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The meaning of 'R'

Posted at 4:00 PM on March 20, 2007 by Euan Kerr

As has been mentioned a couple of times in these virtual pages it as been astonishing to see parents bringing their very young kids to violent movies. There really is not excuse.

Having been scared to the point of hiding behind chairs by "Black Beauty" and the Daleks in "Dr Who" as a kid, I can't rid myself of the idea that I was recently in a room where several children were being traumatized.

So now the Hollywood Reporter says the Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA, is considering adding a warning to the R rating box saying ""Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures."

It's a step in the right direction, but not likely to do much to dissuade the boneheads who decide to go to a movie without checking the rating.

The article further reports that while the industry has not taken a position on the idea, some movie theaters are experimenting with refusing to admit parents to R-rated movies if they have young children with them. That opens a whole other can of worms, especially when you try to define what 'young children' means.

It seems like a cosmetic effort as much as anything else. The rating system has always been a way for Hollywood to fend off regulation as much as anything else, (although if you believe Kirby Dick, one of the makers of "This film is not yet rated," it's also a way to make things really difficult for indie film makers.)

The challenge really is to make parents think.

Back in 1985 I went to see "The Color Purple" at the Cooper Theatre in St Louis Park. (It's so sad that place is gone.)

The film had just opened so the theater was pretty crowded. Just before the lights went down a guy and his daughter sat down right in front of us. She was small enough that her head hardly cleared the back of the seat. Having read the book I was a little worried about how she would react to the violence in the story. She sat still for all of the movie, not reacting at all as far as I could see.

Her dad was another matter. He quietly muttered comments through the film. He hardly moved during the beatings and the abuse. However when two women kissed in the film, his hand shot up and covered his daughters eyes.

I have thought about that day many times since. The film is rated PG-13. I didn't have children then, but I wouldn't have taken them if they were as young as this little girl.

By the way check out the remarks of the MPAA's Dan Glickman at Showest. They make interesting reading.

March 2007
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