Those Offensive Beatles!

beatlesesrbSARAH G. ASKS: “Why is Beatles Rock Band rated T-Teen?” I’ve been thinking about this every time I pull out Beatles Rock Band for family or friends. I think about it every time my under 13 kids are exposed to it. The game has been rated T-Teen 13+ by our video game watch dog organization and I have to strongly disagree with it. Why? Because it’s absurd and why we should be concerned about it as enthusiasts, parents and fans of gaming.

(Disclosure: I’ve done some contract work for the ESRB and other non-profit entities)

Beatles Rock Band is rated T-Teen. This is  misleading because it’s difficult to make a case that the Beatles lyrics are offensive. No bad words. (Or if they’re there, the music industry never thought to warn anyone and it hasn’t been widely remarked upon.) The songs about drugs are cleverly hidden enough that culture mavens from the 60’s-90’s believed John Lennon when he claimed that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was not about LSD (despite the abbreviation and despite the lyrics). I think its safe to say that if adults were fooled (or maybe just suckered), kids under 13 are certainly not going to get that message.

The ESRB is supposed to protect children. By rating an inoffensive game T they’ve fooled parents into equating the game with a war game or similarly violent or adult title. The Beatles don’t really do overt – or offensive – in their music. I’ve played their music at family gatherings and playgroups with strangers. Conservative Catholic strangers. Republican Cultural Conservative Catholic Strangers – and nobody has ever been offended.

The ESRB is a valuable tool but a tool is only valuable if it is used correctly. It’s one thing when a game is rated too high – like Halo – because a percentage of Americans (I’d guess 30%) would find Halo offensive and a much larger percentage would at least be concerned. I refuse to believe that more than 10% would agree with a T rating here.

It’s the Beatles.

A known quantity for 50 years now.

ANYONE WHO WOULD BE OFFENDED CAN LISTEN TO BEATLES MUSIC ON ANY RADIO STATION. BUY THE ALBUMS, WHICH DON”T COME WITH LANGUAGE STICKERS or watch one of their sure to be G-Rated (had the MPAA existed back then) movies. In short, parents who WOULD be offended, should already be offended, and thus don’t need the conservative rating.


The game should be E-Everyone. E-10, I’d be happier with, because it’d make more sense, but I’d still disagree with it.

The ESRB explanation cites Mild Lyrics (whatever) and Tobacco Reference. Tobacco Reference? Really? 13+ for referencing something my kids can see people doing everywhere? Including just outside the doors of the hospital where I had my surgery? Hmmm… I suppose it’s reasonable to assume the Beatles Rock Band might convince kids under 13 that smoking is cool and, hey, why not smoke one up now! That makes sense.

That makes sense.

That makes … wait.

As a recovering smoker – I had it bad folks, 15 years of trying to quit and it took a quadruple bypass operation to finally make it stick (smoke free since 2007 buddy)! And as a parental advocate, speechmaker, expert and critic that there is exactly one reason why Tobacco would help trigger a Teen rating. This was done, partially, to appease the Zero Tolerance anti-smoking crowd. You know, the people who go out of their way to convince kids that it’s UNCOOL not to smoke?

Effectively, rating the Beatles Rock Band T-Teen closes the door on any reasonable person who is trying to do the right thing by rigorously following the ESRB. They won’t buy the game for their families. Which is a real shame. Because if you’re too busy to pay attention yourself, then the ESRB is designed for a parent to mindlessly follow. I encourage it myself!  But this doesn’t help. It makes the ESRB look reactionary, prude and silly.

(I know, Rock Band and Guitar Hero are also T-Teen. But then again, those games invariably include songs that praise the Devil, involve drugs, have stronger lyrics (these are censored before the ESRB gets them by the way), talk up violence and sexual conquest. I also disagree strongly with the T- rating for these games, but it is at least a sane decision. But seriously folks, seriously, if the Beatles were included in a Guitar Hero songlist, do you think that’s the band that might raise red flags for parents? The same red flags Metallic, Guns & Roses or Rage Against the Machine might raise? – the ESRB thinks so!)

Well, a real shame to anyone who has played a game like this with their families.  So you read it here at GamerDad –

“Beatles Rock Band: Recommended for Kids of All Ages.”

Here’s the ESRB’s explanation:

Some song lyrics contain suggestive references (e.g., “Everybody had a wet dream,” and “…pornographic priestess…Boy you been a naughty girl, you let your knickers down”). The game includes unlockable photos of band members, some of whom are depicted holding cigarettes or smoking.


Tell me, are you convinced?  Or do you think maybe the ESRB is living in a much earlier decade then the rest of us. Also, American kids don’t know what “knickers are” and that Pornographic Priestess is, in context, climbing up the Eiffel Tower. And Eiffel Tower isn’t presented as a penis reference. But maybe the ESRB feels it is? Hey, at least we had Paris.

Booo!  Too conservative ESRB. Way too conservative.

I say again:

Beatles Rock Band – endorsed for ALL AGES by GamerDad. Seriously.

4 Responses to “Those Offensive Beatles!”

  1. I completely disagree with the rating also. I remember when it was rated T. I had no idea why because i only remember 2-3 songs from them that are even remotely offensive.

  2. Wow – I really appreciate this view and posting. Have been seriously considering purchasing this game for the family, but have chosen not to do so because of the rating. I figured there must be more to the game than I understood. Apparently, not. Thanks for the insights. Agree 100%…

  3. Um….Doug….Hes saying that hes for the game….not against it. Rock band is very tame I feel compared to Guitar hero. They have great classic music and its not like hard core. My family has been anticipating the Beetles game to come out for a long time. I have little sisters 4 and 6 and you bet im gonna let them rock out with me. For god sakes its the Beetles. They sing “all you need is love”. (sarcasm) Thats real innapropriate. We dont want children hearing that. They even sing their songs in comercials. ESRB…what a bunch of….

  4. “watch one of their sure to be G-Rated (had the MPAA existed back then) movies.” Amazon actually rates Hard Day Night and Yellow Submarine “G”

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