posted by Andrew Shearer in Entertainment

How young is too young for R-rated movies?

December 26, 2012

How old were you when you saw your first R-rated movie? Chances are, you were probably younger than the ratings board (or perhaps even your parents) recommended you should be.

The official website for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) uses the following terminology to describe their classification:

"An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures."

The couple in front of me at a screening of "Django Unchained" last night had brought two children with them that looked to be under or around the age of 10. Anyone familiar with Quentin Tarantino's movies knows to expect a fair to excessive amount of adult language and violence, but even the quickest glance at either the film's poster or trailer would tell you all you need to know. You're probably going to see a lot of people get shot and killed.

"Django" takes place in the American South two years before the civil war, and slavery figures in heavily to the plot. While the story is a fantasy, there's a lot of reality involved, aspects of which could serve as a powerful history lesson for young viewers (not necessarily in the way we watched "Roots" in 7th grade, though). But first and foremost, this is a movie designed to thrill and entertain, and I couldn't help but wonder what those kids would be getting from seeing it.

As a kid, I was allowed to see pretty much whatever I wanted. We had cable TV, my parents signed a paper saying I could rent anything I wanted at the video store, and we would often go as a family to see movies like "Robocop". Did the violence disturb me? Yes. Did I know the difference between movies and real life? Certainly. But was I too little to be seeing something like that? Yes, I think so.

Though "Django" is quite bloody, it's pretty light on sexual content. Still, how young is too young to see R-rated material? Is violent entertainment more concerning than, say, sexually explicit entertainment? Is it more harmful for kids to see a naked person in a movie than it is to see a person being killed in a movie?


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