Monday, October 23, 2000

Parental guidance

I saw a sign at our local movie megaloplex (yes, I went to the movies!) that stopped me in my tracks. There, by the ticket sign, in bold capital letters: “For the comfort of all our patrons, no children under 5 will be allowed into R-rated movies.”

I don’t know what unsettled me more: That people would try to bring children under 5 to an R-rated movie, or that it was perfectly okay to bring a 6-year-old. With all the flap lately about teens sneaking into shows to which they are supposed to be accompanied by parent, it’s odd to consider what sort of choices accompanying parents may be making. Does Senator McCain know about this? Maybe this is why movie execs are marketing R-rated films to kiddies: They’re hoping they’ll come and bring mom and dad!

Come to think of it, I have seen people bring a child under 5 to an R-rated flick. The child was an infant, but the film was “Pulp Fiction.” The comfort of this patron would certainly have been increased if those parents had just found a babysitter, for goodness sake. The baby slept through the whole thing, but seeing that stroller in the foreground with so much violence, obscenity and depravity playing on the screen...well, it sure took some of the fun out of it. What could they have been thinking?

Probably that the baby wouldn’t know, or care. But what of a toddler, or a 5-year-old? Do parents really bring in children old enough to enjoy “Toy Story” or “The Tigger Movie” and say, “Today, kids, we’re gonna go see ‘Scream 3’!” Do the youngsters really sit still for this stuff? Even if they aren’t scared out of their little shoes, aren’t they bored out of them? Is the patronly comfort the management is concerned about marred by little ones having to crawl in and out of the aisle to go to the bathroom, go to the snack bar, go to the waterfountain, go to the lobby to look at posters for Pokemon movies, and so on? Do irate moviegoers begin to hope the slasher’s next victim will be those parents?

It’s certainly wise of the theatre to set some rules for this sort of thing, though I bet they get some arguments about it. But why set the bar at 5? Will 6-year-olds behave any better? Perhaps, in addition to setting upper limits, the MPAA needs to think about lower ones, too--since clearly, some parents aren’t up to the job. Ratings, MPAA head Jack Valenti keeps insisting, are to inform and protect parents from exposing their little ones to sex, violence and bad language--but who protects kids from their parents? Surely, for those sense-challenged souls who would bring a baby into a movie where someone gets their head graphically shot off and someone else gets a needle plunged into her chest (and that’s not the half of ‘Pulp Fiction’s’ inappropriateness for the infant set), there need to be guidelines. I wouldn’t want my 10-year-old seeing that stuff. I’m not even sure about most 17-year-olds. And of course there are many, many R-rated movies that are way too intense for ME.

As long as they’re fiddling with the rating system, maybe they should add an R-13--no one under 13 allowed even if their idiot parents think it’s appropriate. Let those people dragging kids to the movies sit through “Thomas and the Magic Railroad” like all the rest of us poor souls. Or do like my husband and I do: Never go to the movies at all!

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