Saturday, August 7, 2010

Guest Blog: Rated "R" Movies and the Quest for Adulthood

"To me, in my 13 year-old brain, seeing this movie is what being a grown-up meant."

Rated "R" Movies and the Quest for Adulthood

By Lukus Williams

The A.V. Club is where the cool, smarmy kids (like me!) go to read insightful ruminations on entertainment media of all types. After scrutinizing the latest review of a movie or album with the acuity of my liberal arts education, I often race to the comments section to see what other like minded readers have gleaned from a reviewer’s unabashed praise of a movie like “Inception” or the total smackdown of “The Last Airbender.”

Like any other blog, large or small, the life is in the comments section – which is the inspiration for the A.V. Club’s AVQ&A series, where staff and readers discuss pop-culture question of high substance.

This week’s AVQ&A just so happened to invade Welcome To Adulthood territory:

I was 10 or 11 when the Atom Egoyan movie Exotica came out, and I remember being really intrigued by it. It seemed, in my mind, to be this sophisticated, adult movie—the kind of thing real grow-ups watched instead of action films and romantic comedies. I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to watch it. Are there any similar cultural items which represented “adulthood” to you as a child? And did you ever check them out? If so, how did they play to your expectations? I eventually rented Exotica as a 19-year-old, and found it kind of boring. –Kristen

At various stages of my youth, there were always different movies that appeared as a marker of adulthood to me.

When I was in the first grade, the lady who babysat me had a son in fifth grade named Ryan. Ryan liked to regale me of his tales of being a fifth grader, how he got to play on the cooler side of the playground, and of course how freaking awesome Terminator 2: Judgment Day was. My mom, of course, wasn’t going to ever let me watch it. I did everything I could to see the movie, I even worked to make enough to buy a ticket for me and my dad to both go, but still I was denied.

It wasn’t until I was 11 years old that I was able to see the film, and you know what? Ryan was totally right, it is freaking awesome. Best Terminator movie still, to date – and Ryan was right on his second point, the movie was totally cooler than RoboCop ever was.

Not wanting a repeat of this Terminator fiasco, I longed for a clever plan to see Starship Troopers two years later. Mark, a 14 year-old god amongst the rest of my 12-13 year-old group of friends had managed to see the R-rated movie without a parent, and told us we needed to see it. Following his advice, we went to a matinee on a weekday where the old man who sells tickets barely cared enough to take our money, let alone check how old we were.

To me, in my 13 year-old brain, seeing this movie is what being a grown-up meant. The main characters were cool, they cussed, they shot giant bugs in outer space and oh… there were boobs. Thanks to a shower scene and a sex scene, my teenage mind was forever changed!

Looking back, Starship Troopers is a terrible movie. It’s a very poor adaptation of its source material. The entire thing is simply bad, even for a pulpy sci-fi flick. And while I’d like to believe I’ve totally outgrown the idea that seeing dudes blowing up aliens is a sign of adulthood and manliness… at the very least, it would be a lie to say that Dina Meyer’s breasts weren’t burned into my psyche, and who knows what damage that has wrought?

What about the rest of you adulthooders?

What movies or TV shows were the forbidden fruit of your youth, and did they stand the test of time?

(Photo via Dietrichthrall)


  1. For me it was the Exorcist. Back then (yes, I am old enough to use the term 'back then') my parents had no idea exactly how scarring a movie like the Exorcist was.

    I saw it at 11. Is it any wonder I am the way I am now at 45? LOL

  2. For me it was Dirty Dancing. I didn't really know WHY I wanted to watch it, but my friend Alana's parents let her watch R Rated Movies all the time and she said it was good. So one day, at my other friend's house, her parents put in Dirty Dancing but they fast-forwarded the abortion part. (We did go to a Catholic Elementary school after all.) Years later when I watched the movie again, I was very confused about the abortion part. I had seen the movie so many times in my childhood but never remembered that part! "My mom used to fast-forward it," my friend told me later. Ah ha, mystery of the R-Rated movie solved. But, I guess with the fast-forwarding it probably wasn't so R-rated after all.
    Great post!

  3. Mine was Dirty Dancing and the stand-up comedy, Raw (Eddie Murphy). My friends older sister rented the movies so we thought we were all grown up. Great post!

  4. I've lost track of how many "R" rated movies I saw as a pre-teen. However, this entry reminds me of a time when I thought I was an adult and was forced to recognize that I was still, indeed, a child. Back when I was 16 years old I worked at a movie theater. I remember thinking of myself as being a pretty mature, responsible 'adult' at the time. It didn't occur to me that others might not see me the same way. One day, at the end of my shift, I went up to my boss and told him that I would like to see the movie "Kalifornia" later that night. I didn't consider that I was still 16 years old and that the movie, when first released, was rated NC-17. My boss told me that it would be fine "as long as you get permission from your parents."
    Uhhh... seriously?!?!?!
    I offered to call my parents and put them on the phone with him. What else could I do?
    It turned out that he was just giving me a hard time and he didn't expect me to call my parents for permission.
    It did make me realize that I had a way to go before I would be able to consider myself an adult. I've had many of those experiences throughout my life where I thought I was an adult and was proven wrong. Now, at the tender age of 33, I'm still not sure I'm there.

  5. I went to a summer day camp in elementary school. When I was in fifth or sixth grade I was buddy buddy with an older counselor who I think was probably only a freshman in high school at the time. Anyway, at the end of the summer the older kids got to watch My Girl and the younger kids watched a cartoon or something. My counselor let me watch My Girl with the older kids and I honestly can't tell you what the movie was about because it upset me so much that my memory blacked it out and I can't bring myself to watch it again! I thought I was so cool and mature when she asked me to join the big kids but I realized the cartoon was probably better for me then :)

  6. For me it was, Dont Tell Mom the Baby-sitter's Dead, and Three Men and a Baby......Neither of which were R. I have since seen Don't tell Mom the Baby-Sitter's Dead, but each time I watch it I feel like I am doing something wrong!