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When Is Rated-R not Rated-R for Kids?

[Mature Content Alert]

A few weeks ago, my wife, son and I sat down for our Saturday night movie night. This occurs for three reasons: 1) my son is perpetually bored if left idle for more than 2 seconds; 2) my wife is perpetually antsy if not busy for more than 2 seconds; and 3) we like movies. On Saturday nights when we don't have anything to do or don't want to go anywhere, we rent movies or catch up on our Netflix queue.

So my wife decides to rent Shoot 'Em Up with Clive Owen (an actor I like). I vaguely remember asking her the rating. She told me it was family friendly. Growing up, my folks didn't take me to or allow me to see any R-rated movies. Now of course I managed to slip one or two in while visiting cousins, or sneaking into a show/movie theater here and there ("show" is for all you Midwesterners). But the rule of the house was: "No way, no how, not while you're living in this house."

And that's my rule today.

A few have slipped through the cracks: The Matrix Trilogy (I excused this as sci-fi violence and made my son cover his eyes during the latex and leather scenes); Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (I made him cover his eyes during the one love scene); The Blade Trilogy (Grandma and one of my wife's girlfriends are to blame for this one); and only God knows how many awful Steven Seagal movies (thanks to my wife's stepfather).

My wife's folks weren't as strict as mine, so we occasionally bump heads on parenting ideology and practice. I automatically say no first, then weigh the options before deciding whether or not I want to change my mind. She weighs the options and does her best to say yes.

Back to Shoot 'Em Up...

Roughly two minutes into the film some random pregnant chick is being chased by a gunman, she gives birth, and Clive Owen (the hero in the film) comes to the woman's aid and pops one of her boobs out of her dress to keep the newborn quiet.

I thought to myself, Okay, breastfeeding is natural.

Every other word was F-this, F-face, F-that and F-you. Then the woman gets shot in the head and dies with her boob still hanging out.

Hmm. Now, I'm beginning to wonder.

There are a few more gratuitous displays of this dead boob before Clive Owen makes off with the newly orphaned child to what appears to be a nunnery. When the nun who answers the door turns around, her bare naked butt is out. Why?

Because it's a whorehouse.

What happened next occurred in a matter of seconds: My son blurted out, "ewww...." and put his left hand over his eyes; Clive Owen and the prostitute go up a flight of stairs; the screams of a woman in the throes of passion floods the television speakers; I scrambled for the remote and yelled at my son to go to the back of the apartment; I found the remote when Clive Owen and the nun burst into a room to find a naked woman riding a man; I dove across the room, turned off the television, then the DVD.

At this point my son was in his room looking his walls. My wife was on the couch looking half-horrified, half-ready to bust out laughing. Oh yeah, she also looked completely guilty.

I grabbed the Netflix sleeve to check the rating. "Rated R for pervasive strong bloody violence, sexuality and some language."

"This is rated R!" I scream.

"I told you that, but they said it was family friendly," she explained, hunching her shoulders.

Netflix says depending on the type of family and kid, it could be an acceptable movie (Netflix explains this much more thoroughly than I'm willing to do here). But ours is not the kind of family that found any of the first three minutes of that movie acceptable. And honestly it doesn't matter what kind of kid my son is. T&A will not be a part of his visual diet. Not while he's in my house. No way. Now how.

Two weeks later, I watched it with my wife and neither of us could believe it could be considered even semi-acceptable for viewing. On it's face Shoot 'Em Up is a spoof of preposterous action movies and it was good, but it's not for anyone under 16 and depending on your house rules, maybe not even then.

There's a reason movies are rated-R. More times than not, the reasons are good.

When is rated-R not rated-R for Kids?

I can't say always never, but I do feel almost never is an appropriate answer.

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