Fandoms can be a beautiful thing. Sometimes an online fandom is a space for people to find community and shared interest when they otherwise struggle to. However, it’s very well documented that sometimes fandoms can be pretty toxic, and engage in gatekeeping.
The horror fandom is a very interesting one. Though their community is found because of a love of some very dark works of art, they’re also a very tight-knit group. And while there’s a lot of community is formed among horror fans, there is a fair share of gatekeeping. One act among the horror community that can be a little gatekeep-y, is the rejection and dismissal of horror films with an MPAA rating of PG-13 in favor of R-rated pictures.
The argument against PG-13 horror is that it doesn’t take plot points, characters, and gore as far as it should. And because these films are often geared at teens, the movies generally reflect that. However, people fighting against PG-13 horror are turning against some real gems that fall under that rating. Not to mention, PG-13 horror is how most people get into the genre. Ultimately, PG-13 horrors might not be a favorite for everyone but they’re vital to horror cinema as a whole.
People don’t realize what classics they’re disregarding when they blanketly say that PG-13 horror isn’t good. Infamous J-horror remakes like The Ring and The Grudge are both rated PG-13, as are both A Quiet Place films. These are incredibly popular and very scary movies, even to adults, and are massively well-loved among horror fans. Insidious, which made waves upon release for being the scariest film in years, is rated PG-13. Less popular films like The Woman In Black, another very scary flick, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark have high technical prowess and don’t make it to an R-rating.
Disregarding PG-13 horror is also disregarding a whole generation of horror fans, which is unfair. Legally, teenagers cannot go to a movie theater and watch R-rated films. In the age of streaming service releases, technically, they have access to many of these R-rated films, but many teens also just don’t. Teens who are unable to watch R-rated horror films, but love the PG-13 ones that they have access to, are still horror fans. Pushing the narrative that PG-13 is automatically going to be bad is also pushing the narrative that the teens who only watch PG-13 horror have bad taste. That’s simply unfair, quite elitist, and is very much gatekeeping.
Age aside, some people love horror movies but are bothered by the more intense gore, sex, and general fear in R-rated films. Preferring PG-13 horror because someone finds R-rated films upsetting doesn’t make anyone any less of a horror fan. There’s a weird form of gatekeeping within horror, where some people seem to want to out-horror others and make sure that they are a fan of the most extreme and disturbing movies. These people look down on horror fans who enjoy tamer films and say they aren’t a “real horror fan” which just isn’t a good look for the community. Most people don’t agree with that line of thinking, but the constant dismissal of anything PG-13 adds to that narrative.
These films can also be great for getting newcomers to the genre, no matter what age they are. They aren’t as intense as a lot of horror films that are well-loved, which means they won’t be so offputting to people who don’t have experience with it. However, they can still be really scary and give the same nervous and jumpy feelings that horror movies are meant to. This especially goes for PG-13 entries like The Ring or A Quiet Place because they are so highly acclaimed and unique, with some truly scary imagery. Getting people into horror and showing how good it can be, means getting the genre more respect. Surely, this is something the majority of horror lovers will want.
All of this is of course not to say that every PG-13 horror movie is a masterpiece that needs to be cherished and loved by horror fans forever. Not by a long shot. Movies like The Roommate and One Missed Call also fall into this MPAA rating, and obviously, those are not as fondly remembered. However, the horror community as a whole needs to be more accepting of PG-13 horror movies because of how vital they are to the success of the genre and expanding the fanbase. They may not garner the appeal of horror lovers who are watching for the gore or the extreme moments, but they make horror accessible to so many more people. They can still be very scary and have an effect on viewers. And as evidenced by classics like The Ring, the PG-13 rating just isn’t the instant write-off that its reputation makes it seem to be.
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