Rated E for Exempt

Most parents filter the movies their kids get to see.  Depending on what is important to them, parents will mark movies off-limits due to sex, violence, or other adult topics, using such resources as the MPAA guidelines or ratings from sites such as Kids-in-Mind.  However parents judge a movie’s suitability, though, and despite its nearly continuous violence, there is one film that seems to get a free pass onto the screens of almost any young boy.  The question is, can a movie be deemed so socially significant, so culturally important, and so much a classic that it is exempt from normal restrictions?

Apparently, according to some parents, a movie can transcend its content and become acceptable for all ages.  The clearest, most common example is Star Wars, George Lucas’ epic space opera.  Even though the film contains both large scale battles and individual combat, on-screen deaths and tragic losses, the original film and its sequels (and prequels) continue to be seen as suitable for young children even when any other film with comparable violence would not.

In some respects, this is understandable, given the film’s impact on popular culture, but is it right?  I know of kindergarteners who have watched the entire series and subsequently spend their recess time playing out the scenes from the films, lightsaber duels included.  The movies have re-introduced swords and swordplay into youth lexicon in everything from balloon swords to flashlight attachments.  Kids on playgrounds, even more than thirty years after the original movie premiered, fight over who gets to play Luke Skywalker and who has to be the evil Darth Vader.

For me, I don’t think the movie series, as enjoyable as it was (ewoks notwithstanding), gets an automatic pass.  I understand how not having seen it can limit one’s cultural literacy, but I still think that parents should stick to their principles and determine — objectively — whether or not Star Wars fits into what they want their kids to see.  For me, I know it’s going to wait, probably at least until the movie’s 40th anniversary.

How do you feel about it?  Does the classic film get a pass?  Are there any other movies that you let your kids watch even though, were they made today, they would be deemed inappropriate?

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5 Responses to “Rated E for Exempt”

  1. fortyninerfann says:

    Totally valid. Ultimately, it comes down to a) the assumption that the parental judgment is sound, and b) the ability of the kid to handle it. It’s an individual and personal choice. There’s no right/wrong answer. I’ll admit I’m a little guilty of some SW bias. I’m 34. Star Wars = Yes, Avatar = No, even though the levels of violence are comparable. I know I’m being a little hypocritical about that.

    There’s no doubt a piece of me that I feel like I’m sharing with my kid by exposing him to something that was a cherished piece of my childhood. However, the Clone Wars cartoon is popular among his classmates, so that also plays a part. Anyway, my soon-to-be 6 y.o. son has seen all of the movies, except ROTS (EP3). Before deciding to let him watch any of them, I re-watched them all to see if I thought there was anything he couldn’t handle. Additionally, I made sure I was there watching with him, so I could answer questions and explain stuff. I remember seeing ESB in the theaters when I was about 5. I don’t recall being any more agressive or violent because of it.

    Before knowing ROTS had drawn a PG-13, I’d already decided the boy wasn’t ready to watch Anakin get all burnt up, slaughter a bunch of children, betray the Jedi, try to kill his mentor/friend, and kick his wife’s ass. He has asked to watch it and I’ve told him he’s not ready yet. Thankfully, the cartoon takes place between EP2 and EP3, so that’s helping me buy some time.

    When it comes down to it, I probably should’ve only let him watch the original trilogy. That way, when I was asked “how did Luke’s father become Darth Vader?” I could’ve said, “nobody really knows.”

  2. OMGRUKIDDING? says:

    I can’t believe you even have to consider this.

    Sir, I agree that there is no right or wrong answer to such a personal question as what to allow your children to see. Having said that, you must have a seriously low opinion of your children’s ability to process such eternally elemental human concerns and/or conditions. Conflict, oppression, combat, and even death can be stressful or scary subjects, but remember: you cannot have harmony, freedom, peace or life without them. Without one, the other would lose all meaning and most children have a basic grasp of this concept. (“Opposite Day” being the perfect example.)

    I would posit that if you take issue with allowing your children to be exposed to these themes or concepts (especially in the vanilla way that they are presented in the Star Wars movies), then I would suggest you also prevent them from watching the nature channels as well. While you are at it, you might as well prevent them from studying history. Hell, you may just be better off keeping them indoors at all times, because if you put into practice a principle of parenting that would prevent you from allowing your children to even watch Star Wars movies, you very well may be rearing children that could become insecure, ineffectual, deluded and ignorant with no practical grasp on the nature of the real world in which we live.

    (Scarily enough, now that I think about it, that does sound somewhat like a sad majority of the sorts of children you see today.)

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