Wednesday, November 08, 2006


What would Andy do?

Here’s yet another account of idiot parenting that would be even more remarkable if there weren’t the nagging feeling while reading it that this kind of thing happens a lot more often than many of us are even aware. Today’s edition of the Burbank Leader features a movie review written by voice-over artist and character actor Matt Bellner for Saw III, certainly not a movie anyone is likely to mistake for Flushed Away or Open Season. Yet Matt felt compelled mid-review to interrupt his enthusiastic comments with this grim observation:

”This is one of the hardest R-rated movies I've ever seen. The biggest shock of my movie-going life, however, was seeing the family next to me sitting comfortably with their 3-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Watching those poor kids sit through this type of entertainment was much more appalling than witnessing the violence in this film. Don't be an idiot. Keep your kids at home.”

One might reasonably think that such a plea wouldn’t be necessary, that any sane, rational grown-up, parent or not, would realize an auditorium screening Saw III was no place for a seven-year-old child, and especially not a child four years younger even than that. I’ve seen moms and dads with three or four underage children padding their way into Saving Private Ryan and Kill Bill Vol. 1, both a considerable stone’s throw from the Blue’s Clues universe, and both rated “R” for a good goddamn reason. Yet these selfish, potato-headed parents, treating their kids as pull toys to be dragged along to whatever occasion, either won’t (or can’t) pony up for a baby-sitter, or won’t wait for the movie to be released on DVD—they’ve gotta see it now, and if it means branding hard-core images of torture and humiliation into the brains of kids who are already exposed to far more than previous generations ever were at their age, and are “growing up” too damn fast as a result, then whatever, dude. If I saw a mother or a father pounding away at a child in a grocery store, I would either intervene or call for store security, in the name of the child’s safety. Is it such a reach to think of taking a three-year-old to see Saw III as a form of child abuse that might warrant similar intervention? (Some theaters, like the Mann chain, claim that no child under the age of five will be allowed admittance to anything harsher than a flat "PG," but I seriously doubt that policy is strictly enforced, and I can’t say other chains have similar restrictions.)

I’m not trying to condemn Matt Bellner for not saying something to these parents—on the contrary, I commend him for using his opportunity to review Saw III to even mention how horrified he was. But as a parent of two daughters, ages four and six, I’m finding it harder and harder, especially if I’m within a seat or two, to refrain from at least asking the mom or dad in that situation, “What the fuck are you thinking bringing those kids in here?”

Or should I just shut up, eat my popcorn and enjoy the gore that I paid to see, just like the Addams Family sitting next to me is trying to do? What would Andy Griffith do? What would you do?


Anonymous said...

That's a good question. I tend to avoid interaction with my fellow filmgoers in those kind of situatons, since you never know how people will react. A parent who would take small children to "Saw III" probably sees things quite differently from me, and I doubt I could dissuade them from the practice. Plus, I'm something of a coward.

Anonymous said...

I tend to always - ALWAYS - feel the need to say something, and I usually come up with the perfect thing to say when I'm in the car on the way home.

This exact thing happened to me years ago when I saw Silence of the Lambs for the first time in the theater, and there was a moron parent (although I do prefer "potato-headed". Nice!) sitting behind me with two children who spent the better part of the movie with their hands covering their eyes.

You're absolutely right: it's all about parents being selfish and stupid and putting their own sense of entitlement and fun above their kids' interests. And believe me, some day when these kids act out as a result of their crappy upbringing, some idiot politician will blame it on the violence in movies.

But in answer to your question, yes we should all say something. But it's way easier said than done in this day and age when you just don't know how unhinged the other guy is.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding?!? I would've kicked that family out of the theatre and go Midieval on those parent's asses! Why the hell did the theatre owners allow these kids access anyway?

This post shocked me profoundly. I can't tell you how sorry I feel for those children. Imagine being forced to watch two hours of uncut gang rape material, only worse: Apart from being unwillingly confronted with something designed to be as shocking as possible (for an adult!), these kids are seeing something that they cannot yet contextualize properly.

Sure, not every kid is the same. My 8-year-old son has a particular mindset that allows him to enjoy fantasy films that he knows full well to be fake from beginning to end. As such, I sometimes allow him to watch a movie that has been labeled appropriate for 12 years and up - Superman or Harry Potter - but that's only after I've seen the film myself, or made sure to read enough about it to know it's NOT SOMETHING LIKE FUCKING SAW III !

I mean, what's next? Taking the kids to see Irreversible?!? If you don't dare to confront these people yourself, that's fine, but at the very least inform the theatre.

Anonymous said...

Mind: Saw III doesn't include gang rape material, of course. I was just drawing a comparison to express how awful the experience must have been.

Anonymous said...

As much as I loathe the MPAA, it might be nice if they'd throw those NC-17 ratings around a bit more, seeing as this is precisely what they're for.

But then the theatres wouldn't show the movie...

Anonymous said...

Years ago, in a PMS-fueled outrage, I went off on a couple who brought their toddler to "Platoon." These parents were not native English speakers, and their puzzled looks told me I wasn't making much of an impression with my accusations of depraved indifference. Fortunately, the child fell asleep fairly quickly, so there were no (off-screen) maimings.

But "Saw III"? Christ on a cracker. I don't think I could stop myself from pelting them with Raisinets until Theater Security intervened and ruled in my favor.

afraid said...

This brings home to me how lucky we are in New Zealand to have a censor that does their job properly.

First of all, this sort of thing is almost impossible here, because our 'R' ratings - R13, R15, R16, R18 - mean that there will be no admittance under any circumstance for any person under the specified age. Saw III is an R18, so only cinemagoers 18 and over can buy a ticket; there are often ID checks at the door, too.

Second, our censor - the - is a bona fide government department whose employees are paid only to view and rate incoming content, not a bunch of fools who are supposed to represent family values. They've got their heads screwed on right, too - it is rare for potential general releases or festival films to be banned (maybe once every couple of years), and when they are, there's usually good reason. They are just as harsh, if not harsher, on violent content as they or on sexual content, and they rule consistently.

I know you're supposed to be pissed at The Man, but I've gotta praise these guys - they represent the success of such a divisive concept.

afraid said...

God damn it, I closed that tag properly! Never mind.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Ken: A parent who would take small children to see Saw III most assuredly sees things differently than you or I do. (Some of those things are undoubtedly floating in front of his or her eyes and thankfully can't be seen by anyone else!)

Burbanked: Your point about the eventual blaming of Hollywood is very well-taken and it circles back to where it almost always should: people taking their repsonsibilities as parents seriously and understanding that these are little people, not playthings with long-life battery cells, little people who are a hell of a lot smarter and more observant than most adults care to admit, and much less psychologically resilient when it comes to processing (battling) this kind of imagery. I was thinking about this too when I wrote about parents not being able to delay their gratification for even as brief a period as it takes for a movie like Saw III to make it to DVD these days. Because why should we think that an idiot parent who would think nothing of bringing a three-year-old out in public to see a grisly horror film would be any more protective of the child watching a DVD of that same movie in the privacy of their home?

Peet: I've had several encounters with blowhards and dumb-asses in movie theaters over the years-- none have come to blows, but some were plenty unpleasant and at least verbally violent. And Burbanked is right-- you just never know how unhinged a person loopy enough to do something like this is going to be. But the more I see and hear of things like this, the more I think it's a risk worth taking (and I'm not exactly the most physically aggressive person myself). I try to handle what my kids see in the same way you do, and despite how bombarded kids are by all the media choices they have, it is not impossible to be a responsible parent and check the material out yourself first, or at least keep informed and up-to-date on what it is your kids want to see. (And they don't have to see every piece of crap movie or TV show that's marketed toward them-- my girls were well aware of the recent CGI cartoon Barnyard and got excited by seeing the billboards around town, but all I had to do was not encourage interest with any enthusiasm of my own and neither of them ever made an issue of wanting to see it.) But it's a pretty big leap to imagine that these asshole parents didn't know what was in store for them and their little family when Saw III began to unspool. Bringing their kids to see this movie was just a despicable act.

Jennifer: I thought about the MPAA a lot when I first saw Saw III, and again when I heard about these parents. But there's no way these "concerned parents" on the ratings board are going to saddle a sure moneymaker like Saw III with a perfectly appropriate NC-17, because they're in the business of making money for Hollywood too, and everyone knows that if Saw III had an NC-17 rating, then theaters would have to at least appear to be enforcing the far more restrictive classificaton and thereby risk lessening profits for the studio. The argument that they wouldn't be able to properly advertise a movie like Saw III in newspapers with an NC-17 attached would be disingenuous too-- the movie's audience is built-in and would find its way to the theater regardless, and Lionsgate's marketing department is savvy enough to find myriad ways to make that NC-17 work for them and color their movie as even more hard-core. The sad thing is, studios and theaters don't care whether it's Daddy or Mommy or Little Johnny Toddler who hands them the price of a ticket, and it's increasingly obvious they don't care about Little Johnny Toddler once he gets past the bored ticket-taker and into the auditorium.

Jen: I'm taking Raisinets with me to every R-rated movie I got to from now on.

Afraid: Thanks for the insight into what sounds like a much more intelligent approach to classifying adult-oriented films. There seems to be some resistance to creating further ratings divisions in the American system-- confusion is always the cited reason (and we're always looking out to make sure the ticket-buying public doesn't get confused), but I also think that no one wants to ruffle the feathers of the MPAA, lest their movie be the next one to be subjected to the board's insanely inconsistent whims.

(By the way, Afraid, I've noticed that trying to create a hyperlink in Blogger Comments pages usually results in what happened with your link. It isn't that you didn't close it off correctly-- it's that Blogger doesn't seem to like hyperlinks with full addresses in the comments section. Try, which will shrink your URL to a much less unwieldly length, and Blogger will accept it every time.)

Dr. Criddle said...

That's rough, man. I don't have kids (I'm only nineteen and do not have a significant other) but I can probably remember being three years old better than most people who are parents, and I can assure you that Saw III would DEFINATELY have fucked me up good. I've never actually seen such a thing happen when I was in a theater, but if I did, I'd probably go with the Raisinettes-pelting strategy. Stupid damn parents.

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