Booking Through Thursday: Ratings


Movies have a rating system to help guide the consumer weed out adult/violent/inappropriate knds of films. Video games do, too. Do you think BOOKS should have a ratings system?

(Man, I’m flashing back to when I was a young teenager, without any means of personal transport, when I would check Kids-in-Mind to make absolutely sure that some movies weren’t queerbaiting me and were definitely worth my time. Bless.)

On the one hand, I see the value. Cass has been recently talking about the immense frustration of trying to discern whether or not a book is about queer characters when the copy is so cagey. (And films, as well, hence my teenage days.) A rating system—especially coupled with something like Kids-in-Mind—could be used to identify things I want (respectful representations of the queer community!) and identify things I don’t want (wanton sexual violence, for example!). In fact, there’s already an MPAA-esque system for manga published in the US, which you can see here.

But, on the other hand… well, This Film Is Not Yet Rated is available on Netflix Instant at the moment, and the MPAA is well corrupt. It really shows you how the system is used to suppress things it simply doesn’t agree with, like women enjoying sex (thus Where the Truth Lies‘ NC-17 rating). I read American Gods at the tender age of thirteen—by the MPAA’s standards, the first fifty pages would merit it an NC-17. But that was a transformative and important book for me. In Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Patton Oswalt details all the books he read as a kid that would be deemed “inappropriate” for him, but were integral for his development. If such a rating system would be implemented, where would David Levithan’s impending Two Boys Kissing fall? Would it fall out of the reach of young adults who want and may need to read it? (Put your hand down, teenage Clare.)

So no. I don’t think there should be a ratings system for books at all. Books were the only places as a kid that I felt I was being treated as an adult—as an individual capable of making her own choices. I don’t want to take that away from anyone.

13 thoughts on “Booking Through Thursday: Ratings

  1. “So no. I don’t think there should be a ratings system for books at all. Books were the only places as a kid that I felt I was being treated as an adult—as an individual capable of making her own choices. I don’t want to take that away from anyone.”

    Yes, absolutely. Which is why my library’s strict age banding (Young Readers 7-9, Junior 9-13, YA 13-17, YA Plus 15+) drives me NUTS. Seriously, people, we’ve already established that this is a bad idea. I wish I had the power to change it :\

    Sorry, I know this is slightly different from content ratings, but I’ll take any chance to vent 😛

  2. While it might be appealing to have a simple way to tell the basic age group a book is appropriate for, there are a number of inherent problems with such a scale. The biggest problem is that so many kids read at a different level than their actual age. If I would have been forced to only read books for my age as a kid, I would never have ended up in the advanced reading classes I took for four years.

    I’ve also seen THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED. It is a shocking example of how corrupt a ratings board can be. It also illustrates that ratings need to have defined reasons and not be defined on subjective and highly biased opinions.

  3. Rrrrr, my lovely home library instituted this thing a few years ago whereby kids under the age of twelve can only check out children’s books (except with parental permission) and kids under the age of something like fifteen can only check out children’s books or YA books (except with parental permission). It drove me crazy! If they’d had that rule when I was a kid it would have been awful, awful, awful.

    I can’t speak for other kids besides myself, but I was pretty self-regulating as to what content was and wasn’t “too old” for me. When I would start reading a book I wasn’t ready for, I’d feel weird and unhappy and stop reading it (and maybe try again in a few years). One of the only books I can remember that genuinely upset me — I wish I could remember the title or any details about it, so I could investigate whether it really was as disturbing and awful as I found it — was aimed at exactly my age group. With kids, as with anyone, individual mileage may vary.

    Which I guess is a long-winded way of saying boo, down with ratings!

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