“I watched an R-rated movie,” I blurted out at the dinner table. My father took in a deep breath that indicated profound disappointment in my actions. We were all quiet for a few minutes. My mom passed the salad.
“It was Rain Man,” I couldn’t help the words as they tumbled out of my mouth. My brother and sisters looked at each other with a little shock. We were not an R-rated movie watching family. Sure, my parents took us to the International Cinema to see all kinds of films; I learned to read subtitles around the same time I learned to read. However an American movie that was rated R? Not ever.
Not until I graduated high school, moved out of the house, and determined to give myself a film education. I rented every best picture I could get a hold of (I skipped Rain Man) and watched every other notable movie: Goodfellas, Mean Streets, and the back catalogue of every other important director. I fancied myself a film critic, writing for an outlet and screening a lot of movies on weekends. I learned what makes some movies soar and some movies tank. I fell in love with the silver screen and the tales that transported me to another world. But in the back of my head, always, was the counsel I first heard from Ezra Taft Benson: “Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic.”
Over the years I have met plenty of people who love movies and who have never seen an R-rated movie, and other people who have stopped watching R movies after careful consideration. Then there are people like me, who give it some thought, but think more about the movie before the rating. Others still for whom the “R” is one of the last things they look at, perhaps even the last frame of the movie when the credits have rolled and the final rating is displayed.
You’ll find justifications at every step: the rating system is capricious; the Motion Picture Association of America* is harder on no-budget independents and doesn’t dare offend the giant studios, like Disney, by giving their movies more adult ratings. I’ve seen sweet movies, like Whale Rider, rated PG-13, that didn’t deserve such a stringent rating. I’ve seen movies like Prince Caspian which was PG and should have been PG-13. I’ve seen R-rated movies that I’ve truly regretted. Mostly, I’ve learned that ratings are a really terrible way to judge a movie, more of a framework than actual analysis of the content. But the apostolic counsel is there, and it is wise.
When the prophet asked me to take out my second pair of earrings, I did. However giving up R-rated movies has proven more difficult. I love movies. I hate to see them edited or cut to make the movie into something that isn’t what the director intended, so one of those DVD players that remove “content” from movies isn’t something I’m interested in watching.
These days I don’t see many movies, let alone R-rated movies. I am more careful about what I consume. My children are growing up. Soon they’ll ask which movie dad and I saw when we return from a date. Will I own up to seeing the newest R-rated Coen Brothers? How can I possibly explain that I can watch R-rated movies but they can’t? That doesn’t really hold water. Am I ready to give them up entirely?
Do you watch R-rated movies?
*MPAA is responsible for giving movies their ratings and is bankrolled by the major studios.