Discussion Highlights: Fiction Rating System

Last Week’s Discussion:
Fiction Rating System

Movies, tv shows, video games, even CDs all have rating systems to warn or protect people from violent, gruesome, inappropriate content. However, books do not. Why? They can have the same type of inappropriate, mature content but they don’t have content warnings or ratings or anything. Yet how many people would prefer having a rating system for books? Let’s ask the discussioners, shall we?

Shanah said:

“As a mother I think that YA books especially need a rating system since they’re directed to such a broad age range and varying levels of maturity. But I know that there are subjects that some people (adults included) who really don’t want to read about certain things for their own personal reasons and they deserve fair warning.”

Nicolle said:

“I also agree on having a fiction rating system! I think I mentioned this last time; video games have a pretty standard rating system that I think could work for fiction. Games have two ratings, one for age (everyone, 10+, 13+, mature, etc) and one for content descriptors like mild violence / violence, bad language, alcohol and drugs, etc.”

Sophie said:

“Well warning should obviously exist. Now which official rating system shoulf be chosen I don’t know but explicit sex, drugs, rape etc. Should certainly be mentioned. As far as violence is concerned this is rather blurry as some would see killing a rabbit violent for kids books while other would see it as a non event. I think something like the first system you mentioned would really be useful.”

Deanna said:

“Implementing it may be difficult but I 100% agree that there should be some kind of rating system. I also think that many publishers or even readers look at the category the book is put in (children’s, YA, or “adult”) and see that as a rating system. Personally, I see something in the YA section to be PG 13, but that’s not always the case.”

Alexandra said:

“The 0 – 3 system seems, to me, a great idea. Films are currently rated, but different countries have different rating systems so standardisation seems the way to go. The numbered rating system does not prevent readers from buying/reading the book, but if standardised will allow audiences to know what sort of content is in there.”

Ali said:

“It didn’t used to be the case but I’m probably against ratings on books. I’ve listened to Patrick Ness speak a couple of times on the subject and he makes some very convincing arguments. […] I do think there should be trigger warnings for difficult topics like abuse, suicide etc but in many cases a warning could give away a major plot point. It’s definitely not an easy one for publishers. Maybe instead of a rating, some kind of online resource which lists books with certain triggers.”

Adrienne said:

“I am all for the rating system and the trigger warnings. I don’t think its just about having content be too mature, it’s first about protecting readers from triggers, second about warning parents about books that young kids shouldn’t be reading, and third about warning readers about content they do not enjoy reading in a book.”

Trent said:

“I can see a voluntary rating system for YA. Something like your second system would work. For adults? I’m not sure. The trigger warning, sure. The problem is, there is always a group out there that politicizes rating systems. Sometimes religious groups will boycott stores or whatever to force them not to carry content that they don’t like. Rating systems are always the first step to censorship.”

Holly said:

“It always seemed strange to me that CDs could have warning labels on them, but not books. Warnings on CDs are about the lyrics, THE WORDS, not the music itself (unless you’ve recently encountered a particularly violent piano). So, why is it different for books? […] As for censorship, I’ll admit I’m not well-versed in the ramifications of introducing rating systems or how it’s affected other industries. Grand Theft Auto is one of the best-selling video game series of all time, despite its rating and accompanying warnings.”

Adam said:

“Growing up there were definitely times where I read a book, and realized that if it was a movie instead of a book, I would not be permitted to view it. Of course some could argue that reading something graphic is not the same as seeing it, and often stories will allude to rather than blatantly describe graphic content. I think I would prefer the Universal RPG Rating System, or something like it, though I’d be tempted to add a fourth variable for tone.”

It seems like this is a subject up for some debate. Some believe it’s a good idea to help protect and inform prospective readers, but others are concerned about the negative effect a rating system will have on sales, reader decisions (particularly younger, rebellious readers), and parents who may use the rating system as a means to prohibit or ban certain books. I don’t know what the future may hold, but I think that there is some benefit to this in the form of protecting readers. I, personally, believe that to be a benefit that outweighs the disadvantages and will be attempting to build a system with my fellow book bloggers. If you’re interested in helping out, please let me know. Let’s make some change. 🙂

Check out this week’s discussion on Thursday at 8am EST:
Shelf Organization

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