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Rated M for Money

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"Babble babble, bitch bitch, rebel rebel, party party
Sex sex sex, and don't forget the violence."
Marilyn Manson, "This Is the New Shit"

When video gaming first started, almost all of the games created were playable by children. Not to say that early games weren't enjoyable by many adults (they were), they just lacked the mature themes that would be unsuitable for younger audiences — because, let's be honest, it could be pretty hard to get graphic on some of these older systems (though not impossible...). Some of this was due to the Censorship Bureau imposed by Nintendo in the late 1980s; when Nintendo dropped this and backed an industry-supported ratings system, developers became free to develop whatever they desired, and thus began making games that were more realistic in their depiction of violence, and along the way, containing Darker and Edgier themes than previous titles.

But thanks to the success of a few specific M-rated titles, the clones and copycat titles that followed them, and the media attention that followed both, today there is a public perception that developers focus solely on extremely violent titles targeted at "hardcore" gamers (that is, those who believe "G" rated movies and "E" rated games are "for kids only" and consider those who do watch "G" rated movies and/or play "E" rated games to be "casuals"), because hardcore gamers are supposed to be the most profitable demographic. This results in even more attention from Media Watchdogs and Moral Guardians alike, and if those titles are successful, ultimately reinforces the notion of M-rated titles being the best way to make a top-selling title, if not a license to print money outright — in other words, they're just Rated M For Money.

"M" rated games are not, in fact, guaranteed hits — only an average percentage of titles sell enough copies to be commercially successful, not at all much different from any other rating or genre in the market. Furthermore, general industry wisdom actually claims "T" for Teen is the most profitable rating, for the same reason that many movies target the PG-13 ratings bracket — these are the highest unrestricted rating of their respective scales, combining the most creative freedom with the broadest possible (if not potential) audience; some developers or publishers have actively restricted levels of violence and/or sexual content in their games in order to achieve this rating. Indeed, in 2010 only 5% of video games released had an M rating. However, this small minority was the focus of more hype than the rest, largely because many of them are AAA games, thus receiving the most attention of any video game. Indeed, according to the same survey, 7 of the top 20 best-selling video games of 2010 are M-rated.

The larger amount of hype M-rated games tend to get than E, E10+ or T rated games can probably be attributed to the ongoing public perception that Video Games are for kids. Granted, this perception has significantly diminished since the mid to late 90's, but it's still prevalent enough (mostly among Moral Guardians and Media Watchdogs) to cause quite a stir with the gaming community. Thus, it makes sense that many would perceive M-rated games as the key to breaking video games free of this stereotype and, thus, gaining them more respect as an entertainment medium. However, many of these games still contain vulgar and/or over-the-top humor that brings them down to a "drunk" level of maturity.

Ultra Super Death Gore Fest Chainsawer 3000 and Murder Simulators are what you get when this is the issue of a Very Special Episode.

Complicating the issue is the rise of games with sex scenes (sometimes plot-related, often not) and other mature non-violent content such as language that superficially appear to be put in for "M for Money" reasons, but are actually there because of the game-makers' desire to reflect the current state of popular films and TV shows, many with large teen fanbases, which have become more sexually explicit. Defenders of games such as Witcher III which contain nudity and erotic scenes have said that people expect to see such scenes in TV shows and films so they expect to see them in games, too. Defenders also point out the perceived hypocrisy of people having no problem with scenes of extreme violence, yet having issues with sexual content and language.

It's worth mentioning, however, that this attitude has declined within the gaming sphere since about 2007. Thanks to a number of factors:

  1. The enormous success of relatively family-friendly gaming consoles like the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS (it had a total of 11 M-rated games despite having 673 games officially released in North America, which is about 1.6% of the entire DS library in the continent)), Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch.

  2. Critical reappraisal of games that were once criticized for averting this trope, in particular The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and much of the Nintendo GameCube library.

  3. The success of non-violent indie titles like Stardew Valley and Candy Crush Saga, as well as genuinely mature (ie. not overtly vulgar or violent) games like Journey (2012) and Gone Home.

  4. People becoming fatigued with copy-paste sequels present in a lot of M-rated AAA franchises (most notably Call of Duty).

  5. The number of gamers who are now parents and want something they can play with their children.

  6. Controversies bringing to light concerns about problems such as sexism in video games.

  7. The growth of the East Asian market (particularly China, South Korea, and Japan) as the largest video gaming market in the world, where games perceived to be rated M for Money are deeply unpopular or banned, mainly due to Values Dissonance. The Rated M for Money trope is very much discredited in East Asia as a result.

  8. The general consensus that gratuitous sex, violence, profanity, and other taboo in a work are actually signs of immaturity and adolescent mentality. Admittedly, prior to adulthood, it was like Forbidden Fruit, but becomes banal after you've grown up to appreciate more sophistication and substance over style. Hence the common sentiment: "We all thought it was the coolest thing back when we were 13".

And so on.

Despite the decline, according to this 2018 article, the most profitable media property of all time, even when adjusted for inflation, was the M-rated Grand Theft Auto V, proving that this trope is far from discredited in the West, though it has led to the game being hated by fans of more niche games. However, GTA V has been dethroned by the more comparatively family-friendly Dungeon Fighter Online as the most profitable media property of all time in 2019, even when adjusted for inflation. In fact, DFO earns almost twice as much as the entire GTA franchise as of 2022. This is mainly because DFO is hugely popular in its native East Asia, and the GTA franchise is deeply unpopular or banned in the larger East Asian gaming markets due to the franchise being much more controversial than in the West (the aforementioned GTA V is given the Z rating in Japan, equivalent to the high M or AO rating in North America).

Compare Avoid the Dreaded G Rating and American Kirby Is Hardcore. While there are no direct ties between this and Rated M for Manly, it's not uncommon to see an "attempt" at both tropes employed at the same time (since manly men will swear, shoot people in the face, and bankroll big sales figures as a result). Note the emphasis on the "attempt" as the fixation on Darker and Edgier and "sex and violence" has increasingly been associated with immaturity. Also see Animated Shock Comedy and Exploitation Film, which pile on shock value to increase age ratings. For comics, this frequently happened in The Dark Age of Comic Books.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Funimation's Gag Dub versions of Sgt. Frog and Crayon Shin-chan added strong language and mature humor to otherwise tame series, mainly to appeal to older anime fans.

    Films — Animated 
  • Batman: The Killing Joke was widely criticized for this. Based on a comic book that was infamous for its boundary-pushing violence and sexual content in the 1980s (but is generally regarded as fairly tame by today's standards), the creative team behind the film heavily advertised the fact that it would be rated "R", as if to assure adult fans that they wouldn't be toning down the racier aspects of the source material. But upon actually seeing it, many people noted that the filmmakers went out of their way to justify the R rating by adding racy content that wasn't present in the source material, most of which struck fans and critics as gratuitous (like adding profanity to lines quoted from the comic that didn't have any originally). Most controversially, the film adds in a subplot involving a sexual relationship between Batman and Batgirl, which (considering their age difference and power dynamic) was near-universally viewed as unintentionally creepy.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song was "Rated X by an all-white jury." The X rating in this case was a default judgment by the MPAA since Van Peebles couldn't afford to submit the film for a proper rating. (That the MPAA allowed the "X" to appear on films it never reviewed explains why it became synonymous with pornography, since once the MPAA realized they could not claim it as a trademark they stopped using it as an official rating and now like to pretend that it never was one. note )
  • Eddie Murphy's comedy Coming to America is a rather quaint tale of an African prince wanting to experience life in America and meet a woman there to marry for love, instead of being wed off to an arranged bride back home. The topless scenes (which are only at the start, during the bath sequence, and never seen again after) and swearing only seem to be there to bump up the rating to R, as the plot itself is rather tame.
  • Deadpool (2016) is a curious case in that director Tim Miller and actor Ryan Reynolds both wanted the R-rating to really draw from the source material—which is a franchise aimed at adults. 20th Century Fox actually didn't think an R-rating would be profitable, based on the performance of previous R-rated comic book adaptations on top of the box office successes of the PG-13 counterparts. They gave Miller a relatively small budget as a countermeasure, expecting a box office bomb—or at least the film underperforming in terms of profit. The total opposite happened, and Deadpool became one of the highest-grossing R-rated movies of all time.
    • The following year, Logan made sure to be R-rated to fully exploit the violence usually caused by title character Wolverine, as well as a plot with more dark themes than just the racism\prejudice prevalent in the X-Men series. It worked not only box office wise (only X-Men: Days of Future Past and the Deadpool movies made more money) but earned the most positive reviews of the franchise, with its script even nominated for the Academy Award.
  • From Marvel to DC, Birds of Prey could be considered a Distaff Counterpart to Deadpool, following an insane protagonist while not dialing down regarding its violence and profanity. However, the box office intakes were nowhere as impressive - some analysts felt that higher content ratings actually hurt the film, given a very large segment of the fanbase for main character Harley Quinn is young girls. It opened atop the rankings, only to fall to third the following weekend behind two family-friendly productions.
  • The creators of the film adaptation of Doom said that they were aiming for a "hard" R, and as a result, included all sorts of adult content that was never in the game, including nudity and F-bombs.
  • This is the selling point of every "Unrated Edition" DVD or Blu-Ray ever, even if the unrated content is actually pretty tame and was cut for reasons that had nothing to do with rating.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is especially odd with period-set series, such as Boardwalk Empire. Sure, prohibition-era America had its fair share of mob influence and shadiness, but Boardwalk Empire litters every other scene with a Cluster F-Bomb and to call the sex and nudity "gratuitous" would be putting it lightly. Case in point: a corpse is laid out on the morgue, a corpse belonging to a beautiful young woman. The corpse is not covered in a sheet, and not only can the audience see everything, they can also see the Y-shaped stitches running down her torso and abdomen.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand, as with most Starz series, is full of sex, nudity, violence, and language.
  • HBO's Game of Thrones. Anyone who has read the source material knows what to expect, yet HBO somehow managed to add in more sex and nudity than what was in the book. (That said, the sexual content of the series actually decreases as it progresses, and in fact the show's most controversial sexual scene— the rape of Sansa Stark in Season 5—takes place completely off screen). Ditto with the Spin-Off House of the Dragon.
  • TV in general is more sexually explicit than in the old days, particularly any show made for broadcast after what certain broadcasters refer to as "the Watershed". Even productions such as the 2016 BBC version of War and Peace have had sex scenes added because, per Word of God, this is what viewers want.
    • Averted, however, by the 12-rated note  Doctor Who which has zero sexual content (despite featuring romance), rather minor violence, nothing stronger than "damn" and "hell" in the language, and is consistently BBC Worldwide's biggest money-making series; however, at the same time, it is not a series produced for airing post-watershed and spinoffs that were (Torchwood and Class (2016)) were more explicit and violent. A better example might be the historical drama, Victoria which, despite being produced for broadcast in a post-watershed timeslot in the UK, is (some kissing and minor dialogue aside) considered a family-friendly series.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • FMW's two founders and top star were quintessential garbage wrestlers, but the same could not be said of its number two star, Megumi Kudo, its number three star Masato Tanaka, or its number four star Hayabusa, or... you get the idea. FMW showcased a wide variety of wrestlers and styles. Furthermore, the name "Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling" come from the fact that it started as a showcase of martial artists against pro wrestlers before the garbage became more and more central. Yet even during Kodo Fuyuki's Lighter and Softer "World Entertainment Wrestling" era, FMW never really lost it's garbage wrestling reputation, largely because of how hard it promoted it's no rope barbwire, double hell thumbtacks exploding ring death matches.
  • This trope is largely behind Big Japan Pro Wrestling's roster split. With the "Strong BJ" half rejecting the idea they are a bunch of scarred up delinquents swinging buzz saws at one another and "Hardcore BJ" openly embracing it, not caring about those who doubt their athleticism or technical prowess. Both halves like to think themselves Rated M for Manly.
  • The core stars of ECW were technical wrestlers like Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko, with guys like Lance Storm, Perry Saturn, Jerry Lynn and Super Crazy up and down the card. But when people think of ECW the first things that come to mind tend to be New Jack diving off of tall things, The Sandman downing a beer before beating himself bloody with the bottle, Terry Funk wrapped in barbed wire, Sabu's triple jump moonsault, Rob Van Dam kicking folding chairs, The Dudley Boyz putting someone through tables or maybe some woman stripping in front of a crowd chanting "Show Your Tits". The loss of technical wrestlers to WCW played a major role in ECW's decline, yet they are criminally under remembered compared to the "extreme" elements of the show.
  • Whenever CZW secures dates for talented technical wrestlers like Yoshihiro Tajiri, Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Adam Cole, Drew Gulak, even if they are rookies who merely have a strong amateur background like Lio Rush, CZW tends to quickly make them the focus of angles and give them title belts to defend. Despite this, there are no dedicated technical events the way there are garbage events like Tournament Of Death and Cage Of Death. Even accounting for their athleticism based "Best Of The Best" annual event, it still isn't promoted as heavily as the use of light tubes and lighter fluid.

    Tabletop Games 
  • White Wolf's Black Dog imprint, for Old World of Darkness RPG sourcebooks deemed "For Mature Audiences Only." It most likely caused gamers to buy titles they might have overlooked but saw the Black Dog logo on the back and said "I have to get this!" The line was canceled during the 3rd Edition, when White Wolf's general titles started getting darker than the Black Dog stuff. In fact, the only book that truly deserved its Mature rating was Charnel Houses of Europe: The Shoah, which dealt with the Holocaust.note 

    Visual Novels 
  • When mature-rated stories first appeared in Choices: Stories You Play, this is the perception of most fans, as the game is targeted towards straight female romance fans, and these stories include considerably more sexual content than other stories, which garnered criticism from some fans, especially non-romance fans.
  • While not as in-your-face as most examples, a good chunk of visual novels are Eroge even when sex isn't the main focal point the story. This is done mainly because they tend to sell better among players, and tend to be outsourced if itís not involved with the plot, which it rarely is. Incidentally, this trope becomes inverted if the game sells well enough that an all-ages version is made.
  • Nukige (games made for smut; not to be confused with nakigenote ) tend to be built specifically for this, with lots of sexual encounters. While there are some that do put a lot of emphasis on story such as Clockupís infamous games, or even allow them to be ignored altogether like Monster Girl Quest, they nonetheless carry the tag due to the sheer levels of sex they have.

    Web Animation 
  • Lobo (Webseries) is the very first DC adult cartoon and uses the advantages of the TV-MA rating such as strong language, sex and graphic violence.

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