The Ratings System and Parents
Being a parent of two grown children I’ve learned a lot about the importance of the ratings system. I didn’t get to have a lot of time with my kids during their younger years but I a lot of the times we did get to spend together, we spent watching movies. When my son was maybe 11 or 12 I learned a valuable lesson about the meaning behind the ratings. Turns out, it’s really simply and most of us take it for all for granted.
One of the weekends I had my son we sat down on the couch to watch some movies. It was night time, maybe 9 or 10 and next up was Independence Day. It’s rated PG-13. I had seen it in the theaters and on DVD plenty of times. I knew my son was going to love it. He was 11 or 12 at the time. However, at one point while watching we ran into some problems but before I dive into that, I need to bore you with some backstory.
Growing up my parents never really cared too much about what I saw. There were pretty laid back for the most part. I had always loved horror movies. Well, one night way back in the mid to late ’70’s The Exorcist was on TV. I sat down to watch it. My dad in his chair my mother and I were on the couch. My grandfather lived with us. I had been torn because Battle of the Network Stars was on another network that night and I loved those specials whenever they aired. If you never got a chance to see those, you missed out!
Anyways, my grandfather was in his room watching Battle of the Network Stars and I was on the couch waiting for The Exorcist to start. I must have been about 7 or 8. I was doing good. The movie was creepy but I was doing fine. Then she spun her head around and I made the first adult decision of my life. I stood up and said to my parents, “I’m going to go watch Battle of the Network Stars with grandpa.”
Afraid of the Dark
Later that night I couldn’t sleep. I don’t know exactly what it was but I kept having weird visions that really had nothing to do with the movie at all. Every time I closed my eyes I’d see severed body parts and it would freak me out. My eyes would shoot open and I’d look around in a panic. Then every scary movie I ever saw was suddenly coming back to haunt me every time my eyes closed. It was too much, I called out to my parents.
My parents ran in and calmed me down. Seeing as that was almost 40 years ago some of the details have become a little foggy. I think I had a black & white TV in my room at the time and I kept turning it on so I had some light in the room. It was off when my parents first came into the room. They hadn’t said much when they came in. Just that it was okay, it was all in my head. You know, the usual stuff parents say when they just want you to shut up and go to bed so they can get back to sleep.
After they left the room and I heard their door close I jumped out of bed and turned on my TV. It wasn’t long after doing that my parents heard the TV and they came in and turned it off telling me it was time for bed. “No TV.” We went through this a few times before they finally lost it threatened me with something that was enough to keep me from turning the TV on again. With the TV off my room was dark and the moment I’d close my eyes the visions of waking nightmares would fill me head. I was up most of the night tucked tight in my sheets and afraid to move. I was awake when my mom came in to wake me up for school the next morning. It was probably the only time I had been happy to get up for school.
The next night I went through the same thing. I couldn’t help it. I don’t know what tripped in my mind but I couldn’t make these dark and scary thoughts go away. Thankfully on the 3rd night I was able to get to sleep but the damage had been done. My parents had a talk with me after the second night and told me that I wasn’t allowed to watch any more horror movies. I was devastated and one pissed off 4th grader. It would be about 3 or 4 years until I was able to watch a scary movie again. Went from nothing for four years to an all-night horror fest seeing Friday the 13th, Halloween, Rabid, The Last House on the Left and more. No more nightmares but I was sold on horror movies from that day forward.
Time to be a Grown Up
Cut to a few decades later and I am watching Independence Day with my kid. My ex-wife is a wonderful person but she was pretty strict about what the kids watched. Me on the other hand, I had run out of fucks to give when it came to whatever rules my ex-wife had about their viewing habits. So, me and my son were going to watch all kinds of stuff she would never my son or daughter watch.
Then there came the point in Independence Day where Dr. Brakish Okun played by Brent Spiner was about to be controlled by the aliens. It’s actually a pretty intense scene. A group of people stand outside of a room they are viewing through glass that is filled so thick with smoke they can’t see a thing. My son knows something is going to happen and he does not want to see what happens next. I tell him it’s okay, it’s just a movie. I reassure him that I’m right here and nothing is going to happen to him. Then Dr. Brakish Okun is slammed suddenly against the glass. He jumps and again tells me he doesn’t want to watch this anymore.
The Ratings System
I pause the video and I am suddenly reminded of that time long ago when I walked away from watching The Exorcist. I start to wonder, “Should I stop the movie?” I had only a few seconds to come up with some serious dad shit to make him feel better. Then it all dawned on me. The ratings system, this movie is rated PG-13. What does PG stand for? Parental Guidance. That’s what he needed right now so I was gonna work this shit out with him!
Looking over at him I said, “Ok, here’s what I think Nickman.” His name’s Nick, I call him Nickman, don’t know why, I just do. he’s like 25 now, I still call him that. I continued. “I know this is pretty intense for you. But, I think if you quit watching right now, the things you think are gonna happen in the movie are going to be way worse than the things that actually happen. So here’s what I’m thinking. Let’s jump into the special features. We can check out some of the behind the scenes stuff and see how they actually made all of this stuff. I think after watching some of the behind the scenes stuff it will make watching the rest of the movie a little easier for you.”
I promised him that he would love the movie if he gave it a chance. He reluctantly agreed. We watched those special features and he laughed at some of it and found the rest fascinating. We went back to the movie. He was still a little freaked out when we jumped back into Dr. Brakish Okun’s alien control scene but he made it through. To this day it’s one of his favorite movies. There were a few more times we started to have some issues with movies but I talked him through each time.
One of those times was Godzilla with Matthew Broderick. He was enjoying it up until the end when they have to kill Godzilla. He was in tears. I explained to him why they had to kill him. That he was right to feel sad, that it was tragedy. Godzilla was just doing his thing. But, they had to kill him to save lives because we just didn’t have the technology to capture a creature like Godzilla and no way and nowhere to keep him safe. This made sense to him, he said he understood. I started the movie back up, there was just a few minutes left. And, as soon as the credits started to roll he said with excitement, “Can we watch it again!”
TV shows and movies all have ratings and I think most parents think of what they stand for incorrectly. The guidelines are for the adults and not for the kids. It’s up to the parents to take the time to explain stuff to their kids. I love my parents but they never took a minute to do that with me. I don’t think it ever crossed their minds. I know plenty of parents today that are just like my parents.
A good example of that something that happened several years ago with South Park. A parent I know was letting his 10 year watch South Park all the time. I was kind of giving him shit about it. I explained that it’s rated M for mature. That it’s also on cable and sometimes it airs unedited. Didn’t phase him at all! So I went at it a different route. I said, “So basically what you’re telling me is that have no problem with your 10 year old talking about golden showers and anal sex?” That got his attention. He didn’t want his kid talking about that. I said, “Well, last season they had an episode that was all about porn and there was a scene at the end of that let rip a list of sexual acts that made me blush and I work in porn!”
He was blown away. Couldn’t believe a cartoon would have that kind stuff in it. He had no idea the show could cover such adult themes. It kind of made me mad. I mean WTF do they have to do, shit is rated “Mature” for fuck sakes! I totally would let my son watch some episodes of South Park but I had always seen them first. I would pick and choose the episodes he could watch. Some of that shit, I still don’t think he’s old enough to watch. I love South Park but it ain’t for kids.
Anyways, I love horror movies and though my son isn’t into them as much as I am, my daughter loves them. Movies can be a great way to spend time with your kids. TV and Movies became a babysitter to me. It shouldn’t be like that for kids. They can handle a lot of mature content but you’re taking a big chance if you’re not there to walk them through it. Some kids will do fine, some wont. The sad part is that if they can’t handle it you might know until it’s way too late. Like, if the family pet has gone missing, be afraid, be very afraid because sooner or later your neighbors are going to be on the news talking about how your kid always seemed nice but was quite and kept to himself while the coroner is putting pieces of you into a little baggies.