For the week of July 14, 1999  thru July 20, 1999  

Twisted tales not for kids

The movie "The General’s Daughter" just finished its run in Ketchum. It’s a mystery, rated R. It’s a good movie—for adults.

Under the industry’s voluntary system, the R rating advises that viewers under age 17 must be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian.

The real mystery for the adults who saw "The General’s Daughter" was why so many pre-teen and early-teen kids well under age 17 were in the audience.

The movie contained segments of rough sadomasochistic sex, battery, rape and murder. Pre-teens and early teens who viewed the movie looked pale and frozen in their seats as the scenes flashed before them.

Before concluding "not my kid," parents should consider this: Three other movies running in the Magic Lantern four-plex last week were all rated PG-13. Generally, although parental guidance is advised, PG-13 movies play to almost everyone except the very young.

Theater managers know kids are smart. They know that left to their own devices, kids may buy a ticket for Tarzan and go instead to a different auditorium with less age-appropriate fare. Parents know it, too.

Yet, even managers are amazed when kids show up with notes from parents apparently seeking entry for a child. Or, when parents voluntarily take a child to a movie that is far beyond a child’s experience. A newspaper reporter was amazed to hear a parent in the audience at "The General’s Daughter" lean over to a child during a particularly rough scene and say, "I told you this was a good movie."

Maybe we’re old fashioned, but it takes some maturity and a little experience to handle extreme images like the ones in "The General’s Daughter." They aren’t appropriate fare for impressionable young minds even in the midst of this nation’s relaxed standards of personal behavior.

Movie theaters are not babysitting services and theater staffers are not jailers. It’s up to parents to monitor what their kids watch. It’s up to parents to exercise good judgment about what’s acceptable movie fare and what’s not.

There’s plenty of information out there about movies and what’s in them. Ratings are just a start because there are no hard standards for how they are applied. Newspapers, magazines, television and the Internet all contain movie reviews with specifics about movies. Some theaters, such as the Magic Lantern, publish short descriptions about what viewers may expect to see. Parents who are unsure should ask theater managers.

Childhood is short and getting shorter as we approach the new century. There’s no reason to end it prematurely or unnecessarily.


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