The latest Chinese blockbuster Aftershock was set during the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, a disaster that killed more than 240,000 people. The film contains close-up scenes of people being crushed by collapsing buildings, limbs littering the ruins and trucks laden with corpses. Complaints about the violence depicted in the movie have renewed calls for reform of China’s film approval system, in which all movies to be released must be approved by the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT). Meanwhile, provincial agencies handle the approval of TV dramas. Films or TV shows that are not approved are excluded from public distribution. Students from Western Academy of Beijing voiced their opinions on the issue of media classification.
Pictured, left to right:
Abbey Germain, 15, Canada, has lived in Beijing for over one year
Adiel Pollydore, 16, Guyana, has lived in Beijing for 13 years
Franklyn Zhu, 16, Hong Kong, has lived in Beijing for 16 years
Felix Liu, 17, Germany/Taiwan, has lived in Beijing for over one year
Do you think it’s a good idea to have a rating system for movies, TV shows and video games?
Felix: Not as an absolute system, but as a guideline for parents. When you watch a movie, you don’t know how explicit the language is going to be or how violent it’s going to be and your parents can make their judgment based on the rating.
Franklyn: As opposed to the current system where it’s either in or out, I feel that the rating system is good. Ratings allow you to make your own choices, and allow parents to make choices about how they want to bring up their children. But I don’t think it should be as enforced as it is in the US. It should just be a guideline.
Abbey: I agree with Franklyn. I think it should also be a guideline.
What kind of rating system should apply to entertainment media?
Adiel: I think the American rating system is a pretty good system, but the line gets blurry at PG and PG-13. Things that pass for PG now would have been classified as PG-13 when I was younger.
Franklyn: After a certain threshold, you should be able to play whatevervideo games you want, because I don’t believe violent games really make you violent. I feel it’s a way to release stress. But you get addicted to them, especially with massive online video games. They should be more regulated.
Should children under 13 years old beprohibited from watching PG-13 rated movies without parental supervision?
Abbey: First of all, the line between PG and PG-13 is blurry. And either way, they are advising you to watch it with your parents.
Adiel: I think that it depends on the parent and the child. It’s case-by-case, because by the time I was 13, I think I was mature enough to watch a PG-13 movie by myself. But at the same time, there are children that when they are 13, it’s not an option for them.
Do you think R-rated movies have a negative effect on children?
Franklyn: I think it’s better to be exposed earlier, because it gives you more time to get over the shock. But of course, if you watched R-rated movies when you were 5, that’s not good. It’s all up to how mature you are.
Felix: You slowly get desensitised towards these kinds of things. Also, as the movie industry progresses, they find more and more ways to realistically portray violence. They are putting it into everything nowadays.
Abbey: It’s the same with swearing. When swearing is overused in movies, it kind of loses its humor and becomes repetitive.
Have you seen R-rated movies without parental supervision?
Adiel: I watched a Vietnam War movie. [It was violent], but it was so educational. There is no way you can wrap it in a nice G package and say: "Everybody watch that," because that’s just not possible.
Franklyn: One thing that I want to stress is that a movie can be any rating but the important thing is that it has value. When it has value, it doesn’t matter what rating it has.
Adiel: I realize that the movies my parents allowed me to watch when I was younger, even though they were rated higher than those [designed for]my age, were movies that had some sort of value or lesson that my parents thought I could take away from.
Felix: It’s like a lot of ethical debates – it’s always about whether the benefits outweigh the harm. This holds true for a movie rating as well.