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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Backpacking Dad's Ironic Movie Rant

Warning: Movie Karma and rant to follow.

Erin and I see a lot of movies. I'm a movie addict, and she's so easy to bring that we have seen just about everything. We go so often that I'm thinking about adding a new feature to the site: "Erin's Movie Reviews" that will rate movies based on how easy they were for her to sleep/stay quiet through, because some are easier than others (Erin does not like the sound of Paul Giamatti's voice whatsoever).

I was away from my family this Easter weekend, at a philosophy conference in Pasadena (I aspire to be a professional philosopher, if I ever manage to write a thesis, and I was asked to comment on a book this week, which I was very excited about). I was a bit torn about the trip: I wanted to jump into my professional life a bit after being home since September and thinking about nothing apart from Erin; but I also missed Erin and Emily terribly. And in my lonely, downtime moments I couldn't think of anything to do with myself. Sometimes I just didn't feel like talking to professors; I wanted to make faces at my daughter.

Now, historically this sort of loneliness and slight depression was easily remedied: booze can make you friends with just about everybody. But I didn't feel like drinking, and I certainly didn't feel like drinking alone. So I went to the movies.

I went twice. The first time I saw "Semi-Pro", and it was the late afternoon and hardly anyone was in the theater. This actually would have been a perfect movie to have Erin along to (that thought didn't help me feel any less lonely).

I also saw "Drillbit Taylor"; it had a convenient early evening start time and I hadn't seen it, so I went. I climbed to the very back of the near-empty theater and sat in the last row, right under the projector. As I waited for the movie to begin I marveled a little that the theater was once again empty, and then I maudlined a little that I didn't have Erin with me.

Erin is very good in the theater. But every once in a while she'll be awake and a little too gleeful. She laughs (fine), and babbles to herself (slightly less tolerable if there are other people around), but it's when she screeches with glee that I really make the move to take her out of the theater. I don't want to disturb the other movie-goers too much (or at all, really, but I only go to the early afternoon shows on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so the 3 other people who go to see the month-old movie on that day can, I think, deal.)

Waiting for a little karmic revenge on behalf of those 3 people?

Fine. Waiting for "Drillbit" to drill some bits. And into the PG-13 film screening room come, sprinting, bursting, buzzing, and flitting

Thirty 12-year old girls. And, in the almost completely empty theater they decide that they need to peform the equivalent of a Movie Theater Disk Defragmentation and ensure that all of the data bits are as close together as possible. They plunk themselves down Right. In. Front. Of. Me. And fill in my row to my left and to my right.


Chatty (of course; they were 12). Texting (of course; they were 12). Talking on cell phones (uh, 12).

Did I mention they were 12?

Did I mention that the movie was PG-13? I'm no prude (who says that?) but there were two mentions of pornography in the film itself and one in a preview trailer. And that was the tame stuff.

How did they get in? Oh. Because they were brought by one fraaaaaazzled escort. I both admired and hated this poor woman. On the one hand, she kept a pretty good lid on the babbling during the movie (there were occasional interruptions, but not really anything I would get upset over); on the other hand she had no business doing this by herself. I'm pretty sure that even though her purchasing tickets for these 30 girls was fully in keeping with the letter of the PG-13 warning and discouragement, it was clearly outside the spirit of the policy. You are supposed to be able to keep your younger kids under control at the movies, yes, but most importantly you are supposed to be able to make the decision for your kids that "Whoa! That was a bit over the top. We have to go, kids!" She was never ever ever going to be able to make the content-dependent decisions about the movie for this group, and it showed in what they were permitted to sit through.

I wouldn't have let them get past Justin Timberlake dressed as a French porn star in the 80's (in full banana hammock) in the trailer for the new Mike Meyers movie. They wouldn't have gotten past the more than overt sexual dialogue. Clearly the parents of these kids had decided that the kids could decide, as a group, which movie to see and that then they would figure out which parent was going to chaperone them. That's not the way to deal with PG-13 movies, folks. Not at all.

So. Did I learn my lesson? No. Erin and I will still be going to movies. All of them. Even the PG-13 movies. Do you know why? Because I know when I have to get up and take her out of the theater, and I am confident that I can make that decision for my daughter. I wouldn't try it with 30, no matter how well-behaved or even mature they are.


for a different kind of girl said...

My husband and I have gotten to go to more movies lately while the boys are in school and he gets off work early. We take the boys when we can, of course, but only to movies we decide are appropriate for them.

Back to my husband and me. Being able to go in the afternoons allows us to see some more R rated films of the horror/overt variety. It never fails to stun me the parents I see saunter in with their preschool age kids to these kinds of things. I say "really?" a lot, and this scene never fails to make me say "Really? They *really* think this is a good idea? Really?"

It could be because I know I'd be up talking about vampires and such a lot if I took my sons to such an afternoon out, but I don't get it.

Oh, and really? The talking? Gah!

Backpacking Dad said...

Yeah, I'm gonig to have to tone it down once Erin is really paying attention to the movies.

Although I'll take her to the zombie-vampire-sci-fi movies. Those are wholesome.

Timberlake with a moustache? (shiver)

And who needs a conversation with their 5-year old about corporate corruption or teen pregnancy?

Backpacking Dad said...

Oh! Baby! At "The Blair Witch Project"!

Even though I take Erin to a lot of movies I don't think I'd ever ever ever have the guts to bring her to "The Blair Witch Project". Not because it was too intense for the baby (babies don't care), but that it was too intense for the audience and they needed their quiet time during the film.

I wouldn't bring Erin to a movie like "Michael Clayton" that was all intense drama and dialogue.

Oh wait. I did bring her to that one. She slept on the floor the whole time. Sweet girl.

Mom101 said...

Here's where I admit I saw my first Rated R movie in the theater when I was 10.

It was Animal House.

I remember thinking, "what's the big deal that she's only thirteen? She's a TEENAGER. That's OLD."

God help our daughters.

Backpacking Dad said...


Where were your parents, young lady?


I'm actually all for kids sneaking into movies that they're too young for. It's a maturing experience, because they have to evaluate why the MPAA or their parents don't want them watching the film.

But when mom's friend takes you and your 30 best friends to a movie you are too young to see on your own, you don't question any of the content at all. It becomes as mindless as watching music videos at home. You end up internalizing things without ever having a mature discussion about them.

Let them sneak into "Zombie-Porn-Meteor-Strike". But don't bring them to see "Wedding Crashers" and then wonder why they're casually talking about hand jobs and the best one they've ever given/received.