‘Man Of Steel’ And The Great Ratings Debate: PG Or PG-13?

Superman's been an all-ages hero since he first appeared 75 years ago, so critics weigh in on how modern — and edgy — the hero should be.

Some heroes seem custom-built for hardcore realism and the more mature ratings that go along with their films. Iron Man’s hobbies include flirting and carousing, just as Batman’s include an unrelenting quest for merciless vengeance. When these heroes were placed in PG-13 films, no comic-book writers stepped up to oppose the decision. That’s not been the case with “Man of Steel.”

Writer Greg Rucka, who has penned plenty of acclaimed superhero comics for DC during his successful career, wrote an op-ed piece for The Hollywood Reporter that succinctly summed up the reason for caution.

“I don’t know if this is a genuine caution to parents, or a marketing decision aimed at a demographic too-cool for Superman’s brand of hope and idealism, yet embracing of Batman’s self-loathing rough justice, to assure them their ticket will be money well-spent,” writes Rucka. “I don’t know if that PG-13 is there out of sincerity or cynicism or politics. I just know that if you make a Superman movie you can’t take kids to, you’ve done something wrong.”

In order to put Rucka’s thought-out point into perspective, as well as hopefully reach a consensus on the Great Rating Debate, we rounded up a panel of specialists for their thoughts.

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“So long as Superman, as a character, is committed to securing for this PG-13 Metropolis a more PG-to-hard-G tomorrow, this Superman fan is willing to accept the tone. That said, Superman should reflect sunlight just as he absorbs and renders it to leap tall buildings. With their story in ‘Adventures of Superman’ #1, Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee proved that even a manic junkie can coexist with Superman without robbing the story of warmth and gentility. Superman is the light to show the way, and so long as that beacon remains, the grime and shadow can fester all they want.” — Paul Montgomery, iFanboy

“I’ve seen very different interpretations of those ratings over the years. It could be super-fighting or anything that got the PG-13 rating. Too hard to say based on what’s out there at the moment. I’m all for Superman being viewable and readable by even the youngest audience, even if the stories are a bit complex for them. What we now call the Pixar approach to all ages material, that would be the way I’d go.” — Jeff Parker, writer “Adventures of Superman”

“I find the whole ratings thing to be questionable and variable to be honest. But for me, in a perfect world Superman would be a PG [film], making it an easy choice for parents to bring their younger kids to see the movie. I have a 9 year old and while we’ve seen PG-13 films, the intensity can vary depending on the film. But this isn’t a perfect world and unfortunately movie audiences, especially those who have made past superhero and action films into huge hits, seem to expect a PG-13 rating even if just as enjoyable a film could be made with a PG [rating].” — Sue, DC Women Kicking Ass

“I’m not worried about ‘Man of Steel’s’ PG-13 rating. To me, the MPAA is an arbitrary, obsolete fossil of an organization, and to put stock in an assigned rating is to perpetuate a broken system. On the bright side, it’s not an age-restricted rating; it’s just a suggestion, really. Kids under 13 won’t be turned away. Besides, don’t we live in a PG-13 world these days anyway?” — Michael Hartney, writer/performer “So I Like Superman

“I couldn’t tell you the ratings of any recent superhero movies with any authority, yet I think it’s significant that we’re having this conversation about ‘Man of Steel.’ Any Superman movie that doesn’t result in another generation of kids demanding Superman pyjamas has failed in a fundamental way. Superheroes are not exclusively for kids, but I think most of us were kids when we discovered their brash, thrilling, spectacular appeal, and I’d like the next generation to share that experience. I think anyone who is so embarrassed by superheroes as a vehicle for fun and adventure that they need to make their stories sad and ponderous probably shouldn’t be telling superhero stories. The default for superhero fiction should be to make it accessible to younger audiences.” — Andrew Wheeler, Comics Alliance

“If this were 1977, yes. But I trust the filmmakers to find a way to serve an all-ages audience as best they can. So long as Superman himself remains a paragon of ethical and moral behavior, I’m not too worried.” — Mark Waid, writer “Superman: Birthright.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Man of Steel,” out Friday.