Inappropriate Movie Viewing

Easter Sunday, Mr. Sally J and I were trying to find a family film on Netflix – something that we wouldn’t mind watching along with the kiddos. Everything we came up with either wasn’t available on streaming (The Goonies, Gremlins, Grease) or we decided maybe it wasn’t really appropriate (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, GhouliesSpaceballs). Which got me talking to one of my  brothers and a cousin on Twitter last night about all the movies our parents let us watch that they probably shouldn’t have. What in the world were they thinking?

(This photo gallery is a collection of screen shots from movies currently available from Netflix on DVD only.)

I was eleven in 1984, the year PG-13 rating came on the scene and gave parents a bit more guidance as to what be appropriate for the pre-K through sixth grade set. At first I blamed the absence of the PG-13 rating for their negligence, but really, I think they just weren’t too bothered by what went on the basement as long as we were quiet. Through a little research (we’ll call Googling research, yes?), I learned a few things about the modern day movie ratings system. For starters, it wasn’t in use until 1968. My parents were in their early twenties then, so it certainly wasn’t anything that was used as a guideline when they were kids. It also wasn’t until 1990 (by then that brother and I had made our way into our awkward teen years) that film ratings included phrases as to why a movie is rated the way it is.

I opened this question up to Persephone editors and interns, and it turns out many of us have similar memories. Going to see Terms of Endearment in the theater at the age of five, watching The Blue Lagoon repeatedly while mom wasn’t home, and learning all the lines to Rocky were how the young Persephone editors spent their youth. These were mostly experiences by staffers born in the seventies, the youngins on staff seemed to have more attentive parents (helicopter parents, if you will). I also polled the younger of my two brothers, who’s 10 years my junior. I knew he could quote a lot of Spaceballs at the age of four. I did not know that he watched Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction before his 13th birthday (according to the IMDB, there are about 270 instances of the f-word in each of these films, among a LOT of other things).

Now that I’m on the parenting side of things, I’m glad the voluntary MPAA ratings now list why a movie’s been given a particular rating. The IMDB site also has a parental guide for each film in its database, written by site users, which can be helpful. Viewers adding to the parental guide are encouraged to factually state instances in the film for four categories – sex and nudity, violence and gore, profanity, alcohol and drugs, and frightening/intense scenes.

I’m positive my kids will surely see some movies before they are old enough to understand what’s going on (I sang the soundtrack to Grease at the top of my lungs in 1979 long before I knew what “get off my rocks” meant), but I’m going to stay in charge of their Netflix queue for as long as I can get away with it.

What did you see before you knew that maybe you shouldn’t have seen it? Have you ever been sitting in the theater with your kids and thought,”Huh. Maybe I should have read a review of this first…”?

28 replies on “Inappropriate Movie Viewing”

I watched Blue Lagoon at age 7, WITH my mom. There was a lot I didnt understand, that she had to explain…
Freddie Kruger at age 8 scared the shit out of me. I know, Freddie is NOT that scary. But for an 8 year old, it is terrifying. I was scared he was coming to get me that very night.
I know this isnt a movie, but Unsolved Mysteries never failed to freak me out. Especially when my dad bought a police scanner, and in the middle of the night on a trip to the bathroom, that damnn thing was always talking, and I was sure that the murderer I just saw on Unsolved Mysteries was the one they were talking about on the scanner. Still to this day, I hesitate and hold my bladder as long as possible before going to the bathroom in the night. That scanner is long gone, but the memory remains…

My dad was a huge horror movie fan, so he started watching them with with me when I was young. Really young. I saw my first horror movie when my parents brought me home from the hospital at two weeks old. I he had been able, I’m sure my dad would of snuck a vcr into the hospital before that. It was a tradition I continued with my daughter, and she loves them as much as I did

I was lucky to have a theater close by (that I used to work at) that had obscenely low prices. I spent a lot of time in midday movies the first couple of months until she started sleeping less. Interestingly, I found that I had a much lower tolerance to gore right after she was born and couldn’t handle movies that I wouldn’t have blinked at before.

My husband and I went to see Titanic as our first date sometime after the baby was born and I howled through the scene where the baby and mom dies in the water. I was just inconsolable and was convinced, convinced that my own child was at home drowning. Those after-birth hormones are a bitch.

I saw Rocky Horror before I even understood what being gay was. I don’t know my age, but I’m guessing “too young.” Of course, it’s still one of my all time favorites.

And “My Cousin Vinny.” My grandfather insisted that I watch this at about age 12. About half way through he was like, “I didn’t remember all this language! Maybe we should turn it off.” But I whined that I couldn’t stop watching it now! So now anytime he complains about my use of the f-bomb, I blame it on him showing me that movie.

I grew up with three older brothers and an older step brother, and on the weekends my father had me, he would drop us off at the movie theater and we would sneak into movie after movie until we got kicked out. This means I saw every Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, etc., as well as exceptionally inappropriate rated R films before I was 8 years old(Hard Bodies, anyone?). As an adult, I am terrified of scary movies and refuse to watch them. I saw Scream when I was 18 and slept in bed with my parents for a week and remained traumatized for many months afterwards. I blame this all on my brothers.

I can’t recall anything particularly inappropriate, but I did see Poltergeist when I was probably 8 or so and that movie scared the pants off me. Creepy clown doll? Creepy tree that eats people? That was the worst.

We’ve been abusing Netflix to make Minibelle sit through movies we remember fondly and she’s been a pretty good sport about it. I’m sort of surprised we haven’t hit any that contain adult content we missed understanding as kids yet.

When I was a kid my favourite movie was All of Me, staring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin. I watched it recently on TV and it is not only not appropriate for a 10-year-old, but also grossly homophobic and xenophobic. Other sleep-over classics from my tween years include D.C. Cab, Angel (you know, school girl by day, hooker by night), and Zapped! Yet my mother wouldn’t let me watch Flashdance.

It’s very typical ’80s in that jokes are made of limp-wristed hand gestures, kooky foreigners and “ha ha, you’re so gay” jokes. It still has some great moments, but I find a lot of these old gems have some pretty antiquated ideas about diversity and sexual identity. It’s a shame.

I didn’t see many inappropriate movies as a child because my mother didn’t let us out of the house! Seriously, we were not allowed to go to the movies or anyplace else for that matter. Which leads me to a funny point. I mean, my mother’s contention was always that she was “protecting” us from the big bad ugly world, but what was going on in my house was scarier and more harmful than anything I would have saw on the big screen.

So anyway, one of the things I looooove are horror movies, cause it’s next to impossible to scare me. I’m completely desensitized, so if a movie scares me I’m in love, and one of the things I had to realize is NOT to expose my kids to the movies that I liked cause they were . . . well, yeah, SCARED!!!!

It’s funny how self-censoring children can be. For instance, I loved HBOs Rome, and my son would run passed the T.V. covering his eyes because the violence bothered him. Another instance, his older cousin spent the night and was watching some late night show on Showtime with high sexual content. I was like, Oh brother when he complaint to me about it, because I didn’t know that his cablebox wasn’t blocked for certain shows (if you know what I mean) — Know what he told me? He said he just went up into his loft bed, covered his eyes and went to his “happy place” while it was on. A lot of kids, not only shouldn’t see certain programs, they don’t even want to, unless they get exposed too early, too soon to too much. Then they get traumatized!

I’m positive my kids will surely see some movies before they are old enough to understand what’s going on . . . but I’m going to stay in charge of their Netflix queue for as long as I can get away with it.

I’m with you there! I believe with the internet, kids today are so completely over exposed that a lot of them are like me, completely desensitized, (funny how that works, huh?) and believe me, I don’t think that’s a good thing!

I’ve had to retrain myself to “feel” things that most people have naturally. Anyway, yes, keep track of that queue — I still do, even though my kids are teens now.

For some reason, my parents encouraged me to watch certain sub-genres of movies that weren’t appropriate for kids. Several of my friends were subjected to horrible stuff because it fell under the aegis of “educcational” programming on movie nights. Anybody else here have that kind of experience?

For example: while my parents disparaged mainstream horror films as mindless gore-fests, they wouldn’t bat an eyelash at documentaries with disgusting or adult-focused content — Nova’s “Conquest of the Parasites”, for example, showing people afflicted with horrible worm infections, river blindness, etc.

Or, they wouldn’t let us watch Arnold Schwarzenegger type action movies, but Das Boot was in regular rotation because it was about real experiences of non-Americans in WWII, and therefore exotic & historical.

Have you seen the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated? It’s an interesting look at how the MPAA works.

I saw a lot of inappropriate movies as a kid, after our discussion I remembered seeing Taxi Driver, The Godfather(s) and The Amityville Horror. The horror movies scared the shit out of me (and still do) but I don’t know if there were any long term ill-effects to non-violent adult content. My Dad swears harder than Pulp Fiction, and I found my parents’ copy of Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex when I was pretty impressionable, so I had a general idea that sex and cursing were things grown-ups did a lot.
It’s interesting that violence gets a pass more frequently than sex does. I’ve seen a lot of PG movies that were pretty violent, and it seems like people hurting each other would stick with/affect kids longer than people sexing each other up.

I saw that documentary. It was really good and very telling. A lot of the ratings given have little to do with violence/sex or inappropriate content and much more to do with the politics of movie making.
There is soooooo much violence even in a PG rating film, it’s not even funny. Let’s not even talk about the video games!

I love that movie and always recommend it to people. I can only speak for myself, but I’d have been much more upset and negatively affected by seeing violence and gore than I would have by seeing some nudity or sex or hearing certain swear words when I was younger.

I’m wracking my brain, and I really don’t think I ever saw anything that was “inappropriate” for my age / maturity level – at least, nothing that made an impression on me, because nothing comes to mind. I was a really fretful, wimpy child, and so my mom didn’t let me watch things that looked scary, but I wasn’t interested in watching them anyway. When I was about seven, I watched an old Abbott and Costello movie set in a haunted house and couldn’t sleep for a week, but it was less that the movie was not appropriate for my age and more that I was just wimpy. (I remember actively seeking out sexual content, but that was usually via books, not movies, since I sensed that it might not go over well with my parents and wanted to hide it.)

Hot Shots was one of the movies we would always rent when all the cousins were staying at my grandparents. I definitely didn’t get ANY of the jokes (all I really remember from that movie is the scene where they’re in the tent inhaling the helium from the balloon because funny voices!) but for whatever reason we ALL loved it and it was rented far too many times for us.
As for theatre experience, there were a few times where my parents and their friends would go see an adult movie and the kids would all go to a kids movie playing at the same time. Once, we were supposed to see Mulan, but it was sold out. Can’t Hardly Wait was starting at the right time, so our parents bought us tickets for that instead. We were just old enough to get a few of the jokes, and definitely too young to be watching that movie. So obviously it remains on of our nostalgic favorites.

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