‘The Walking Dead’s’ Rating: Parents Television Council Suggests TV-MA Not Strong Enough

When it comes to the TV Parental Guidelines chart, The Walking Dead’s rating currently sits at TV-MA. There was a time when it was rated TV-14, and one group is now suggesting that the rating should be elevated to something more severe yet again.

On Sunday night, 17 million people tuned in for the Season 7 premiere of AMC’s hit zombie series, but not everyone was pleased with what they saw, including the Parents Television Council (PTC). A group that has existed since 1995, the PTC describes itself as a “non-partisan education organization of over 1.3 million everyday citizens advocating for responsible entertainment.”

For a brief overview of what has some upset, Season 6 of AMC’s hit zombie series ended on one of the most talked about cliffhangers of the year last spring. For over six months, fans of The Walking Dead wondered, “Who did Negan kill?” On Sunday night, the wait was finally over, and the brutal answer to that question was revealed.

In a gut-wrenching hour of television, two beloved characters, one of whom had been part of the story since the first season, were killed by Negan and his barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat named Lucille. Not that The Walking Dead hasn’t shocked its audience before, but the level of violence in the show’s most recent episode has left many, such PTC president Tim Winter, wondering if the show has finally gone over the top. It has also led to the questioning of The Walking Dead’s rating once again.

TV-MA is the most severe rating a show can have, and it warns that the program in question may contain material that is unsuitable for viewers under the age of 17. In a new interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Winter raised the question of whether or not a rating beyond that of TV-MA should be created.

“When you look at the definition of MA and what content of the show is, it’s unquestionable they chose what best represented the content,” Winter told Hollywood Reporter. “This certainly raises question of if there should be an even more severe rating than TV-MA.”

Winter did acknowledge that the storyline of The Walking Dead, a fictional, post-apocalyptic tale that is based on a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, is inherently violent. However, he argued that the material seen in Sunday night’s episode was gratuitous, saying that it simply “crossed the line.” Winter also implied that the show has become too reliant on violence, saying that it is being used as a replacement for what could be, and once was, better storytelling.

“…With The Walking Dead, the creative team has resorted to the graphic violence as a crutch for what used to be better storytelling. When you can’t figure out what lines to write, you put something in easier, which is a graphic depiction. To me, it’s too much.”

Per Hollywood Reporter, Winter explains that one solution would be to have more of the show’s violence implied, rather than explicitly shown. Hollywood Reporter also points out that PTC has long been for an “a la carte” or “unbundling” cable system, which would give subscribers more control over the channels that appear on their television sets. USA TODAY uses the term “line-item veto” to describe the power viewers would have when deciding which channels come into their homes.

Changing The Walking Dead’s rating to one that doesn’t even exist yet may seem a bit like an overreaction, and many will likely brush off PTC’s comments with an, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it” type of response. Nevertheless, PTC does raise a few important points, and it is certainly fair to ask if everything depicted in the Season 7 premiere was truly necessary.

In Negan’s own words, he is “just getting started.” If that is indeed the case and the Season 7 premiere is a sign of what is to come, it wouldn’t be surprising if PTC, and perhaps others, continue to question The Walking Dead’s rating.

[Featured Image by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images]