An ode to the fine art of sneaking into R-rated movies when you’re underage

02.15.16 1 year ago

Deadpool made $150 million this weekend, which is fairly amazing for an R-rated film. I'd be curious to know how much more it would have made if every single person who saw it actually paid for a ticket, because it does not take a genius to know that there were teenagers sneaking in to see it.

Good for them.

Let's be clear about something: the MPAA does not know your child, nor do they care about your child. The entire reason movie ratings exist is so the government didn't get involved in the process. Beyond that, they are outdated and out-of-touch, and absolutely useless as a practical guide for individual parents when it comes to understanding what is or isn't appropriate for your child. There are things I'd show my sons that you would not show to any kid, and there are things other parents have shown their kids that my kids won't see until they're adults and track them down for themselves, because I'm not interested in being responsible for putting certain things in their heads.

At some point, my kids will decide that they want to see something, I will say no, and they will decide to see it anyway, in direct defiance of what I tell them. And on that day, I may have to punish them in some form, but as I do it, I will be secretly smiling, because sneaking into films you are not supposed to see is a rite of passage.

I have no doubt that we are going to get into some weird territory in the next few years as my boys reach puberty and start to realize just how deep the video shelves in my house are. Their problem is going to be that they are always supervised. There are very few opportunities for them to watch something at my house when I am not in the same room as them, and none at all at their mother's house. As they get older, that may change, and I'm curious to see what films they try to sneak. They share my Netflix account with me, so they have it running through the Playstation at their mother's house, and they don't know it, but I can look at the list on the Netflix site of everything that's been watched. A few times now, I've had conversations with Toshi in which it was clear that he had watched at least part of a film he was not supposed to, and he wasn't sure quite how hard to commit to the denial.

When I was young, home video was brand-new, and my parents invested in one of the first video stores in Chattanooga, meaning we were getting boxes and boxes of inventory at the house. Anything R-rated was automatically interesting to me. I was around 11 or 12 at the time, and I remember being very disappointed by some of the films I watched without permission. An Unmarried Woman looked like a big slice of sexy fun time based on that cover, and for a pre-pubescent kid, that film made adult relationship look like one big fat ugly bummer, but even worse, it was boring. It just wasn't what I thought “grown-up movies” were supposed to be. The other end of the spectrum was watching things I simply couldn't process, movies that messed with me because they were so adult. Cruising was a good example of that, a film that freaked me out because I had no context at all for what I was seeing. Much of what I do when I watch mature films with my own kids is provide that context for them, answering questions they have and making sure they aren't confused or upset by things. Those moments of trying to make sense of the adult world are an important developmental step for kids, though, and if you hold their hand through all of it, you're not doing them any favors.

Sneaking into actual theatrical screenings was more fun than just getting away with watching something at home. I remember sneaking into A Nightmare On Elm Street with my best friend Bill Rosemann, and the two of us were positively terrified the entire time, not only because of the film but because of the possibility of getting caught and being thrown out. Every time anyone walked into the theater, we jumped about a foot out of our chairs. I wouldn't trade that experience with that film for anything, and I'm sure that one of the reasons I love it so much still is because of that memory. Many of the films I snuck into were horror films, because those seemed to be the one kind of movie I couldn't talk either of my parents into seeing with me. I was very good at negotiating my way into R-rated films I wanted to see from about the age of 12 onward, and on occasion, I would flat-out lie about the content of a movie to get to see it. I remember telling my poor grandmother that Porky's was about the Warner Bros cartoon characters, and I can still feel the intense stare of fury she gave me for most of the film's running time as she slowly realized what a monumental lie that was. I saw John Carpenter's The Thing by sneaking in, and I loved every second of it. I saw David Cronenberg's Videodrome by sneaking in, and I almost immediately regretted it when I started having nightmares about it. I think of all the movies I snuck in to see, and I consider it an essential part of not only my film education, but my development as an individual, as someone able to make independent decisions about what I did or didn't want to see.

So to all of those 13-year-old kids considering sneaking into Deadpool in the next few weeks, and to all of those who pulled it off already, I salute you. I hope you are successful, and I hope you are changed in some way by the experience. And to any parent already revving up to write me an angry missive about this piece, think back to your own childhood and think about all the forbidden fruit you sampled, and go easy on the kids whose turn it is now.

Deadpool is in theaters now.

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