Image Credit: Everett CollectionMy parents did not want me to watch R movies. When my big brother watched Friday the 13th Part VI, I was forcefully ejected from the room and had to interpret the death scenes by listening through a closed door. My mother still hasn’t forgiven me for conning her into chaperoning my friends and I into a screening of Go, Doug Liman’s drugs-n’-sex youth opera. (I convinced her it was a quality film with a little help from EW’s rave review; thanks, Owen!) Turns out, my parents might have had the right idea – a new study of 3,600 middle schoolers concludes that watching R-rated films leads to underage drinking.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. This proves that watching R-rated movies will make you cooler. This validates MPAA’s always-controversial rating system. Kids learn bad habits from R-rated movies; hence, kids shouldn’t watch R-rated movies. I’m a little bit skeptical. For one thing, the study doesn’t seem to take into account the fact that not all R-rated movies are created equal. Just a shot in the dark, but I’m guessing that children will react differently to Van Wilder than they will to In the Bedroom.
Far more troubling, I think, is the concept which seems to hover over this study: that kids should not be subjected to adult themes. Dr. James D. Sargent, one of the authors of the study, notes, “We think seeing the adult content actually changes their personality.” Is that necessarily a bad thing? There’s plenty of drinking and smoking in Schindler’s List, but you could certainly argue that movies like that have a deeper, more worthwhile resonance. (One doubts even the most hormone-imbalanced middle schooler could walk out of Requiem for a Dream with a hankering for heroin.)
Then again, I’m a childless snark-merchant, who plans to teach my theoretical future children everything they need to know about life by playing There Will Be Blood on repeat in front of their crib. What do you think, PopWatchers? Does this study prove that kids shouldn’t watch R-rated movies, or that parents should just be more judicious in what kind of R movies they let kids see?