One indisputable sign that you're getting old (whether it be chronologically or emotionally) is "They don't make 'em like they used to" syndrome. Anyone who has experienced this bitter reminiscing knows exactly what I'm talking about, and those who haven't already inevitably will. I was struck with a strange case of it last night as I was catching up on the most recent episode of Fringe; only I wasn't longing for the glory days of the X-Files, I was wondering why what I was seeing was more grotesque than most imagery found in PG-13 horror movies.

If you're unfamiliar with the show, it's produced by JJ Abrams and airs Thursday nights on Fox (a station anyone with a TV and an antenna can pick up) at 8pm CST and is about a team of FBI agents and scientists who investigate science experiments gone wrong. The episode in question, titled Snakehead, featured a close up shot of a jaw that had been torn apart when a four-foot long worm/squid hybrid tried to use it as an exit. Considering the type of movies I'm typically found watching, this shot didn't bother me in the least, but it did find me noting to my wife how impressively nasty of an effect it was for primetime television and how no one could have gotten away with such a close-up years ago.

I hadn't thought much about it until later on in the episode when a character slit their throat with a razor blade. Now this is a common enough gag in any PG-13 horror movie, but instead of going the bloodless, hand-across-the-neck route, Fringe actually stepped up to the gore plate and showed the smiling man's throat split 4 inches wide. And that really got me wondering...
I knew plenty of kids growing up who were only allowed to go see or rent age-appropriate material. If they were 12 and three quarters, they still weren't getting into a PG-13 movie. However, there were no restrictions on what they could watch on television. Sure, shows like this have "Viewer Discretion Advised" labels appended to them, A) but most parents idly assume that if it's on TV during the early hours of the evening, then it's probably a relatively tame watch, and B) that label doesn't mean what it used to. Shows like Fringe, Heroes, and CSI regularly delight in shedding as much blood as they can get away with.

For someone like me, this is all well and good. Usually you can only expect cable shows to slacken the censorship reins, so it's nice to see a mainstream, easily accessible show with some edge to it. But I also realize that I'm not everyone. I'm not yet a parent - I haven't begun to even think about enabling content restriction on my media devices - so my question is this: if you are a parent who monitors and restricts the kind of movies your children see, do you also monitor what they watch on TV?

I feel as though I grew up in a time when seeing someone with their throat slit on primetime, national television was an impossibility, but now broadcast channels are filled with dead bodies ready for all kinds of in-your-face forensic pathology. I'm not here to bemoan the state of things, I'm just curious as to whether or not parents who heed the PG-13 label also heed the TV-MA designation, whether it be for movies or shows going out over the air waves.

Thoughts from the parental readers out there?
categories Features, Cinematical