« Bob Saget frat party | Home | Tanning is a bigger deal than I thought »

April 26, 2010


R-rated movies and child corruption

The Howling

A recent study found that kids who are allowed to watch R-rated movies are a lot more likely to start drinking at younger ages. The researchers surveyed middle school kids, asking them whether their parents let them watch R-rated movies or not, then surveyed the same kids again two years later and asked if they'd started drinking yet. Only 3% of kids who were never allowed to watch R-rated movies drank, compared to a Goldschlager-chugging 25% of kids who were allowed to watch R-rated movies "all the time".

One of the researchers said the data suggests that it's the R-rated movies themselves that lead kids to drink: "seeing the adult content actually changes their personality."

What it says to me is that, for better or worse, kids with more permissive parents end up drinking sooner than kids with more restrictive parents. But I wonder about those kids who aren't actually allowed to watch R-rated movies, but sneakily figure out how to watch them anyway. Which is probably most kids in the 10-14 age range, especially the ones with HBO. Do they get into even worse stuff than the kids whose parents let them watch some R-rated movies and maybe let them have a little wine at special events? What are those sneaky kids doing by the time they get to 9th grade? Snorting mescaline and watching snuff films?

Using myself as a test case, I thought back to the first R-rated movie I ever saw. Because we're talking about the '80's here, my first experiences were all horror. I watched about half of Children of the Corn at age 11 at a neighborhood party in the TV room where the kids were hanging out. Probably none of the parents there knew their kids were watching it. It could have been a pretty subversive viewing experience, considering I was in a roomful of preteens at a grown-up party watching a movie about kids killing all the adults in town, but unfortunately, it's a pretty terrible movie. Not actually good enough to be subversive. I left the room when things started to get heavy, human-sacrifice-wise.

The first one I watched all the way through was The Howling, a much better movie, at around age 13. This is a great first R-rated horror movie for a kid to see: it's equal parts cool, scary, and ridiculous, and plays out like an investigative conspiracy movie with Dee Wallace as a reporter accidentally mixed up with a colony of werewolves. I loved it. No kind of parental permission was involved in watching this one, either.

Then shortly after that, some friends and I sneaked into a movie theater showing Action Jackson, an awful movie that made a lot of money and didn't quite destroy Carl Weathers' career. I loved sneaking into the theater, but hated the movie. Things got a lot better with repeated, obsessive viewings of The Lost Boys on video.

Even though my parents didn't actually give me permission to watch any of these movies, they definitely let me drink a little bit at summer parties and the odd holiday dinner. I wonder what happens to kids who watch higher quality R-rated movies than I happened to see? If a 12 year-old watches Fargo and Chinatown, will they actually start drinking at a later age because they're more likely to turn into film geeks and spend their Saturday nights staying in and watching TCM?

What was your first R-rated movie? Did it corrupt you?

categories: Culture, Movies
posted by amy at 4:28 PM | #

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


First R-rated movie: The Right Stuff. Taken by parents. Decidedly not corrupting, given that I was taken, I suspect, for the rah-rah American astronaut thing. At the time, I was way too young to get the joke of cutting between the shuttle launch and the fan dance---I just kinda felt funny.

First R-rated movie snuck into: Less Than Zero. Corruption index relatively low, given that the movie is all about the evils of drugs. Do remember feeling very clever when I figured out that Downey was supposed to be going down on that guy in the bedroom, despite the slightly obscure shooting.

First R-rated movie kicked out of: Return of the Living Dead. Caught by the usher at the precise moment when one of the humans punches a zombie in the face, causing green goo to spurt out the edges. Corruption possible, but by then, I was sneaking into movies about punk rockers and zombies, so perhaps there wasn't much corrupting left to do.

Posted by: Daniel McKleinfeld at April 26, 2010 5:38 PM

First R-rated movie? Porky's. When I was 8? 10?, on video. At that age, I can't say I understood a lot of it, though I still remember how it felt to get away with watching it.

On the other hand, my best friend's parents took us to see Die Hard in the theatre when I was thirteen; not sure my parents would have approved of that one if they'd known, but I loved it.

As for corruption, well, even though my parents were willing to let me have the odd glass of wine, I pretty much didn't drink at all until close to my 21st birthday. So, not much?

Posted by: Mimi at April 26, 2010 8:42 PM

I think it took me a little longer to figure out exactly what was going on with RDJ and that guy in the bedroom because I was so distracted by his little black underpants.

I'm amazed that theater ushers were ever hardassed enough to kick out underage kids. I wish NY's ushers had even the smallest interest in maintaining basic social order or keeping 5 year-olds out of Hot Tub Time Machine.

Mimi: I have still never seen Porky's! But I bet the best/only way to watch that movie is secretly watching it on VHS when it was still something you had to sneak.

Posted by: amy at April 26, 2010 9:29 PM

when I was between the ages of, say, 5 and 9, my parents had friends that often had us over at parties where there was an unsupervised children's tv room, complete with a huge RCA laserdisk player. None of the things we watched was intended for children, with a heavy tilt towards James Bond and horror. So there was a lot of R-movie glimpsing during my Sesame Street years, with moments ranging from the titillating to trauma-inducing, although I don't think I ever sat through an entire film (and to your point, the party hosts' kids were drinking in, like, at least 6th grade if not during the actual times when we were watching these movies)

I suppose I remember the bikinis and the fact that there were jokes that needed explaining, but most viscerally I remember the creepy feel of the horrific entanglements- people shot with spearguns, oxygen hoses being cut, wheelchaired villains dumped into smoke stacks and so on. One particular case of nightmare fuel involved a woman swimming underwater suddenly discovering a transparent sheet of glass had apparently closed over top of the pool.

The first R-rated movie I sat through in it's entirety owed to the mystifying decision by our school to have us watch "European Vacation" in the 7th grade, our panic stricken and red-faced history teacher furiously trying to fast forward through the naughty bits. But that was not half as awkward as when the entire 8th grade class silently watched "9 1/2 Weeks" together at, in fact, now that I remember- that same unsupervised childrens' tv room with the RCA disk player.

The first, and last, R-rated movie snuck into was the Eddie Murphy vehicle "Harlem Nights". My cover story was "The Bear".

The first R-rated movie I requested my money back was "Kuffs".

Posted by: ooghe at April 27, 2010 9:11 AM

I can't imagine the psychic trauma inflicted on a class of unsuspecting 8th graders, probably looking for an innocent skin-flick thrill, by 9 1/2 Weeks. Lots of long, dragging scenes where nothing happens, intense whispering, moody shots of angular interior design, sexual humiliation, and Mickey Rourke. Yikes.

I watched it at a movie night in a college dorm rec room when I was 17, which was completely awkward, too. I don't think I'll ever be old enough to watch that creepy "gay bashing" scene.

Posted by: amy at April 27, 2010 11:17 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)