Why do parents bring little kids to R-rated movies?

Denzel_lIn the summer of 2004, I caught a late show of the Denzel Washington remake of The Manchurian Candidate (pictured). The trailers had begun when a woman and her toddler walked in. The child proceeded to cry intermittently throughout the entire film, which was rated R for violence (I believe Denzel bites a piece out of Liev Schreiber’s back at one point).

That same summer, my father and I were sitting in an Upper West Side theater on a Sunday afternoon, watching the abysmal Exorcist: The Beginning. Several rows in front of us and to the left was an entire family—mother, father, two kids and a baby in a stroller. The baby whined, the kids ran throughout the aisles. At one point, on screen, a child gets ripped apart by hyenas.

I think you see where I’m going with this. This Christian Science Monitor article, about taking children to R-rated movies, makes me wonder: who are these parents? First of all, who knows what permanent damage all that sex and violence is inflicting upon that poor child? (The article focuses on how some proposed changes meant to make theratings system more transparent could help parents who may not realizejust how much inappropriate content a particular movie might display,but really, do you need a more explicitly detailed "R" to know not totake kids to an Exorcist film?)  Second, a theater full of grownups just paid ten dollars to see a movie—rent Cars and keep your dang kids at home. Third, if you’re not sure what adult content a movie has in store, check out this site, which minutely details in almost a comic way instances of sex/nudity, violence, profanity, etc. (it also summarizes what a film’s lesson may be, if for some reason you find that important).

What are your experiences with kids in R-rated movies (or even violent PG-13 rated movies)? Do you bring your rugrats if you can’t find a babysitter? Have you ever been shocked at the sight of a young’n at a grown-up movie? Is it the MPAA’s responsibility to be more precise in their ratings? The theater’s responsibility to more effectively manage who is going into R-rated theaters? The parent’s responsibility to be better parents? Your responsibility to say something?

So much to ponder.

addCredit(“The Manchurian Candidate: Everett Collection”)


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  • Greg

    I was a teenager when my father decided to take myself and my very small brother to Mars Attacks. Needless to say my brother did not find it funny and screamed in horror until we were forced to leave. It remains a scarring experience for me to this day…however, I don’t think my brother even remembers it and now he is a budding screenwriter and director. Take what lesson you will…

  • Anonymous

    A good friend of mine remembers the time he went to see True Lies, and a dad brought his two grade school-age kids into the theater. Dad was fine with his boys seeing all sorts of violence and explosions, but the minute Jamie Leigh Curtis started that parody of a strip-tease, man, they were out the door.

  • Keri

    I’m always shocked when this happens. This summer, I was at an R-rated film where a mother let her one year old crawl around on the floor of the theatre. The best thing to do is get an usher. They got her out of there ASAP. It’s best not to be personally involved (e.g. asking the mother yourself to take better care of her children.) You never know who you’re talking to. The theatre staff, in my opinion, is quick and eager to help make the audience majority comfortable. Still, it is unbelievable that this even needs to be done.

  • Stacey

    I’ve seen kids at clearly R-rated movies like “Hannibal” and “Phone Booth.” Seriously, what in those movies could possibly appeal to a child? I have absolutely no problem getting a manager to ask parents with disruptive children to leave. None. Everybody else paid the same $10. Just because you can’t afford or be bothered to get a babysitter, doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice my enjoyment of the movie. I consider it a badge of honor when I get dirty looks or get cursed out by said parents. It’s not the MPAA’s responsibility or even the theater’s to act as a parent. It’s the parents responbility to be the parent.

  • paige

    I saw a whole clan of kids when i went to see Land of the Dead and countless other horror flicks. when i was a kid i was always sneaking into r-rated movies but i was also very quiet and deeply interested. kids just have to have the right mentality to see certain things.

  • dj

    this summer i was at the movie theatre and COULD NOT BELIEVE it when a man walked in with his two sons under the age of 12. the movie was BORAT!!!!

  • Jess

    Maybe if there were more movies that both parents and kids could enjoy, this wouldn’t be a problem… or if movie theatres were well-maintained to the point that children could attend their own movies at the same time as parents attending theirs…

  • Lori

    It’s so offensive when idiot parents take their kids to movies that are not age appropriate. It’s selfish and it does a disservice both to the other adult movie-goers and their own children. I have a 4 year old that I don’t take to movies that are appropriate for his age. The reason? He hates going! He fusses, fidgets, whines and just generally does not enjoy himself. So why subject him to the unpleasant experience of going to the movies? These ignorant parents should either spend the extra money for a sitter or wait for the movie to come out on DVD.

  • Vicki

    I’ve seen parents take children under the age of 6 to see “Hostel” and “Saw II”. That just appalls me.

  • Bethany

    I remember seeing “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” at the theater. A couple rows ahead of me sat a mom, dad, and two kids under the age of 4. I was horrified. Great movie but clearly made for adults. Seeing Ike beat and rape Tina was horrible to watch as an adult. I can’t imagine what was going through the minds of the children.

  • nathan

    It was quite funny, I went to Pan’s Labyrinth on the weekend, low and behold there was a family there with their 8ish year old son. Needless to say, they left during the White Ogre scene, but at least the kid was able to witness the “wine bottle” scene, I’m sure he’ll remember that for some time.

  • marykate

    No one saw Phone Booth. I find it hard to believe that kids were watching that in the theater. No offense, Stacey!
    When I went to see The Return of the King, there was a man behind me who fell asleep and was snoring the entire time. The ushers didn’t do ANYTHING about it. Jerks. I had to leave. I don’t know if they ever destroyed the Ring or not (i’m kidding).

  • Rhea

    I have a terribly low tolerance for people bringing their children to see inappropriate films. I’ve gotten into many a heated discussion and have had several disruptive people w/ toddlers thrown out of the theater. I’m sorry you can’t afford a babysitter, but you should just wait for the dvd. What can a 3 year old possibly get out of seeing a subtitled film such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”?

  • melissa

    When I saw “Braveheart” in the theater, parents were there with their couple little kids, in the front row I think. I remember them seeming bored rather than scared by the violence, which is better even if it was distracting for other people in the theater.
    I think it’s ultimately a parent decision, and providing some information about the content of films is useful to those parents who take an active role in their kids’ lives. If parents think some R-rated material could be suitable for their children, then maybe they should go to the movies together but be willing to leave if the movie goes farther than the parents prefer.

  • Green Gummi Bear

    These people don’t care, there are probably plenty of parents who would never dream of doing this, but there are always those that a $7 child ticket is alot cheaper than two hours of babysitting. They don’t care what you think, they put up with the kid all day, they’re used to whining and someone unhappy, and they’re not even related to you…so forget you. Plus, they don’t want to sit through the crappy child movies out there, they want to see the naked hot starlet themselves. I’m not a parent, but I hope I’d NEVER do this. One more thing, with all those people who talk through a movie and leave their cell phones on, you’re suprised of parents with kids? More anoying, probably, more suprising…nope.

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