Children and Horror after PG-13: The Case of The Gate

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The paper analyses the tensions in the text, production and reception of the children’s horror film The Gate (Tibor Takács, 1987) relating to the sustained ambiguity around the Motion Picture Association of America's PG-13 classification. I suggest that the late 1980s was a moment of transition toward new attitudes about the horror genre and children. To develop this argument, the paper explores the main issues raised in critical opinion about the film at the time of its release: notions on what the horror genre is or should be; the changing assumptions about its audiences (namely the shift away from an adults-only perspective); and moral panics triggered by transitioning social values.

These struggles are suggested also in the creative clashes between the writer and director of The Gate: where one wanted to make a traditional R-rated horror, the other was adamant about it being a positive fairy-tale for pre-teens. The paper analyses the way this conflict is reflected in the film’s representations of children and suggests that its resolution in a vision of child empowerment (narratively and critically) indicates a move away from traditional assumptions about the horror genre, as well as childhood. Through this analysis, the paper also seeks to understand how PG-13 was perceived in the late 1980s, particularly in terms of its implied audience and its relationship with the genre of horror. Through this focus on the relationship between ratings, creative choices and conflicting attitudes, the paper proposes the idea of two intertwined cultural shifts: toward a more segmented view of childhood, in the emergence of the pre-teen as a demographic, and a more open definition of horror and its audiences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNetworking Knowledge
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2014

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