This is a new segment that I hope to start up where I’ll have a topic that I’ve done a little research on, and then hopefully we can get a nice discussion going.
Today’s topic: Parental Advisory for books.
Anyone who has read any of my reviews will notice that I include a short review on content at the end. Basically I list a level (ranging from none to explicit) for four categories: language, violence, sexual content, and smoking/drinking. I’ve made a personal decision to be a little more careful about what kind of content I read, and I supply this information because I think it could be helpful to others.
Something that I’ve wondered about is why don’t books have parental advisory labels or ratings already? Thinking about other forms of media, most come with ratings (ex. movies, music, video games). However, in researching this topic, I was surprised to find that these ratings are not actually mandatory (at least for music and movies, the article I read didn’t say anything about video games). Movie ratings were described as being “de facto mandatory”. Which means, legally it’s not mandatory, but practically it is. This is because many theater chains refuse to show movies that are not rated (which would significantly cut into profits). I do wonder if the popularity of RedBox will have any effect on this, but that’s a completely separate discussion. For music, it’s completely voluntary and there’s little regulation. “Explicit content” has no specific definition and it’s up to the artists and their labels to determine whether their album falls under that category and if it does, then they have to decide whether or not to label it.
The article that I looked at from E Online listed a couple of reasons why books are not and should not be rated. The first is that unlike someone choosing a movie or video game, someone choosing a book can talk to a librarian or someone working at a bookstore to determine whether or not the content is appropriate. Honestly, this seemed like a really weak argument to me. Word of mouth works really well for books, but not for movies or video games? Meh. Not seeing it. The second argument definitely held more weight. The article talked about the sheer volume of books that are published every year versus the number of movies. I see how this could be problematic. But how many people read through a book before it’s published by a major publisher? I’m genuinely asking this question because I don’t know. But if enough people are reading through it before publication, it seems like they could each submit a rating for it and then there could be some system for combining the ratings or something like that.
Okay, so maybe by now you’re convinced that we could hypothetically have a parental advisory or some sort of rating system for books. Here’s the question: Should we do it? If not, do you feel that other forms of media should be unrated as well? Why? If you do think we should have parental advisory, why? Do you think that rating books is practical or not?
Please, I’d like to hear from everyone but BE KIND. In the end, we’re just a bunch of people who love books but probably have different opinions–especially since this issue does not have a right or wrong answer.