Saturday, May 31, 2008

Don't Waste Your Movie Night (and dvd rental fees!)

As you can probably tell, I'm about to rant. Sometimes, we need a good rant.

Every other Friday night we rent dvds. We often rent 2 for ourselves (the grown up people) for a double feature, and one for the kids, and/or a family movie that we all watch together. Let me tell you, it's not easy finding a "family", kid-friendly movie, twice a month. 99.99% of the time however, we manage to pull it off.

This past Friday, did not fall into that majority percentage.

The movie the kids wanted was already rented, so I picked an alternative movie. I saw one with Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman on the cover, and that caught my eye. I picked it up and read the back and thought "hey, this looks pretty good". I rented it without ever once looking at the MPAA rating. It's a movie about superheros, surely there is no need whatsoever to look at the rating... or so I thought.

Boy was I ever wrong. What I rented for them was Justice League: The New Frontier. Now, a more informed parent might have already known somehow, that a movie with classic children's superhero icons in it, was going to be peppered with cussing. A movie buff or a fan of the author Darwyn Cooke might have already known it, or someone that did a bit of checking first, might of known it. Me... well I just ignorantly assumed a movie on the backstory of how the superheros came to be, would be a great, family-friendly, innocent fantasy story for children. WRONG!

While I know we can't shelter our kids from raunchy language (it's everywhere, and we all know it - it's even become vogue for "Christians" to cuss and use profanity and then argue with you about the cultural significance of the words themselves), we can and we should make every effort to provide for them clean, decent movies to watch that don't have this kind of language. We should go the extra mile and give them examples of dialogue where this kind of speech is not included, so that they can hear for themselves how using this kind of language is simply NOT necessary. Not to mention, Scripture is very clear that this kind of speech is offensive, and that alone should be the catalyst that compels us to not have it part of our lives, as much as possible.

It's interesting that the 'product review' makes it seem so exciting for kids.


"Inspired by the best-selling graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke and produced by the multiple Emmy award winning animation legend Bruce Timm The New Frontier is the epic tale of the founding of the Justice League. Superman Batman and Wonder Woman are all here of course and so are Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Flash - whose incredible origins will be told for the very first time. Strangers at first these very different heroes must overcome fear and suspicion to forge an alliance against a monster so formidable even the mighty Superman can not stop it. If they fail our entire planet will be 'cleansed' of humanity."

Sounds cool, don't you think?? Well, had I actually taken a moment to look at the rating on the movie, I would have put it immediately back on the shelf. It's rated PG13.

PG13 from the MPAA (emphasis mine):

"A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning by the Rating Board to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suited for them. A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category. The theme of the motion picture by itself will not result in a rating greater than PG-13, although depictions of activities related to a mature theme may result in a restricted rating for the motion picture. Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity in a PG-13 rated motion picture generally will not be sexually oriented. There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence. A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context. The Rating Board nevertheless may rate such a motion picture PG-13 if, based on a special vote by a two-thirds majority, the Raters feel that most American parents would believe that a PG-13 rating is appropriate because of the context or manner in which the words are used or because the use of those words in the motion picture is inconspicuous."

You know, I'm pretty sure I've read the ratings classifications before, but it just hit me today that according to the MPAA, the above content is potentially unsuitable for kids under 13 (based on the parent's discernment), but as long as the "violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements" do not reach the R rating level, they're perfectly okay for kids aged 13-17. Wow.

Needless to say, I was pretty ticked off that some bonehead decided to write cussing into the script that also contained Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman. These are CHILDRENS superhero characters for crying outloud, there should have never been ANY objectionable language in this movie, AT ALL. Clearly however, this movie wasn't AIMED at children, it was aimed at older audiences that the MPAA ratings system deem okay for kids over 13.

UGH. In closing I will say, if you have kids of ANY age, and you don't want them hearing cussing in your own house, don't rent this movie.

National Treasure 2 The Book of SecretsNow here's the most ironic part of our bi-weekly movie night...

We also rented National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets which is rated PG. National Treasure2, we rented for US, the grown ups, and the rating was LOWER than the movie we rented for the kids. What's more - there is not a SINGLE cuss word in the entire movie, and the only reason it's rated PG is due to the violence (bad guys with guns chasing the good guys, car crashes, etc.), and one very brief scene of 2 grownups kissing. Even the kiss scene was done in a humorous way, and not a sensual way at all. Even more than that, it's a GREAT adventure movie, we loved it, and the kids got to watch it this morning and they loved it too.

So, at least movie night wasn't a complete waste of time and money. I'm still pretty ticked off about Justice League though. All the kids were offended by the language in the movie, and that really bothered me. I had to apologize to them for renting it, and promised to ALWAYS check the ratings first, from now on - no matter how innocent I think it might be.

Lesson learned.

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