In this thoughtful piece by Linda Holmes about the damage an “R” rating could do to a documentary about teenage bullying (Teenagers say “fuck”?! Well, I never! /fans self /passes out on fainting couch), she raises this important point to consider whenever the MPAA claims it’s only trying to give advice to parents:
It’s simply not the case that a rating “simply conveys to parents” information. At theaters that choose to participate in the ratings system and in enforcing it, the rating stops kids at the door if they come without an adult. It’s patently disingenuous, if not outright dishonest, to refuse even to come to terms with the fact that ratings functionally limit access for kids as old as 15 and 16, many of whom are old enough that they have jobs and substantial responsibilities they take care of every day, arguing that they only convey information to parents. It’s just not true.
I worked at the ticket counter in a movie theater in 1999. It was just after Columbine; everyone was blaming everything on scripted violence. Bill Clinton had gone on television and called on theater operators to try harder to keep kids away from action movies. My employer, AMC, interpreted this with a new edict: no one can see an R-rated movie without a photo ID.
It got awkward fast. Oh, sure, there were the flattered old ladies: “No one’s asked to see my ID in years!” But mostly it was folks who didn’t carry their drivers license (for some reason?) but were obviously over 30 and now were pissed that this 17-year-old asshole behind the glass is saying that they can’t see American Pie.
I would apologize, I would try to empathize, I said yes it’s a stupid policy but there are no exceptions, I said oh sure you can talk to a manager but it won’t make a difference, I said obviously I’m aware that most teenagers do not have woolly beards and Harleys.
$6.15 an hour was not enough to put up with all the screaming.
And did it keep kids away from R-rated movies? Well, no. They bought tickets to PG-rated The Iron Giant and snuck into whatever movie they really wanted to see. That bums me out: The Iron Giant is amazing. At least it made some money, even off-handedly.
Anyway, hey, teenagers: if you want see Bully, just buy tickets to The Secret World of Arrietty. It’ll probably work, and Miyazaki movies could use the money.