Bill has already touched on the worthlessness of the movie rating system but I'd like to focus on one aspect in particular: The F-Bomb. As swear words go, this is the big one. Culturally, we are very sensitive to the use of this word. Or, at least, we were at one time.
I read an article recently that analyzed the use of F-Bombs. By the MPAA's Classification and Rating Administration's guidelines a film may still be rated PG-13 if it has one non-sexual use of the F-word.
Then how do they explain the numerous PG-13 movies that use the F-word more than one time? Recent PG-13 movies to include more than one F-bomb include "Transfomers: Dark of the Moon," "The Social Network," "The Tourist," "Crazy Stupid Love," and "Larry Crowne." Not to mention PG movies such as "Big" and "Beetlejuice" that include the F-word. Apparently, the raters can vote to overrule the rules, meaning they can assign any rating to any film irregardless of the film's content as long as two-thirds of the raters agree.
Frankly, this is simply absurd. I realize that there's lots of gray area in rating a film but either the ratings are meaningful or not. As a parent, I do not want to take my children to a PG movie and have them exposed to the F-word! It makes me upset enough that there's mild cursing in even G films.
Personally, I find websites such as http://www.kids-in-mind.com/ and http://www.parentpreviews.com/ much more informative than the MPAA rating. Websites such as these are extremely detailed. They rate a film according to its violence, sexual content, language, and other potentially offensive or suggestive categories such as drug and alcohol use. Each category is rated separately which allows the parent to make a truly informed decision.