R-Rated Films and Parental Responsibility: My 2 Cents
In the summer of 2009, my mom and I went to go see Orphan, a horror film about a couple who adopt a seemingly innocent, yet obviously disturbed little girl. I was fourteen at the time, and it was one of the first rated R movies I was allowed to see in theaters. It was a pretty good movie. Nice tension, good acting, well-shot, and well-paced. But I’m not here to review an eight-year old movie, but rather I want to bring up something that occurred during the movie.
There’s a particularly steamy scene in the middle of the film where the parents (played by Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) are getting it on in the kitchen. Sitting directly behind my mom and I was a five-year-old boy and his father. As Farmiga bent over the sink and Sarsgaard began really getting into it and initiating a series of passionate thrusts, I heard the boy say, “Daddy, what are they doing?”
Ever since this awkward little experience, I’ve often thought about why parents sometimes make the stupid decision of taking their young kids to see an R-rated movie. keep in mind I’m speaking of elementary-age kids. Several people have provided a single solid reason as to why this happens. The parents might want to relax and have a fun time at the movies, but are unable to find a babysitter to watch their children. So I guess with this mindset, I can understand why it would just be easier to bring their kids to the theater. But my main issue is that I don’t think parents fully realize how dangerous it is to expose such young children to extreme and graphic material.
I don’t mean to sound like a parent, especially since I am not one, nor am I around children regularly. But hearing ridiculous stories similar to my Orphan experience, and witnessing parents making idiotic decisions has driven me up the wall. Kids can absorb things very quickly, whether it’s what they hear or what they see. So when a parents takes their kid to a screening of an R-rated action flick, for example, its best not to think, “Oh well my kid’s only five, he/she won’t remember any of this when she’s older.” I hate to break it to you- wait, scratch that, I’d love to break it to you- but that’s not the way it’ll work out. That child will remember whatever sex innuendos, racial slurs, or bad words the actors say, as well as the graphic sex and extremely bloody violence that’s portrayed onscreen. And I’m just saying that if you’re willing to expose your children to these kinds of things, then you better be ready to explain to them what it is they’re seeing. Such material can be ingrained in their brains in some way, shape, or form. They’ll have many questions, so you better have some answers.
Another thing that gets under my skin involves parents making assumptions. Just because the movie Ted stars a cutesy teddy bear, it doesn’t mean it’s a family film. I’ve read about instances when mothers or fathers took their kid to see this movie because the kids thought the teddy bear looked funny. He was, but definitely not in the PG-esque way they were hoping for. And let’s take into consideration the new Deadpool movie coming out soon. Just because it stars a marvel superhero, it doesn’t mean the film’s going to be family-friendly fun like The Avengers or The Amazing Spider-Man. As parents, it’s their responsibility to pay attention to the ratings and why a film is rated that way. Because even though I believe children shouldn’t only be spoon fed safe, tastelessly watered down forms of entertainment, I argue there needs to be some regulation when it comes to how much dark subject matter they’re shown. The important thing is to pay attention, and to say “no” when a child desperately wants to see a film that might not be appropriate for them.
On that note, let’s talk some more about Deadpool. About three weeks ago, the youtube channel “Beyond the Trailer” (hosted by Grace Randolph) posted a video highlighting an interesting scenario. Apparently a fan of hers sent in a letter written by her eight-year-old son. The letter included a list of reasons as to why he should see the new Deadpool movie as well as things we was willing to do in order to see it. The boy thought Deadpool was funny (apparently the character made appearances in the Disney cartoon Ultimate Spider-Man), he promised to do all his homework every day, and promised to close his eyes during the “bad” parts. It’s cute enough. But then Grace announced she’d started a petition asking for 20th Century Fox to make a PG-13 cut of the film, that way kids don’t have to miss out on the action. Last time I checked, the petition has garnered over 1,000 signatures.
While not being a completely ludicrous idea, making a PG-13 cut is an impossible feat. The film comes out next week, and cutting out every single instance of graphic nudity, sex, language, and violence would shortened the film and lessen the quality. I’ll admit this is a strange situation. It’s interesting how the film is a hard R but the character makes appearances in children’s television shows and marketed as a kid friendly superhero action figure. But this is also a situation where it seems the parent can’t tell the child “no”.
From what we’ve heard, Deadpool is upping the anty with its vulgar nature. To me, this seems like a situation where the parent doesn’t want to say “no”. Why is that? Doing so doesn’t make you the villain. Instead there’s a movement to change the film entirely in order for it to be suitable for one person. Rather than go to extremes, why not make this into a life lesson?
Children need to learn that they can’t get everything they want, and that most time they’ll just have to be patient. Children need to know that in the real world, the rules aren’t always going to be altered just to suite their needs. If they want a cleaner version of a film, then they can wait until the censored cut comes on FX or TNT. And if parents are willing to expose intense, R-rated material to their young children, then they better be willing to put everything in context. It’s about responsibility- parents need to take responsibility. Because when it comes to the film-going experience, children can be exposed to dark subject matter they weren’t necessarily ready to face in the first place.