R-Rated Day Care

June 14, 2007
A thought by James Berardinelli

I'm sure many of those reading this have had a similar experience to the one I am about to relate... You're sitting in a theater showing an R-rated movie waiting for the feature to start. In walks a mother or father pushing a stroller. Also with her are two older children, ages around three and five. The movie starts. For a while, everything is okay. Then the baby starts fussing. And the older kids, becoming restless, start wandering around the theater, playing tag in the aisles. Meanwhile, the parent is either breastfeeding (if it’s a mother) or changing the baby in an attempt to quiet it down.

This is based on a real-life experience I had at a multiplex on a Friday afternoon not long ago. Sadly, this sort of thing is becoming increasingly more commonplace. I have seen young kids (under seven) at movies like Grindhouse and Hostel Part II. I'm not one to blame the ills of society on movies or television, but something inside tells me it can't be a good thing for a four year old to be watching a naked women hanging upside down while another naked woman cuts her up with a scythe and bathes in her blood.

I'm not blaming the filmmakers for this. Their job is done when the movie is in the can. I'm blaming parents and movie theaters. And perhaps the MPAA. The policy for an R-rated movie should be adjusted: no one under 17 allowed without parent or guardian (as is currently the case); no one under age ten allowed PERIOD. If the content is adult enough that it warrants an R, there shouldn't be any young children there under any circumstances. Movie theaters are not day care centers.

There are two problems with kids at R-rated movies. The first is the obvious inappropriateness of the experience. I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to exposing children to life experiences, but there's no way I think it's reasonable for someone in his or her single-digit or pre-teen years to experience Hostel Part II. It's not a question of whether this movie should have been rated NC-17 (and I think it should have); it's a question of what kind of parent would bring a three or four or five year old to see it, and how screwed up the rating system is to allow it. Seeing something of this sort may not scar a child for life, but it could certainly cause nightmares and contribute to other problems.

The other issue is the potential for the kids to disturb other paying customers. Even the best behaved children are going to get restless during a movie, especially if it's not filled with cartoon characters or specifically aimed at those with short attention spans. Any such disturbance, no matter how temporary, is unacceptable. It has also been my experience that parents who bring young children to R-rated movies generally don't have very good control over them, so once they start misbehaving, it's a lost cause to hope they'll be brought back under control. I expect a certain amount of this rowdiness at G, PG, and even PG-13 features, especially when they're designated as "family friendly." But not something that's rated R.

I won't get into the inappropriateness of bringing an infant to any movie, let alone breastfeeding or changing a diaper in a multiplex auditorium.

The most frequent argument given by parents who commit one of these infractions is that they can't get a babysitter. Okay, I can understand that problem. It's hard to find someone trustworthy who can be responsible for your child or children for a few hours. The solution is not to bring those offspring with you to Hostel Part II. It's not to go to the movies in the first place. If you're desperate to see a title and are having babysitter problems, wait for the DVD. It's only four months away.

Sometimes, I don't understand people. Even those who believe their kids should be able to see everything, irrespective of what rating the MPAA anoints it with, should show some courtesy to others in the theater. How selfish and irresponsible have we become as a society? I guess that's just another reason for avoiding multiplexes...

Similar horror stories are more than welcome.