-smoking lobbyists to have the R rating retroactively applied to any classic Hollywood film in which smoking is shown (with Casablanca often cited as the uber-example) was unsuccessful, however.
- From 1991 to 2004, there existed a law where to make things easier for the BBFC, any relatively tame cinema ads would be rated U, while not all of them were that tame, and any material which would classify the ad as PG or up would instead give the ad a 15 rating. Any ad worthier of a different rating would be submitted as a regular film. For example, this advert for fashion magazine Don't Tell It depicts a man being repeatedly shot as he's about to reveal the publication's name. Its copious Gorn earned it an 18 rating without it ending up in the 'Film Advertisement' category.
- Manga Entertainment became notorious during the 1990s for generously peppering their dubs with profanity in order to get "18" ratings in Britain, with the results being quite often hilarious. The visual content of these dubs would've gotten them a higher rating anyway.
- The original North American licensor for Sgt. Frog, ADV Films, intended on getting the show on a children's network like Nickelodeon. Once Funimation got the license, it was clear that they had no intent to do so, and tried their best to sell it to a modern anime fan by making sure it at least got a PG rating - while some of the show is almost better for it (episode 18 with Natsumi's bleeped Cluster F-Bomb works better than a Kansai accent for an American audience), sometimes it just feels gratuitous (on one memorable occasion Keroro says "pain in the ass" and the voice actor feels like he's forcing it). This didn't even work in Nova Scotia, where FUNimation's version still got a G rating. This is somewhat justified as the original Sgt. Frog manga was much closer to a PG-13 rating, but the anime was toned down to be more child-friendly. FUNimation's take on it might be trying to restore its original age rating to appeal to the manga's more diehard fans.
- Inverted by Pokémon: The First Movie: it was rated G despite its strong violence and its disturbing themes and images. Ironically, it was given a PG rating in Canada, which is generally more lenient about movie ratings.
- Sentai Filmworks definitely wanted to give the Gintama movie a high rating: the word "fuck" is used three times in the dub, as well as profanities like "shit" and "asshole", along with a few crude sex jokes. The sub (and the actual Gintama show) do not have this kind of language.
- Averted by Paprika. The majority of the film is made in a PG or PG-13 matter (and was rated as such in most countries) - even when touching upon adult subject matter it keeps things discreet. There's also not a bit of profanity anywhere in the film - not even a "damn" or "hell". However, the movie got an R rating simply due to a few moments of non-sexual nudity and an image of a bloody corpse.
- For years, FUNimation avoided profanity almost entirely in their dub for Dragon Ball Z, even in the uncut home video releases. That changed when they went back redubbed the first 67 episodes in 2005 (originally dubbed with Saban and Ocean Studios in 1996 with heavy censorship), marketing them as "Ultimate Uncut," and taking advantage of the later timeslot. Beginning with around episode 27 (earlier episodes mostly recycled the Saban scripts), PG-13 level obscenities were suddenly peppered into the script, including uses of "damn," "bastard," "give them hell," etc, despite the later episodes still having much cleaner language.
- This was taken to the extreme for the final episode of Excel♡Saga. Not only was the content made deliberately unsuitable for Japanese TV broadcast in terms of violence, sex and Toilet Humor, but the episode itself was made deliberately one minute longer than the normal TV timeslot, just to make absolutely sure that it would be rejected for broadcast. The production company wanted to release it as direct-to-video. The English translation lampshades this by giving the English title as "Going Too Far".
- Scott Pilgrim Takes Off isn't much worse than the previous installments of the franchise (heck, in some ways it's much more idealistic and tame), with some mild sexual content, a small bit of violence, and some references to drinking and smoking which should ideally give it a TV-14 at most. However, Julie's Lady Swears-a-Lot tendencies automatically bump it up to a TV-MA.
- The Credibility Gap's "I, Othello" (from their album The Bronze Age of Radio) spoofs this. It plays like a radio ad for what sounds like an erotic porn flick, then it concludes with "A Zodiac Picture, rated GP."
- Averted in Curse of the DualShock, rated PG. Although the pups are from the Y-rated series PAW Patrol, it crosses over with E 10+ video game Minecraft, which contains some mild cartoon and fantasy violence.
- Despite the Sonic X fanfic Don't Keep Your Distance carrying a "T" rating on FanFiction.Net, there's little non-kid-friendly content to speak of besides a few minor and forced sexual jokes, main character Paint bleeding mildly from injuries in one scene (with little apparent consequence), and a scene where two minor characters are apparently taking some type of unnamed depressant drug together. It's more than likely that this has to do with T ratings inherently attracting more visitors than the more modest "K+". In general, many fanfic writers will give their stories T ratings to attract more readers, while avoiding M because FanFiction.net filters out M-rated fics by default.
- Diamond in the Rough, based on the film Aladdin, has two uses of "hell" and "prick" putting it slightly out of Disney territory.
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Discussed in Diper Överlöde when Löded Diper argues over which songs to record at the studio. Rodrick insists on making sure their album has lyrics warranting a Parental Warning sticker on it, reasoning that teenagers won't buy it without one. Mackie disagrees, stating that he wants an album his mom can enjoy.
- Life, the Universe and Everything features the "Award for the Most Gratuitous Use of the Word 'Fuck' in a Serious Screenplay", a reference to this trope. It's also arguably an example, as the word "fuck" is rarely used in the books otherwise. As the radio adaptation was broadcast at 6.30pm, there was always a convenient starship engine roar whenever the award in question was discussed.
- The American edition of the book uses the word "Belgium" instead. It is still a reference to this trope, since the text explains that "Belgium" is the vilest swear word imaginable on every planet in the galaxy...except Earth.
- The tendency of rap music to do something similar was lampshaded in one episode of Bones, where Booth offers to charge a rapper with a crime—that would be dismissed in short order—to increase his record sales, as long as he cooperates.
- Just like Peter Morgan's aforementioned The Queen, the Netflix series The Crown (2016) fits this trope. The series is a character study about Queen Elizabeth II, but with some edgier content (namely, some medical gore and occasional nudity) - no worse than most TV-14 rated cable dramas, though. A crude limerick in the first episode that uses a certain swear word, and a Precision F-Strike in the fifth, take the series as a whole into TV-MA territory despite its benign nature - certainly compared to other original series with TV-MA ratings on the service. (The latter moment, of course, would've likely kept the series in solid TV-14 territory were it not for the former moment.)
- Season 2 is very much the same, except for Episode 7, which contains several scenes of the Queen’s photographer brother-in-law, Tony Armstrong-Jones, cheating on his wife, including a fairly lurid threesome with a married couple. It’s telling that this episode, Episode 1 of Season 1 (the one with the limerick), and Episodes 4 and 7 of Season 4 are the only episodes of The Crown rated 15 by the BBFC; all of the other episodes are either rated PG or 12.
- Season 3 was rated TV-MA for almost no reason. The only possible bits of offensive material are the overall tense opening of the "Aberfan" episode, and one use of "shit" in the final episode.
- Season 4 is much the same, with only a Cluster F-Bomb in "Fagan" and another use of "cunt" in the final episode veering towards TV-MA territory.
- High School Musical: The Musical: The Series probably dropped in "damn" and "hell" to push it into the TV-PG rating, though otherwise, it's no worse content-wise than its G-rated film predecessors. Young children may find it too boring and the meta-humor may be lost on the current generation of Disney Channel kids, so this is somewhat understandable.
- Parodied on the Saturday Night Live movie trailer parody The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders, a home invasion horror movie as done by Wes Anderson. Despite all the scenes of violence and gore, it's still rated "G".
- Despite its crude title, Schitt's Creek is a fairly wholesome comedy about inclusion and acceptance in a small town. The F word is used in some episodes, which is understandable because its native country of Canada has looser standards about swearing on television, but other than that, there are some sexual references that are no worse than most modern TV-14 sitcoms and no violence, so it remains a mystery as to why it is rated TV-MA.
- "Children of the Gods", the pilot episode of Stargate SG-1, has a scene that features several minutes of full-frontal female nudity. This comes as a shocker to the audience, as another character was previously shown in similar circumstances, but the audience only sees her back above the waist. Apparently, this was done solely to appease Showtime, the network the show originally aired on, because "premium cable channels have to have nudity." The explicit nudity was cut when the series went to syndication and in its Channel Hop to the Sci-Fi Channel, as well as when the pilot episode was recut into a feature-length Direct to Video film, but is retained on the DVD collection of the series.
- Ratings used for home video releases of TV series in Canada tend to be far more permissive than those used in the US, sometimes to the chagrin of viewers. Girls, Shameless (US) and Outlander are examples of extremely sexually explicit series that air in the US with the TV-MA rating, yet in Canada get only a 14A (and in Quebec a 13) rating. It's not uncommon to even come across TV-MA shows with a PG rating.
- Canadian network TV broadcasts often pump up the ratings based upon the time an episode airs. For example, most episodes of Supergirl (2015) and Once Upon a Time, because they tend to air (depending on time zone) around the 9 PM mark carry 14+ (the Canadian equivalent of TV-14) despite these shows usually never including content stronger than PG; in particular, Supergirl (which is usually rated TV-14 in the US) is promoted as family-friendly.
- Subverted by Ellen. When Ellen DeGeneres and her character Ellen Morgan came out in 1997, ABC rated every subsequent episode TV-14 and aired a disclaimer before every episode warning for "adult content" as well, regardless of any actual subject matter. This certainly did not help the show's ratings and it was canceled after one more season. Within a few years, syndicated repeats of the series were rated TV-G.
- For some reason, Buzzr's replays of Match Game and Tattletales with their PG-laced content of double entendres, innuendos and adult dialogue, are aired with a TV-G rating. The 1979 show Whew! even started on Buzzr with a TV-G even though the show's "bloopers" (clues contestants must correct to advance) are rife with NSFW material. It has since been rebranded as TV-PG.
- "The Lazy Song" by Bruno Mars, with its poppy and acoustic production, music video involving people wearing cartoonish monkey masks, and silly lyrics about spending all day lazing around and goofing off, could easily be mistaken for a children's song... if not for the random references to sex and masturbation.
- Custom Robo for the Nintendo GameCube: aside from some periodic flirting by the resident womanizer character, and some robot-on-robot violence, there is absolutely nothing in the game that warrants a T rating. There IS, however, a massive amount of reading/text involved in the story, and several of the battles can get quite challenging, so presumably it would be frustrating for younger gamers to get through. Custom Robo Arena for the Nintendo DS, however, only got an E10+ despite similar a setup (though in fairness, the E10+ rating didn't yet exist when the GameCube Custom Robo was first released).
- Aside from the occasional innuendo or heavy themes that kids wouldn't understand, the Updated Rereleases of Final Fantasies I through VI have almost entirely clean translations. Presumably for reasons pertaining to this trope, these translations also have several (very) occasional PG-level swear words - enough for the ESRB to complain about, but used sparingly enough to market the games towards general audiences.
- Nothing in Knytt Underground would warrant anything higher than an E rating. It owes its M rating to the entire existence of the character Cilia, whose apparent first - and only - language is Cluster F-Bomb.
- Bionic Commando Rearmed could've been a T-rated game if it didn't show not-Hitler's head graphically exploding into bits just like in the NES original, but the developers insisted on being faithful.
- Psychonauts features a few tiny uses of red blood (most noticeable example is when you step on the lungfish in Lungfishopolis, who will be laying in a big puddle of blood) and a few awkward curse words, presumably to bump the game up to a T rating. Without them, there's very little in terms of objectionable content in the game to justify a rating higher than an E or E10+, but the themes it deals with are heavy and/or creepy enough that marketing the game to kids wouldn't have really worked. They just needed to add things the ESRB would actually object to.
- Inversion: Shadow the Hedgehog was going to get a Teen rating because of blood and a depiction of Maria being shot on-screen. This was on top of the Darker and Edgier story, swearing, and gun use, as the game was intended for older fans. The recent introduction of the E10+ rating gave SEGA an easy out after a backlash to the reveal. The blood color of the alien enemies were changed to green and human enemies merely get incapacitated without bleeding. The game ends the flashback of Maria being shot as soon as we hear the gunshot, the intro cut out a scene where a soldier was shot, and the swearing was cut to down to a load of forced "damns."
- The Wonderful 101 would've easily gotten an E or E10+ rating if it weren't for Pink, Vijounne, and Immorta's boob/butt/crotch close-ups, a penis innuendo ("Compensating for something, Baby Blue?"), and swearing ("hell" uncensored, and a couple of stronger ones bleeped out). But due to how hard the game is, and due to the mature themes the game deals with, the developers had to add in content that would keep the ESRB from rating it E or E10+.
- Splatoon. The main draw of the game, the multiplayer campaign, consists entirely of two groups of cute squid-people trying to paint more of an area than the other. The single-player campaigns do play with darker plot elements, but never explore the ideas of war or genocide that spring up deep enough to lose its child-friendly edge. There is hardly any morally objectionable content beyond the use of cartoony, unrealistic weapons. The games are rated E10+ for "Cartoon Violence", thanks to the characters exploding or melting upon death.
- Inverted by an Ikki Tousen game originally set to be released in the US entitled Shining Dragon. The distributor was gunning for a lower rating, and ended up ultimately canceling the release out of fear the M rating would impact sales.
- After the first two SNK vs. Capcom Card Fighters games got E ratings, the third one was given a T thanks to some highly sexualized costumes seen on the cards.
- Furi probably would have gotten a T or even an E10+ rating if it wasn't for a single F-bomb dropped in the game. The fact that early trailers stated it was rated T means they probably added it to the game to invoke this trope.
- Little Dragons Café is a cute, brightly colored game where you're a kid running a cafe because your mother is ill. Despite being no worse than Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon, it has a "E10+" rating for Mild Fantasy Violence and Language. This "language" refers to a few "Damn it"'s by Maurice.
- The Forza Horizon series actually went increasingly Lighter and Softer with its content over time, likely to bring in a wider audience, yet each subsequent entry has garnered higher and higher praise. The first Forza Horizon was released with a T rating for drug reference, language, and suggestive themes, mostly in its radio dialogue and soundtrack, despite that what is there in the game is pretty tame compared to other T-rated games. Horizon 2 brought it down to E10+ for mild lyrics, mild suggestive themes, and mild violence. Horizon 3 was the first entry to get an E rating, only being hit with descriptors for mild lyrics and mild violence, and Horizon 4 shook off the descriptors altogether, although it led to Playground Games having to release an update that censored lyrics from several songs and removed one song entirely.
- Obviously parodied in the fake preview for the non-existent Pac-Man live action movie, where a character uses the obligatory "damn".
- Channel Awesome:
- Due to YouTube's COPPA settings, which puts limitations on any videos it deems "for kids"note using extremely arbitrary algorithms, some content creators have proposed dropping F-bombs so that they can get away with not marking their videos as for children.
- Inverted by How It Should Have Ended. While their parodies are for general audiences, they tend to avoid hard swearing, such as using "poop" in place of "shit" or "crap". In the Deadpool (2016) parody, they let the titular character be his foul-mouthed self, but censor the f-bombs.
- Word of God states that High Guardian Spice was intended for younger demographics, but Crunchyroll forced the script to include cursing and blood to advertise the show as for "mature audiences". As a result, a lot of the occasional profanity, violence, and dick jokes came off as incredibly forced and clashed jarringly with the rest of the show, which otherwise stayed true to its original family-friendly intent—especially when compared to other Crunchyroll shows.