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I saw my first R-rated movie when I was 8 years old. It
was "Police Academy." Some neighborhood friends had taped it off HBO, and it was
full of swearing and nudity and so many things that I didn't fully understand.
It was everything I wanted from an R-rated movie at the time
and, looking back now, as a parent, I'm completely appalled that I was allowed
to watch it.
Where were the parents? How did they not know what we were
watching? Were they not monitoring us at all?
All of that retroactive outrage was definitely in my head
when I sat down to show my own 8-year-old daughter her first R-rated movie.
Well, that's not entirely fair. Yes, I made the decision to
show an 8-year-old a movie that is not recommended for anyone under the age
of 17, but unlike my early screening of "Police Academy," this was an informed
decision. I KNEW what I was doing, I had carefully weighed the risks and had done it anyway. And, I believe, that kind of consideration is what being a
parent is all about.
There are characters on the Disney Channel more lecherous than Jake and Elwood.
I wouldn't let my kid see "Deadpool" because one Google
search and five seconds of actual thought should let ANY parent realize that it
isn't a particularly appropriate movie for young ones. There's violence,
nudity, language, gore—you name it.
Even though my wife might argue that I'm the more permissive
parent, I do a fair bit of due diligence before I'll let my daughter watch
something. I actually go see movies in the theatre solely just to see if they're
acceptable for my kid to watch if I have any doubts about the material. That's
something that parents SAY they want to do all the time, but they never
actually do. (I did it most recently with "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Jurassic
World"—my kid got to see "Guardians" but not "Jurassic.")
It's one of my all-time favorite movies. It's funny. My kid
loved Dan Aykroyd from "Ghostbusters." The music is amazing. My daughter spent
her childhood listening to the soundtrack in the car and wanted to see where
all those songs came from. It's a great, great movie. And I knew my daughter
would love it.
So, why not wait until she was at the MPAA's recommended age
to show her the movie?
Because I knew she would love it now and, because I knew the
movie backwards and forwards, I also knew that I didn't have a problem exposing her
to its "objectionable" content.
Is it violent? Yes, but in an extremely cartoony way. The
violence in a Marvel movie is more jarring.
Are there sex references? Yes, but it's all very quick and
nothing graphic. There are characters on the Disney Channel more lecherous than
Jake and Elwood.
Is there swearing? Oh, hell yeah. That's probably the most
objectionable part. There's a lot of low-grade swearing and, yes, a few
f-bombs. I'm assuming that's how it got an R-rating in the first place. But,
thanks to situations beyond my control, my daughter had already learned the
f-word. I can't un-ring that bell. And the f-word's use in "Blues Brothers" is
sparing and not particularly aggressive.
So I made an educated decision and I decided to show her the
And THAT is where I think most parents fail when it comes to
exposing their kids to R-rated movies. If you decide to show one to your kid,
it shouldn't come from an apathetic place. You shouldn't just shrug and say "they've
seen worse" or "they know it's only a movie"—particularly if you've never seen
the movie before. My decision to show her "Blues Brothers" was easy because I
knew the movie intimately. I'd watched it literally hundreds of times
throughout my life. I KNEW what I was doing.
The responsibility belongs to us—not the MPAA, not the movie theatre, not the studios—to decide what's appropriate for our kids.
On the MPAA website, their guidelines for R-rated movies
state, "Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their
young children with them."
And I couldn't agree more with that statement.
You know your kid. You know what they can and can't handle. If you want to show them something that other people deem
objectionable, fine, but do it from an educated place. Don't you DARE take your
kid to "Deadpool" opening night sight unseen. You research that movie, you go
see it first, and you think long and hard before you show them that movie.
So, yes, my 8-year-old saw an R-rated movie, and she
LOVED IT. She was smiling the whole time, she laughed, she sang along. And she gave
me a knowing look every time someone cursed, as if to thank me for trusting her
Would I show her another R-rated movie? Totally. She's
already seen "The Matrix." (Like "Blues Brothers," I'd argue that "The
Matrix" is a "soft" R with very little language or suggestive material, but a lot
of violence—albeit, bloodless, exaggerated violence.)
Whenever I consider showing my daughter an "objectionable"
movie in the future, I'll just take the MPAA's words to heart and "learn more"
before I make the decision.
Because, as parents, the responsibility belongs to us—not the
MPAA, not the movie theatre, not the studios—to decide what's appropriate for
our kids. And that's a responsibility that I take very seriously. But not so
seriously that I won't let my kid watch the mall chase from "Blues Brothers," because that @#$% is hilarious.