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Rate this fic

Perhaps appropriately on Mother's Day, I have been wondering how people pick their fic ratings.

There are all kinds of personal and cultural reasons for individuals to weight sexual content, violence, and/or adult themes differently when deciding on an appropriate rating for a film or fic. For example, the American motion picture rating system apparently considers nudity to be much more dangerous to impressionable young minds than physical violence, a position with which I personally disagree.

At least the MPAA has reasonably well-delineated criteria for the selection of film ratings (and for a really interesting look at the ramifications, I recommend this film). I remember back when the "PG-13" category was created to handle action-adventure films with too much violence for the pre-teen set. I think I may have been too old to care when the "NC-17" category was created.

FF.net has one set of criteria (including the mysterious "M" rating which apparently means appropriate for age 16 and over). LJ has another which distinguishes between adult concepts and explicit adult content.

What either of those really means in the context of contemporary culture, I basically have no idea. Kind of makes me miss the era when you could count up how many "fucks" showed up in your film, choose to cut or keep them to get the rating you wanted, and call it a day. When I try to choose appropriate ratings for my fics, the same story containing some swear words and sexual references could easily rate anything from PG to R, or PG-13 to NC-17, depending on my mood/level of paranoia.

So I ask you in all seriousness, how much do you worry about the ratings you use for your fics, and do you have a set of criteria that you apply systematically (in which case, would you mind if I stole it)?

Comments

( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
alternatealto
May. 8th, 2011 02:41 pm (UTC)
My own system is pretty simple, I guess. For me, it pretty much boils down to sex, angst, and cussing, since I don't write violence. So:

Is there sex, graphically described? Or discussions of things like BDSM, even without actual sex being depicted? Automatic NC/17 rating.

Is sex mentioned, but not described in detail, or is there fondling without specifics as to whose whatsis is involved? Or is there a great deal of intensely strong emotional content, particularly angst? Is the language extremely salty? R rating.

Is there maybe a mention of sex, a certain amount of angst, and some strong language? PG-13 rating (usually given when I can't decide between PG and R)

A m/m kiss, or a couple of cuss words that might offend the fastidious (who probably shouldn't be reading my stuff anyway, but accidents happen)? PG

No word, act, idea, or concept that could bring the blush of shame to the cheek of innocence? G rating, and it's probably wondering what it's doing in my LJ.


So, there you have it, for what it's worth!



flywoman
May. 8th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
This is so interesting - it's starting to sound like everyone has their own personal system. No wonder I'm perplexed! But this was very helpful.

Is sex mentioned, but not described in detail, or is there fondling without specifics as to whose whatsis is involved?
See, for me, mention of sex would make it a PG-13 rating. In fact, a brief mention of whose whatsis is involved usually still gets a PG-13 rating. It has to get pretty explicit and/or angsty to merit an R or NC-17 from me (and I'm hopelessly inconsistent about when to use which).

G rating, and it's probably wondering what it's doing in my LJ.
LOL. I feel like House in particular is an unlikely show to inspire a lot of G rated fic - I don't think I've written a single one - but apparently I'm wrong in many cases.
jezziejay
May. 8th, 2011 02:55 pm (UTC)
I have a ridiculous system of rating that would not hold up to any scrutiny whatsoever. For example, if there is one eff word, I'll probably label it PG, if there are more, then PG13, and if there are lots, R. Which makes no sense. Because lots of 'fucks' are surely as unsuitable as one. (And, slightly OT, I don't share Stephen Fry's view that people who don't swear have a limited vocabulary - I just think that they are just more careful with it - and I never swear around children - I'm generally uncomfortable with it being used around kids, and I abhor it being spoken to them directly.)

I don't write violence, so nothing really to say about that one, other than I totally agree with the point you make about the acceptability of violence, but distain of nudity.

Sex gets a PG13 to R depending on the number of references to it, and how explicit the language is - and the context - like what exactly is meant by 'fuck'. (I am always a little bewildered how a kiss between two straight people gets no rating, but a kiss between same sexes gets a much higher one. Actually, I've also seen pieces with kissing (both straight and gay) rated as R. Don't really get that either.)

Graphic and/or gratuitous sex gets an NC17.

But regardless of what rating is on my fic - I do not intend for any of it to be read by children. Even if it PG, or G, I can't see anything in my work that might interest them.

So here's my criteria - spend a minute or two looking over what you've written, shoe horn into whatever rating you feel is appropriate, and cross your fingers that you don't offend anyone. Feel free to adopt it ;)

I find labelling much more tricky than rating!
flywoman
May. 8th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
For example, if there is one eff word, I'll probably label it PG, if there are more, then PG13, and if there are lots, R.
This made me laugh really hard. I'm not sure whether it's because 1) the MPAA really did use a system like that, at least for a while, 2) an eff in an American movie would definitely make it PG-13 right off the bat, or 3) surely the number shouldn't matter as much as the use of a word at all, but I think about this in much the same way you do!

I am always a little bewildered how a kiss between two straight people gets no rating, but a kiss between same sexes gets a much higher one.
This is a really good point that I omitted to mention in my original post. Certainly there has been a lot of controversy here in the US about whether homosexual kissing/sex scenes in movies should receive stronger ratings that heterosexual ones. And even though I personally don't believe that they should be, I must confess that I tend to give my slash stories higher ratings because of that convention.

Feel free to adopt it ;)
LOL, I'm pretty sure that's the system I'm already using!
writerdot
May. 8th, 2011 02:57 pm (UTC)
Huh. I haven't really thought about this consciously. For me, I guess it's about word choices. If it's got any type of swearing, I just use PG-13. I tend not to use the word 'fuck' when I'm writing (though, I'm not really sure why, since I use it pretty liberally in RL), but I think I'd still use PG-13, for that anyway. I guess, with the exception of one of my fics where I used the word 'shit', if I've heard the word on the show, then I use PG-13. I don't really write anything higher then that, since I find myself completely incapable of writing smut, or outright violence.

Basically PG-13 is my go-to rating.

This probably wasn't any help...and was rambling. lol. Sorry, I'm hopped up on cold medication.
flywoman
May. 8th, 2011 03:37 pm (UTC)
if I've heard the word on the show, then I use PG-13
This is an important point too, imo. What would we consider the "rating" of the show itself? I would say PG-13 at least, given the language and adult themes. But it does seem to me that if it's said on prime time television, then it shouldn't merit more than PG-13.

And PG-13 is my go-to rating as well... I'm just pretty sure that (in my case) that's often not appropriate!
stenveny
May. 8th, 2011 04:11 pm (UTC)
I don't rate my fics because I'm too lazy to figure all that out. I always put "explicit sex" in the warning, if it's in the chapter, or "drug use", or "references to child abuse", or whatever. I also warn for fluff or angst, and I don't bother with language warnings at all. On LJ my default is "contains adult concepts." I upgrade it to "adult content" for the smut chapters. I've never had anyone complain about a lack of fair warning. I don't concern myself with ratings, but I read warnings carefully.

I get more howls of outrage about a given pairing (or rather *not* a given pairing) than for smut, drug abuse, or angst, so YMWV.
flywoman
May. 8th, 2011 04:25 pm (UTC)
I don't rate my fics because I'm too lazy to figure all that out.
LOL. I guess that's another option. Even when you post to comms?

I always put "explicit sex" in the warning, if it's in the chapter, or "drug use", or "references to child abuse", or whatever.
That is an interesting alternative, although header warnings can be a whole 'nother can of worms. For example, I hate to use them when they're going to spoil a major plot point, even when I recognize that some readers would choose to avoid the story for that reason.
I want an "out-of-character" warning. Those fics I would like to avoid.

On LJ my default is "contains adult concepts." I upgrade it to "adult content" for the smut chapters.
Ditto.

I get more howls of outrage about a given pairing (or rather *not* a given pairing) than for smut, drug abuse, or angst, so YMWV.
You certainly have gotten more than your share of howls of outrage! I'm still wondering whether to chalk this up to the H/C subfandom generally, a few fanatics, projected outrage over the events on the show, your peculiar status as THE current H/C author, or some perfect storm of all of the above.
(no subject) - stenveny - May. 8th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flywoman - May. 8th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - barefootpuddles - May. 9th, 2011 05:18 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flywoman - May. 9th, 2011 11:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - barefootpuddles - May. 9th, 2011 01:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
yarroway
May. 8th, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
my ratings are entirely subjective.

G to my mind is the stuff I'd aim at the 8 and under set, and that's not what I write. The fanfic equivalent of House and Wilson having a picnic with My Little Pony, My Friend Flicka, and Bambi. I don't use it.

NC-17 is my sexual content rating. Most people understand that from the rating, or at least I hope they do. If I wrote violence of equivalent graphicness (there must be a proper word for that), I'd rate it NC-17 too.

If I've written something about serious issues--depression, feeling suicidal, eating disorders, drug addiction--and really delved into it, I rate M.

R is for anything more than a kiss, or a looking at serious issues that aren't gone into in such angsty detail.

I use PG and PG-13 interchangeably.

I tend to rate conservatively, though.
flywoman
May. 8th, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this! I'm getting the impression that the bottom line is that all of our rating systems are subjective. Now I'm trying to figure out where I tend to fall along the spectrum. And the answer is... not that reassuring ;).

The fanfic equivalent of House and Wilson having a picnic with My Little Pony, My Friend Flicka, and Bambi.
I think I just threw up a little in my mouth, as the saying goes.

I tend to rate conservatively, though.
Hmm. Glad that you think so, because I'm starting to feel really guilty right about now that I've given House's hand on Wilson's cock a PG-13...
(no subject) - yarroway - May. 8th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alternatealto - May. 8th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yarroway - May. 8th, 2011 09:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flywoman - May. 9th, 2011 04:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yarroway - May. 9th, 2011 12:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - flywoman - May. 9th, 2011 12:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
srsly_yes
May. 8th, 2011 06:57 pm (UTC)
Well, I thought I knew what my ratings meant until I read everyone's above. Now, I'm not sure. Offhand, I'd say, PG-13 for a little swearing. R for a little kissing, lots of swearing, violence, and deathfics. NC-17 for sex.

Many times I add a condition to my rating, like "Soft NC-17" for implied sex, or "R for language," so not to disappoint anyone who is expecting m/m action.

At one time, just for fun, I created coffee ratings. Expresso for R, Mocha for PG-13. Hot Chocolate for fluff. Since they still needed an explanation, it was rather redundant.

I do rely on warnings to underscore ratings.

flywoman
May. 9th, 2011 04:35 am (UTC)
*smile* I do often use "PG-13 for language" so that readers know that there's no actual sex involved. But... that just distinguishes it from my PG-13 fics in which there is sex involved...
nightdog_barks
May. 8th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
PG-13 is pretty much my default rating, if for no other reason it's been on my headers for so long I just don't bother to change it (unless it's to move it up). Besides, there's almost always something in my stories that would make them PG-13 rather than G.

Graphic violence/rough language gets an R, anything combined with sexual violence gets a "hard R" or an NC-17. I always include separate Warnings for those, as well as for subject matter that could be considered "triggery."

I think generally I try to take into consideration what people who read fanfic could reasonably have already been exposed to -- there's plenty of folks having naked, sweaty sex on HBO, and there are lots of violent movies out there -- Saving Private Ryan and Full Metal Jacket come to mind. So yeah, I try to be aware of what's going on in popular culture, and rate accordingly.
flywoman
May. 9th, 2011 04:38 am (UTC)
I was especially interested to hear from you on this. I have learned always to take your ratings and header warnings seriously!
barefootpuddles
May. 9th, 2011 05:06 am (UTC)
I am very simple:

NC-17 - Sex (even if it is smuff! ;) )

R - Insinuated sex but without the graphic depiction

PG-13 - F word, sex jokes, heavy angst, adult concepts

PG - Bad words, strong sarcasm, negativity or relationship matters

G - Nothing that a kid couldn't read. Not that a kid would like it, but I can type it on my computer and my youngest son can read it over my shoulder.


My biggest issues is not ratings, but warnings. What constitutes an appropriate warning? Without giving the entire story away? I often read fics that were poorly warned, yet the warning or too much of a summary might have ruined it. That is a tough one for me as a writer and as a reader.



Edited at 2011-05-09 05:07 am (UTC)
flywoman
May. 9th, 2011 12:04 pm (UTC)
I am very simple:

Yes! This is simple - and almost perfectly matched to my sensibilities. If it's all right with you, I'd like to copy this into my profile (credited of course), both to remind myself and to clarify for readers.

My biggest issues is not ratings, but warnings. What constitutes an appropriate warning? Without giving the entire story away?

Me too! It's tough because personally I'll read just about anything in the hands of a skilled writer (although I have encountered the occasional exception in a storyline I just can't stomach, it doesn't take very long to figure that out and stop reading). It's so much harder to surprise or create suspense when the reader already knows how something has to end.
(no subject) - barefootpuddles - May. 9th, 2011 01:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yarroway - May. 9th, 2011 12:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
menolly_au
May. 9th, 2011 08:20 am (UTC)
G - House and Wilson sit on a sofa, watch television and occasionally look in each others direction. Wilson goes home at the end of the night and House goes to bed.

PG - House and Wilson sit on a sofa, watch television and cast flirtatious glances at each other while they occasionally bump knees or their shoulders touch. Wilson goes home at the end of the night and House goes to bed sad and lonely.

PG-13 - House and Wilson sit on a sofa, watch television and then cuddle up to each other on said sofa, they exchange gentle kisses and Wilson suggests that they have an early night. Who sleeps where is not detailed.

R - House and Wilson sit on a sofa, watch porn, kiss heavily and then have sex that is not described in graphic detail. Wilson 'pleasures' House who feels a 'tremendous release'. They both retire to House's bedroom and look forward to round 2 in the morning.

NC-17 - House and Wilson sit on a sofa, watch porn, thrust their tongues far down each others throats, tear their clothes off and have sex with every movement described in loving detail, including which part goes where. Lube is applied, condoms may or may not be put on and great fun is had by both. They go to House's bedroom for a repeat and have such enthusiastic sex that they break the bed.
flywoman
May. 9th, 2011 11:34 am (UTC)
LOL. You win.

Also, I definitely need to rethink my PG-13 ratings.
(no subject) - jezziejay - May. 9th, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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