Witnessing Child Abuse in a Movie Theater

September 25, 2012

On Friday, September 21, I decided to go see End of Watch because I had read great reviews and I don’t feel I can honestly discuss violent films if I never see any.

It was a 2:00 PM show and very few people were in the theater. Right before the film started, I was stunned to see a young mother bring a very small boy into the theater. He could not have been more than four or five years old.

The film is rated “R” and all of the advertising for the film makes it very clear that the film is exceedingly violent and profane. Nevertheless, here is this little boy in this giant theater with digital sound being forced to watch intense violence and profanity from the very first frame of the film.

After about ten minutes, during which there were numerous violent acts and F-bombs every other word on screen, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Not the film. The situation with the child.

There was no way I could sit in that theater and watch the violence on screen, knowing this little boy was being, in my opinion, emotionally and mentally abused by his either clueless or narcissistic mother.

So I got up, and went to where the mother was sitting. I told her that such a small child should not be subjected to that kind of violence and profanity  and that she should get him out of the theater. She just looked at me with a blank stare and turned away.

And I walked out.

Standing in the lobby, I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try to do something more. Anything.

So I called the Child Protective Services hot line here in Portland on my cell phone.

When I explained the situation, a very compassionate woman commiserated with me and said “Look, you’re right. No responsible parent would take a little child into a film like that, but, legally, there’s nothing we can do. I suggest you talk to the theater manager and let him know how upsetting this was to you. And thank you for caring enough to call.”

I then sought out the theater manager who was also very compassionate. He told me that he had a two year old son and  could completely empathize with how I was feeling; however, he too was powerless to act unless the woman caused a disturbance.

Of course, I understood. Legally, he was handcuffed, as was the lady at Child Protective Services. As was I. (Personally, I’m a huge fan of the Regal Cinema chain and their fantastic “Go Big or Go Home” campaign to encourage people to see films in theaters.)

I exited the theater  and noticed a news van right out front from KGW, Channel 8, the NBC affiliate here in Portland,

I called my wife Lauren to relay what had happened and, without me even telling her about the news van, she immediately  said I should call our friend Sally Ramirez who is the Assistant News Director at that very station. So I called Sally and explained the situation. She then called her reporter in the van (which was there to cover the first day sales of the new I phone) and, within a few minutes, I was doing a news interview about what had happened.

And, a few days later, KGW aired both that interview and an extensive news story on the subject matter:

Going forward, here are my thoughts:

–I do not believe in censorship. I’ve produced “R” rated movies myself.  I just don’t think that little children should be forced by their parents to experience the kind of violence and/or profanity and/or explicit sexuality in “R” rated films.

–Just because we can do something (like take a child to a film like that) doesn’t mean that we should.

-I would love to see more people get involved so parents don’t subject their little children to a kind of violence/profanity/sexuality that they have no way of being able to process in a healthy way. If you see this kind of thing, and you don’t feel comfortable talking to the parent, talk to the theater manager. Maybe even tell him/her that you don’t want to sit in an “R” rated film with little children. And maybe even ask for a refund. If enough of us do that, the theater chains will definitely pay attention.

–I would hope that theaters would instruct their ticket sellers to at least caution a parent who is about to buy a ticket for an “R” rated movie for a small child. “Hey, there’s a lot of violence and profanity in this film. Are you sure you want to take your child in?” Just that could prevent some parents from proceeding. In fact, I’m told that some theater managers do indeed instruct their ticket sellers to do just, to which I say “way to go!”

–I would love to see the “R” rating mean that no one under 12 or 13 can be admitted to violent R-rated movies, even with an adult.

What now?

What can or should we do in situations like that?

Was I out of line for confronting the mother?

Was it none of my business?

Should I have just shut up?

What, if anything, do you suggest we do about little kids and “R” rated films?

Please let me know what you think, and if this commentary resonates with you, please put this link on your Facebook and Twitter pages, and distribute it to your friends and whomever else you think should see it so we can get a national dialogue started.

Children are so vulnerable and impressionable. They need and deserve our help.

(Stephen Simon produced such films as Somewhere in Time (Christopher Reeve), What Dreams May Come (Robin Williams) and All The Right Moves (Tom Cruise). He produced and directed both Indigo and Conversations with God and co-founded The Spiritual Cinema Circle. He is also the author of The Force is With You and Bringing Back The Old Hollywood.)

{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

Renee September 25, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I have to say I completely agree. I am glad you confronted the mother in the theater; however, the very fact she brought her child there in the first place was a sign she was not going to understand your point. Some people don’t get it and probably never will. Maybe it is time that the “R” rating means no children under 12 (even with a parent/guardian). While I in no way condone what happened in Colorado this summer with the midnight opening of Batman, I did wonder why ANY children were even there in the audience – #1 because of the violent type of movie it was, and #2 it was at midnight when young children should be sleeping. I have a young child and the reality is that my husband and I don’t go to very many adult-themed movies in the theaters anymore. If there is a movie we really want to see we make sure to get a sitter and we go by ourselves and yes, it is expensive. If we wait for the DVD to come out, we watch it when our child is sleeping. Unfortunately most parents do not appear to share our values. I remember when our child was in preschool and the other parents were talking about their children watching Spiderman and Jurassic Park. Within practically the same breath they would talk about how their child was having nightmares and needing to crawl into their bed with them out of fright. Sadly, they did not put 2 and 2 together. Seemed obvious to me. Good luck Mr. Simon ~ I fear this one is an uphill battle!

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 5:37 am

Hi Renee…yes, I agree–but the uphill battles are the only ones really worth fighting for, yes?…thanks again for your comment and support…Stephen

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G. September 25, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Thank you for your insight, honesty and courage — you did exactly the right thing. It has been said that we do not have a derelict child problem in this country, but rather a derelict parent problem. The child is obviously below the age of reason and has no moral context or intellectual formation to filter the content — what then could become of this child to the rest of society if this not corrected in his mind as he grows up? It is not censorship, but rather a protection from moral error and harm. Again, thank you for taking action.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 5:35 am

Thanks so much for your comment and support…”derelict parent problem” is indeed the issue, yes?….please consider getting my blog to your friends so we can start a national dialogue about this issue…..again, thanks so much for your comment….Stephen

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Chris Adams September 26, 2012 at 6:23 am

Yes, I agree. Parents should NEVER take their kids to an R rated movie.

I mean, it’s way more fun to sneak in when you know you’re not supposed to ^_^

Really though, bit of an overreaction on your part. I have news for you-kids have been sneaking into R-rated movies since the first R rated movie (Robocop, I believe) and I’m pretty sure the overwhelming majority of them turned out just fine.

Unless, of course, you’re going to try and blame the current crop of violent gore fests on ‘todays youth’, despite the fact that the gore market-while profitable-still only accounts for a small percentage of the films released every year. You proclaim to love the old hollywood..what about films like the Wild Bunch? the Godfather? Bonnie & Clyde? What about Scarface (the original, not the DePalma reimagining)?

The fact is that we live in a violent world. Far more violent than the one portrayed in most movies and on television. While you’re correct to be concerned about kids being exposed to an R rated film, you went too far in calling child protective services.

At what point do people stop attempting to tell parents how to raise their kids? When I grew up, my uncle (my aunt and uncle raised me as one of their own after my father left me) took me to films like the ones I mentioned above. We watched movies like Tombstone together. The Long Riders.

I got to see films like Stanley Kubricks 2001:A Space Odyssey. You can’t tell me that despite not having a drop of blood that that movie isn’t an incredibly violent one. When HAL killed Frank I remember being shocked. I was so quiet- oppressively so. It felt like all the air had been sucked out of the theatre for that one brief moment (we had been invited to a friends house for a screening. He had his own private theatre).

After we watched these movies, my uncle would take me aside and talk to me about them, make sure I understood that it wasn’t real and he would ask me what I felt the film was trying to convey.

I write all this because i’ve had child protective services called on my parents for a very similar reason, only instead of a movie theater it was a rock concert my Aunt had begrudgingly let me attend. It was the tail end of the 80’s, and glam metal was all the rage. I wanted to see Metallica and Guns’n’Roses. A local church in town had decided they were going to protest the show. When they saw my uncle drop me off, they immediately took down my uncles license plate and then called DCF.

It took months and months of time spent in court and thousands of dollars in lawyers fees to get things worked out and prove that they weren’t being bad parents. Some random person lacking a degree in child behavioral studies or any kind of doctorate or certification in anything child or mental health related makes a snap decision and next thing you know, my family is almost torn apart.

Fortunately, we got through it. That kid whose parents you tried to report might not have. So next time, stick to what you do best-talking about bringing back the old hollywood (though honestly, the old Hollywood was just as salacious and exploitational and repetitive as the new hollywood, if not more so, and it’s always been about catering to young audiences, which is why I watch independents) instead of trying to raise other peoples kids.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 8:06 am

Hi Chris…thanks so much for taking the time to post such an extensive comment…while we disagree on this issue, please know that I respect and appreciate your perspective….Stephen

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Eric DelaBarre September 26, 2012 at 7:19 am

Happened to me as well. We went in to see Anthony Hopkins in the Hannibal sequel to Silence of the Lams. There was a couple who arrived late with their 5 year old. They excused themselves into our row…and I sat there for a few seconds….just stewing about what was about to happen, and then I finally stood up and vocalized “Do you really think this is the movie to bring your kid to?” A row back, two women started clapping and then…more clapping…and finally, the parents left with their kid. Sometimes I wonder about where this society is going.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 8:12 am

Good for you, Eric…I’ve heard from several other people who did what you and I did….yours is the most positive result I’ve heard!..I know this whole issue of parents’ rights is a tricky and emotional one…and I’m not saying parents don’t have a legal right to bring their young kids to these kinds of movies…they do…but just because they have a right doesn’t necessarily make it right..maybe those folks in your theater hadn’t really thought out what they were doing until you spoke up….as I said, I know what a land mine this issue is…but it’s important that we have the dialogue…..thanks again!!

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Eric DelaBarre September 26, 2012 at 8:32 am

It should be against the law for a child to be shown such graphic violence….PERIOD. I mean, seriously, if you can’t take your child into a bar, then you shouldn’t be able to take your child into an R rated movie!

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 8:56 am

Someone else mentioned the issue of children’s car seats to me…while some parents might consider the law requiring children under a certain age to be in a car seat in the backseat to be intrusive, society says we’re putting the interest of protecting the child first…if you see a parent berating or hitting a child in public, do we just shut up and look the other way?….isn’t the emotional and psychological abuse of being forced to experience to intense violence on screen at least somewhat tantamount to that?….anyway, I’m so glad that we’re having the dialogue..

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Terri June 8, 2016 at 6:37 pm

I could see rated X but rated R, says ” under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.” She didn’t take her child to a porn flick, just to a movie. I’m glad this was diffused immediately. I’d hate to see this child brought up in foster care (or any other for that matter) all for going out on family outing. Karma, what a funny thing.

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Michelle S. September 26, 2012 at 7:51 am

Stephen,

Thank you, on behalf of all caring adults, for your love and genuine desire in keeping our kids safe. And when I say “safe,” I mean (in addition to the obvious kinds of safety issues) also NOT subjecting them to negativity and violence. As a culture, too many of us have become desensitized to violence and don’t give it a second thought when exposing our kids to it.

I am, in no way, minimizing some horrible things taking place in our world. But it is our responsibility to show kids the good stuff. Anyone who disagrees, see the film “Life is Beautiful.” Enough said.

Your story touched something deep inside me, and I appreciate you sharing it with us. I’m standing with you in the importance of showing our children a loving and good world.

Peace!
Michelle

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 8:05 am

Thanks so much for your comment and support, Michelle!!…stephen

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Marlowe Brown September 26, 2012 at 9:12 am

As a mother and a producer in the entertainment industry, I applaud you for your actions and for bringing this extremely important issue to light. The fact of the matter is that the creation and distribution of violent and degrading images should be outlawed. Period. Not only is it morally reprehensible and abusive to subject a child to violence, but it is also detrimental to the health and wellness of the entire human species. What we consume with our eyes and ears affects our health in the same way as the foods we eat and the air we breathe. There are decades of scientific studies that show this very clearly. In a nutshell, we are what we watch. Everything we feel, think and do is a direct result of what we see and hear from the moment we are born to the day we die. How is it acceptable then to create and distribute toxic filth that not only damages our mental health, but our physical health as well? And why do people think it is only the children who are affected? We are all affected. Thank you so much for caring!

Marlowe Brown
Executive Producer
Sacred Earth Pictures

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 9:35 am

Hi Marlowe….thanks so much for your support and please know that it is mutual!!

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Marian September 26, 2012 at 9:26 am

These are complex issues that have the ability to push a lot of people’s emotional buttons (including mine) and there are no easy answers.

I was recently informed about another type of movie theater usage while attending a PG-13 comedy recently. During the first part of the film, I became disturbed by a young boy behind me who was squeezing a plastic bottle over and over again, making a rather loud obnoxious noise–especially during a movie. When my sideways glances produced no effect, I turned around to look at him and then realized his mother was sound asleep next to him, totally oblivious of his behavior. It was then that I realized this woman was utilizing the movie as a baby-sitting service so she could get some rest. Although this doesn’t have anything to do with the child abuse you saw, it illlustrates that some parents’ needs override the best care for their children–even at the movies.

Eventually he settled down and was quiet, and I could go back to watching the movie undisturbed.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 9:38 am

Yes, I hear you….the theatrical experience itself over the last several years has really devolved, hasn’t it?…common human courtesy seems to rapidly be disappearing….and the whole cell phone/texting thing is another issue as well…..thanks so much for sharing your thoughts….

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Sue September 26, 2012 at 10:01 am

I recall going to an R-rated film with my friend and her older brother when we were young teens. We were maybe 13-14 and I don’t recall if we even knew what the movie was about. Even though that was 30+ years ago, I still remember being freaked out by the graphic violence in the movie – one scene in particular. If that experience stays with me all these years, I can’t even imagine how that type of movie would have affected a younger child.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

Thanks so much for your comment, Sue…I too remember being scared to death at 12 or 13 by RODIN, a cheesy Japanese horror movie that was a ripoff of GODZILLA..but, as you noted, there is a huge difference between the cognitive functions of a four year old and a twelve year old..

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Katherine Kaiser September 26, 2012 at 10:19 am

Stephen, I support you 100 percent & that is why I am a charter subscriber of the Spiritual Cinema Circle where I know I will see some inspiring & uplifting films.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 10:32 am

Thanks so much for comment, Katherine..and for being a charter subscriber to The Circle..Wow–that means we’ve sent you about 400 movies over the last 9 years–the bookshelf dealers in your neighborhood must love you!…truly, thanks so much for your faith….

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Nicholas Walsch September 26, 2012 at 10:21 am

I could not agree with you more! My six year old, Dominic, is not even allowed to watch PG13’s and I prefer to watch PG’s at home so I can provide at least some context for what he is viewing. I was amazed to find out that Dominic is one of the only kids on his soccer team that didn’t see ‘The Avengers’ in the theaters. Guess I never thought my kid would be the only one NOT seeing a superhero movie…LOL

But…It is not about censorship. It’s all about context! What possible context could a six year old have for that much violent action, for such dire circumstances, for so much eye popping adrenaline?

A five year old seeing a rated R movie in the theater is child neglect! There really are no two ways about it.

Nice article, Sir!

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 10:34 am

Hey Nick….so great to hear from you….I agree that context is indeed a very big deal here…thanks so much for the support!

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Asha Hawkesworth September 26, 2012 at 10:25 am

I agree with you completely. However, it is certainly true that we can’t control the sometimes idiotic choices of others. But if we perceive that there is harm, we should try. I remember encountering some 6- or 7-year-old kids who had seen “Robocop.” I realize that film is a satire, but it’s so violent that it makes me physically ill. And these kids had seen it several times. I’ll bet their parents don’t let them watch movies with sex scenes…

Several people have touched on this, but I do think that some parents are just so incredibly burned out and overloaded that they can see no other choice but to drag the kids with them when they want to do something, even if it’s completely inappropriate. No question that this indicates serious immaturity (and possible depression)–it should be all about what the kid needs, not what the parent needs in this case–but parents are now dealing with the high costs of childcare and the consequences of needing 2 working parents in the household, if possible. (Suicides appear to be on the increase with economic pressures.)

I appreciate your compassionate heart, Stephen. We all need to advocate for one another to the best of our ability. And you just never know when it’s the thing that you do that makes a difference to that kid, or that mother.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 10:37 am

Thanks so much, Asha…and you put your finger on a point that is deeply meaningful to me: if this dialogue, and illuminating the issue itself, causes even just a few parents to reconsider taking little kids to R-rated movies, it will be wonderful indeed…..

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AM September 26, 2012 at 11:03 am

I want to thank you for standing up for this child. I have worked in juvenile correctional facilities and believe me the things kids watch and are allowed to play do affect them. Kids are not adults. They do not understand at such a young age what is real and what is pretend. How many of us have fast forwarded through Bambi’s mother being shot because a child may not understand the imagination of it. Kids are not adults. I can’t emphasize that enough. Protecting them from violent movies etc is not questioning their intelligence it is being a good parent. You helped a child who doesn’t have a voice when you tried to get him out of that theater. Good for you for not letting it go. Good for you for trying to protect our children.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 11:29 am

Thanks so much for your support….we have a very close family member who also works in a juvenile facility and he also sees what you noted firsthand….again, thanks for your comment..

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David Meyer September 26, 2012 at 11:22 am

Stephen, you did everything you could possible due given the circumstances. In fact, I am very proud of your proactive efforts. In my opinion, our society has become numb to what is appropriate and what is not. If you watch any of the sitcoms on TV…they’re pretty much all about the same crap…sex, affairs, drugs, violence, and of course…abuse. You know me well enough to know I’m not a prude. But we have lowered our standards of what is right and what is wrong to the point that the line is completely blurred.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 11:27 am

Thanks so much, David…and, yes, “numb” is a great word for what’s going on out there….with all the violence everywhere, we get desensitized…it always reminds me of a classic scene in BEING THERE..Peter Sellers plays a man who has lived his entire life inside one house and garden…and watching TV…when he is forced to leave, a real gang menaces him, and he tries to stop them by pointing the remote control of his TV at them….needless to say, it doesn’t work in real life..

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G. September 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Standards require objectivity just like a measuring stick is referenced to its origin (math term), like the number zero on a number line. The lack of standards in our culture today is in great part due to moral and philosophical relativism which measures things by arbitrary means — a bit on an oxymoron in practice. The question is whose ‘rule book’ do we follow in such a pluralistic society? How do we argue for what is true, good and beautiful when it seems like every one running around these days says “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I think we should just face it and recognize that some things are just plain ugly and harmful, but we need to know how to answer “why”.

– Greg

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Sally Wigmore September 26, 2012 at 11:43 am

A theme after my own heart.
Here in the UK, we have different film certification, and yet, it doesn’t address the ‘violence level’ in the film.
Since I will not go to films with violence in them, then I’d love for the certifications to have an added ‘Violence level’, since sometimes even the 12+ rating has unnecessary violence in it, and I have to close my eyes and ears!
It has been proven that images stay in our memories longer, and that having seen things being done, whether for real or acting, then this stays in our subconsciousness, and can be re-called and used at a later time.
So, bravo for your concern and actions , and hoping that you are raising the awareness of parents on this subject.
Thank goodness for Spiritual Cinema Circle, from another Charter subscriber.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

Hi Sally–and another big hug to a charter member of The Spiritual Cinema Circle…thanks so much for your comment and for your faith in us since we launched in 2004!

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Darcy Woodham September 26, 2012 at 11:44 am

I raised 4 kids, 3 of my own and my nephew who moved in when he was 10. My kids were never allowed to watch “inappropriate” movies. My youngest saw Titanic (pg-13) at 12 1/2, after I had prescreened it first. She was still disturbed by the whole thing and actually counted the curse-words (which I hadn’t even noticed!). My nephew was raised on violent, hard core movies, music, etc. At 24 he still lives in a very dark world. He never understood my restrictions and still doesn’t. I pray he will think about that when he has children.

I had nighmares for years after seeing 101 Dalmations because Cruella DeVille was going to SKIN those puppies for a coat! My parents didn’t let me see another movie for many, many years. When I was in Jr High they let me go to the movies with friends (long before the rating system) and I went to see “I Saw What You Did, and Know Who You Are”. More nightmares. My parents screened my movies from then on. I still don’t watch scary or violent films.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 11:49 am

Thanks so much, Darcy….your experience with your nephew is so illustrative of the problem…and so sad….thanks again for sharing with us..

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Renesta September 26, 2012 at 11:44 am

When I see something that bothers me, such as what you witnessed, I contact my state Senator. Last time I witnessed SSI fraud I reported it to my Senator and had a phone call back the next day asking for more details. Let’s get a law passed since, obviously, some parents have forgotten how to be a parent.

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Bobby September 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Will your outrage inspire you to write a blanket apology to the parents of all the children of the 80’s who got boners while illicitly watching All the Right Moves on cable?

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Oka, Bobby…I’m still laughing over that one…I’ve thought of about 5 or 6 responses, all of which would get me into more trouble than I’m already in…so all I’ll say is “you have a very good point”!

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J2 September 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Stephen, THANK YOU for having the decency and courage to say something. These are the same “parents” who take their toddlers to nice restaurants and let them run wild–and into dangerous situations. This cultural parental check-out is shameful, and until we as a nation realize we DO owe something to our children, we will continue to embarrass ourselves. Thank you for raising awareness.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Thanks so much for your support. “Cultural parental checkout” is a very potent phrase indeed. Thanks again.

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Edward September 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Stephen.
I commend you on your actions. I also feel the sames way as you. I was under the impression that it being r rated youngsters couldnt go in to begin with. Far, far to many parents these days just dont have a clue as to the danger they impose on the young children. I think the movie industry should enforce the rating tag.
You did all the right things as far as approaching those involved to correct it first before the news crew. Maybe, maybe, if more of us had the gumption to speak up something would change.
Thank You for being you.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Thanks so much, Edward. As you, I do indeed believe that we’re in a time where we just can’t turn our heads and walk away.

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David Franklin Farkas September 26, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Thanx Stephen for who and what you are. I’m reposting this all over Facebook and Twitter.

People don’t realize that when they show small children this kind of behavior they are telling them that it is OK and what grown ups do to each other. It is programming. For some, especially over time, it’s like watching domestic violence, porn or sexual activity in their homes.

Love that the TV crew was right there!

Blissings and continued love and respect.
David

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Thanks so much, David…and, yes, great point–forcing a four year old to see that kind of violence is indeed “telling them that is OK”…oh, and I love the “blissings”…very cool….

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Jeff Hutner September 26, 2012 at 1:41 pm

Hi Stephen,

I am in the midst of reading How to Change the World by John-Paul Flintoff who makes the point that it is small acts like yours that indeed can and do change the world. Your individual action taken on behalf of an innocent child being assaulted by graphic images led to the subject being brought to the community for consideration. We never know how a simple action born from our sense of right and wrong will impact others or the community but we don’t do it because we are looking to impact others or the community. We do it because in our hearts we know its right. Thank you for your act of compassion and kindness. There is a bigger lesson here for us all.

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Stephen Simon September 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Thanks so much, Jeff. I agree that it’s the small, individual acts that can make such a huge difference. Thanks again!

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Dan Dewey September 26, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Stephen: Yes! This clearly and vividly resonated with me!
Am not sure how I, or any of us, would have reacted
to such a situation? I’d say You handled it in the best
possible way … and the power of a Local Newscast
can be the alert for everyone to learn from. Hopefully,
the troubling parental wisdom will learn the most? …
Am very proud of Your mature involvement. Dan

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Stephen Simon September 27, 2012 at 8:36 am

Thank you, Dan!

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joan September 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Hello, and thank you for bringing this subject out for discussion. It seems to me that any experience not shared and discussed in a healthy way can bring long lasting consequences to young people. I do not think bringing children to R movies is a good idea. Yet they are continually exposed to violence through videos and games at home as well. Some commercials TMI.
Yes we live in a violent world, so why expose our children to more than needed. Some children may be too sensitive for even movies that elude to violence/sex much less experience it on a huge screen with surround sound.
Adults have a choice whether or not to expose themselves to such things. Kids don’t and don’t have the capacity to understand what this exposure could do.

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Stephen Simon September 27, 2012 at 8:35 am

Hi Joan…yes, that is a very important point..at home kids can at least walk away..in a theater, they’re a captive audience….thanks very much for your comment and support…

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Donlee Brussel September 26, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Hey Stephen,

I’m friends with your sister Susan Granger and posted this on her Facebook wall in response to her linking to this:

While I definitely agree with what your brother did in regard to films that are violent, I think there are plenty of films that get the R-rating that are completely harmless to children, and by that same token, plenty of PG-13 films that are just as bad if not worse than R and NC-17 ones based on the violence in them.

For example, there was a huge petition to get “Bully” a PG-13 rating because kids should be allowed to see a film like that. The MPAA’s sole reason for giving films like that, “Mean Creek,” and “The King’s Speech” an R-rating was more than one use of the F-word. From about the 3rd grade on (age 8 or so), every kid you know knows the worst profanity possible, guaranteed. That won’t scar them.

I don’t think seeing films with nudity will scar them.

I do think seeing overly violent films like “The Matrix,” “Natural Born Killers,” etc. leads the wrong minds to commit atrocities like Columbine. I think the MPAA should be stricter on violence and I wouldn’t mind if THOSE kinds of films had the 13+ policy. But you can’t have a blanket, “No one under 13 should be allowed to see anything R-rated” because there are how many foreign films, documentaries, etc. that will be enforced under this rule that it just wouldn’t make sense.

Think about the Oscar race of 1998, “Saving Private Ryan” vs. “Shakespeare in Love.” Both films are rated R, but are you really telling me that a mature 12-year-old wouldn’t have been able to handle the latter? Its sole reason for the R-rating was Paltrow’s nudity. “Saving Private Ryan” had what could be for a child traumatizing violence.

I’m just saying, it’s not black and white.

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Stephen Simon September 27, 2012 at 8:34 am

Hi Donlee….yes, you make an excellent point that my wife Lauren also pointed out to me…the answer to all this might be to make V a specific violence rating for films that prohibits kids under 12 or 13? to see that particular film even with an adult….thanks so much for your comment!

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Virginia Abraham September 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm

When younger than 16, I remember M*A*S*H being at the cinema, and knowing I simply could not go, since it was rated “R”. When did all this change?

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Stephen Simon September 27, 2012 at 8:30 am

Interesting question, Virginia…my memory is that the R rating has always meant that parents could bring children if they wanted to do so….the old X rating, which is now NC-17, was and is the only rating that forbids kids access into the theater…in those days, the ratings went from PG to R until TEMPLE OF DOOM caused so many nightmares for kids and parents that the MPAA added PG-13… but that was still only a warning, not a prohibition….maybe someone else has an update about that?

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Brian Mills September 27, 2012 at 4:06 am

It has become apparent that not only are many patrons bringing their TV ill manners to the cinema but now it seems, regarding this mother, their low moral standards too. If the child is being spoon fed a diet of violence at home in front of the television, taking it to see more violence would make no difference to her at all. Such irresponsibility can only be corrected by the changing of the R rating by raising the minimum age that a child can see a film with an accompanying adult.

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Stephen Simon September 27, 2012 at 8:26 am

Thanks, Brian…and, yes, I agree that the minimum age for R-rated movies should absolutely be raised…

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Harimander Khalsa September 27, 2012 at 10:00 am

Greetings Stephen

I too have seen irresponsible parents bring young children to movies that were not appropriate and potentially damaging. Also the tragedy in Aurora CO appeared to have preteen children in a PG13 movie. We can not legislate parents into higher consciousness but we can work to protect children. Sounds like the topic is a great SSC movie waiting to be made!

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Stephen Simon September 27, 2012 at 10:25 am

Yes, the Aurora tragedy does indeed loom large here, doesn’t it?….that is such a tough one because none of us want to make those parents who lost a child or had one injured feel any worse than they already do….just think about the impact it would have if just one of those parents became an activist about all this and could tell other parents–“think carefully because you don’t want to feel what I’m feeling”….thanks so much for your comment…

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Stephen Simon September 27, 2012 at 11:54 am

Update: UPI has picked up the story and distributed it worldwide. (Very amusing that they categorize it as “odd news”) http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2012/09/26/Producer-aghast-seeing-kid-at-R-rated-film/UPI-96821348689994/

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Mimi October 1, 2012 at 6:14 am

I have raised 2 children to adulthood, still have a 13 year old in the nest, and been a childcare provider/preschool teacher for 35 years. Not only is this insane but if I would show a ‘cartoon, or movie’ that was inappropriately rated… I would not have a job. As a childcare provider, I have to follow strict guidelines when it comes to movies, books, T.V. shows, and language that is allowed around the children. The fact that a child is forced by a parent to endure something so horific to their little minds should be a far worse crime!!!

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Stephen Simon October 1, 2012 at 8:24 am

Hi Mimi…thanks so much for your comment which I find particularly compelling because of your work with the exact kind of kids who are so deeply affected by this kind of parental irresponsibility…..thanks again for your support and insight…

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Pam Schulte October 1, 2012 at 6:56 am

Parents have got to grow up! If you can’t afford a sitter don’t go,And then people wonder why adults do the things they do. Just take a look at what they learned as children. God help them.

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Stephen Simon October 1, 2012 at 8:25 am

Yes, thanks so much and I agree, Pam….kids emulate what their parents model for them…

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Arlene Berlin October 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm

you did the right thing

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Bill Shepard October 2, 2012 at 9:26 am

Back in 1975, my 11 year old son begged me to take him to see “Dog Day Afternoon”, so I relented. The ticket taker (to his credit, I suppose) challenged me, arguing that the film wasn’t for children. Nevertheless, we watched it. I’m not defending what I did, but do think the parent/child relationship, as well as the “sophistication” of the child in question, should be considered. In my son’s case, Joel ended up getting a degree in Film, and is now the film programmer for the Yerba Buena Arts Center in San Francisco.

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Stephen Simon October 6, 2012 at 5:14 am

Hi Bill….I totally understand.. 11 is light years away from 4 or 5 in the ability to process..in England, for example, the first cutoff age for these kinds of films is 12 so you were right there…and, yes, everyone’s case is unique but I don’t think there are any 4 or 5 year olds who can process what was on the screen in the movie I saw….as always, great to hear from you…Stephen

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Lynn October 6, 2012 at 12:01 am

You know what? I live in Portland and saw the same thing at a theater last week. I commend you for your compassion & courage. I wish I would have done what you did.

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Stephen Simon October 6, 2012 at 5:11 am

Thanks so much, Lynn…i really appreciate your support…and please spread the word…

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Michelle O'Neil October 6, 2012 at 5:51 pm

When I was only six, my alcoholic-severely-lacking-in-judgement father took me to see The Excorcist in the theater, because he wanted to see it, and because evidently he was saddled with me for the afternoon. We left early into the movie but the damage was done.

I had nightmares for years and was terrified of seeing images of that girl into adulthood.

“I would love to see the “R” rating mean that no one under 12 or 13 can be admitted to violent R-rated movies, even with an adult.”

Me too.

On behalf of all kids who are subjected to movies that are damaging to them, I thank you for standing up for that child. You did the right thing.

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Stephen Simon October 7, 2012 at 5:35 am

Hi Michelle…. I had nightmares from reading the book–and I think i was about 21 at the time!…and, yes, I agree about the R rating keeping all kids below a certain age out of the theater altogether….thanks so much for your comment and support…and, by the way, that’s a great name for your website…Stephen

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Susan Pease Banitt December 12, 2012 at 11:31 pm

Hi Stephen,

As a therapist I know that young children can and often do get PTSD from violent, terrifying films that contain images they cannot process. I applaud you for confronting the mother and talking to others. If enough of us stepped up to confront this abusive behavior, it would become untenable for parents to do this in public, at least.

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Stephen Simon December 13, 2012 at 7:18 am

Thanks so much, Sue….and a big welcome to both you and Peter!

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Lynn February 5, 2013 at 3:48 am

I’m so glad you brought this to the medias attention. I have a two and four year old who is regularly shown R movies when at their fathers house just recently it was ‘Ted’ shown to my four year old. Dhs regards it as bad parenting not child abuse but a child that young should not see such things! It is having a terrible affect on them from inappropriate behavior to nightmares and extremely scared of the dark because of monsters. What can a parent or anyone else do when the justice system does nothing?

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Stephen Simon February 5, 2013 at 6:37 am

Showing TED to a 4 year old is, as you said, bad parenting at the very least….unfortunately, we can’t legislate good judgment in people…so sorry your 4 year old went through that…and thanks so much for your comment here…

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Terri June 8, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Exactly, people are going to make different decisions. It’s arrogance for us to say that our own standards by far are what the world should follow. I’ve seen my fair share of bad judgments as well, however, we at least do agree we cannot legislate good judgment, esteem, values, etc into people as it SHOULD be that way. As much as certain things may bother me, we’d no longer be the land of the free if we’re starting to enforce Biblical living on the whole (as some would have happen if it were possible). The fact there are different denominations and religions show that none of us know for sure this moral path. I feel racism, sexism, ageism, etc are all “immoral” but we cannot legislate these out of people; only their actions as a result of their feelings. (prefer free than under dictatorship).

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Stephen Simon June 9, 2016 at 4:40 am

Hi Terri…..thanks so much for your insightful comments…..and I agree that the parent in question had every legal right to take her child to that film…and that we cannot legislate good sense or parenting…..we can, however, do our best to protect children from exposure to the kind of violence that child endured by making admission to “R” rated movies more restrictive…for instance, no one under 18 can get into an X rated film, even with a parent….kids are not legally allowed to buy cigarettes or alcohol….you have to be 16 or 18 to get a drivers license, etc….I am hoping admission to R-rated movies can be restricted to kids over 10, 11, 12 or something like that…even with a parent…..that being said, i also 1000% agree about living in the lamd of the free..so it’s a conundrum indeed…thanks so much again!!

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