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, Ghoulies, Spaceballs). 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…”?