The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Enjoy

May 3, 2013

Benji Tunnell: Parents, theater workers share ratings apathy

JOPLIN, Mo. — CinemaCon, the annual movie theater exhibition conference, has come and gone, and once again someone has put forward another pointless idea.

Last year we had representatives from major theater chains espousing the thought of allowing, or even encouraging, texting during a film. It was such an asinine concept that I even received an email from a representative of the IMAX company distancing themselves from statements originally attributed to their president.

This year is no different, only this time it is National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) president John Fithian and MPAA chairman and CEO Christopher Dodd who are pushing something illogical.

After a meeting with Vice President Joe Biden in a knee-jerk reaction to the Newtown, Conn., shootings, the duo announced that they will be tweaking the current movie ratings system, adding what they call "Check the Box," which will give more detail as to why a movie received a certain rating. In addition, each trailer will be tagged with its approval to play in front of a film.

According to Fithian, "These changes make the rating and advertising process more transparent and user-friendly for parents, and we are happy to support that endeavor." The problem with this logic is that it is giving way too much credit to some parents, assuming that they actually care what their kids are watching.

I don't want to make this a broad, blanket statement, because I know that I and many other parents carefully research films before letting our kids watch them. But I also know many who do not.

In my time managing movie theaters, the biggest hassle I had was enforcing the R-rating policy. It wasn't the kids trying to sneak in who were the biggest problem (although there were plenty of those), it was the parents who would call or email to complain that I refused to allow their 12- or 13-year-old child to purchase a ticket to some blood- or nudity-filled film.

For many parents, the movie theater became a de facto baby sitter, allowing them to shuttle their children off unsupervised while they shopped, slept or generally decompressed. The burden for watching over and controlling their children shifted to low-paid and often frustrated theater workers, many of whom long ago stopped caring about their job. If we kept these kids from watching whatever happened to be playing, that burden shifted back.

The idea that adding a slight bit of information on the bottom of a rating (something that has already been done once, with the information regarding the content of a given film that contributed to its rating) will somehow make for more informed choices is acting under the far-too-broad assumption that all parents care what their kids are putting into their developing minds.

In my years reviewing movies, I've seen hundreds of children -- some with parents and many unattended -- in R-rated films. There was an obvious indifference by those moms and dads who couldn't bear the thought of missing the latest "Rambo" or "Expendables" on the big screen, and rather than wait for Blu-ray or arrange for a babysitter, they just drag Junior along.

In addition, there is the obvious lack of care in the enforcement of the ratings system at theaters. It takes very little effort for someone under 17 to get into a movie that they theoretically should not be watching. If they fail at the box office (I've not seen this often), they simply hop theaters while the indifferent staff pays little attention.

A parent will let their 8-year-old watch a movie such as "Red Dawn," a violent PG-13 film, because they can't be bothered to care, just as a bored usher will let a 14-year-old sneak into "The Hangover 3" because he can't be bothered to care. Changing the rating system and adding more detail will do nothing to combat the overwhelming apathy that is at the center of the current system.

It is presumed by many that the current ratings system is a legally enforceable code, when, in fact, it is purely voluntary in most jurisdictions.

But the important thing to remember from all of this posturing is that the MPAA and NATO were able to garner good press. Biden finds a little more validation for his gun violence task force, Dodd and Fithian were able to land their names in the papers, and the status quo has been maintained.

Text Only
Enjoy
Facebook
Poll

Missouri Republicans are considering a new approach to prevent federal agents from enforcing laws the state considers to be infringements on gun rights: barring them from future careers in state law enforcement agencies. Do you think this proposal has merit?

Yes
No
     View Results
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
NDN Video
Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest