I have a little rant to share with you this evening, so please indulge me for just a few minutes of your time.

This afternoon, Jim and I went to see “The Hangover: Part II” with my sister and my mom. The movie is rated R, and yet there were still two couples there who brought their small children. How small? One of them was four or five, and one of them was a baby, drinking a bottle. The “R” rating given by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) doesn’t prohibit children from attending a movie with an adult, though: the definition of the rating is

Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

That means exactly what it says. Any kid can come to a Rated R movie as long as they are with a parent or other adult. It doesn’t, however, suggest that any kid SHOULD come to a Rated R movie as long as they are with a parent or other adult.

The appearance of small children in the audience of Rated R movies–something that is becoming more frequent as time marches on–annoys me to no end. There are a couple of issues at hand, here. One of them is the behavior of a child who is too young to handle sitting in a civilized manner for the length of the movie. Small children often don’t have the ability to sit for long periods of time, especially during a movie that they can’t understand or possibly enjoy. When they get bored, they start to engage in behavior that keeps themselves entertained. My buddy Madeline wrote a post about this very topic a couple of weeks ago, after she spent the first half of the movie “Thor” being kicked in the back of her seat by a chatty toddler. (Read about that by clicking here.) We have this problem in the salon, too, on occasion. Our clients who come to us and pay good money to get some TLC and quiet, relaxation time aren’t getting their money’s worth if another client brings in a child who is loud, unruly, rude, or just too young to hang out in a salon. The experience is ruined for everybody, and I don’t think that’s right.

The other aspect of this problem that drives me up the wall is that I think it’s a display of poor judgment for parents to bring young kids to Rated R movies. Now, I can’t presume to know what is exactly “age-appropriate” for someone else’s kids, and I do agree that many kids within a couple years of seventeen can mentally process certain things in Rated R movies. (I have, indeed, allowed both of my boys to see Rated R movies at an age a little younger than seventeen.) I’m also not suggesting that the baby that was in the audience today is now well-versed on cocaine, ladyboys, or any of the other elements of the movie. I’m sure that the movie completely flew over that baby’s head. The baby’s four or five (ish) year-old sibling, though, should not have been there. Period.

These days, rated R movies have a listing at the bottom of the title screen in a trailer or on the movie poster which tells why they got that rating. “The Hangover: Part II” was rated R for “pervasive language, strong sexual content including graphic nudity, drug use and brief violent images”. I’m just throwing out a number here, but I think that bringing a kid who is younger than twelve or thirteen to a movie with these elements isn’t responsible. I am well aware that kids these days have already seen, heard, and read about so much more than the kids of twenty (or even ten) years ago, and they have access to so many things that are taboo just by virtue of technology, but I don’t believe that means that it’s right for parents to let them see, hear or read it at such tender ages.

So answer me this: why are so many parents allowing their kids to be exposed to such adult things? Are they just taking the easy way out (by not getting a sitter, or wanting to see the movie so badly that they’re unwilling to wait until they can go alone or rent it on a DVD), or what?

Please discuss.


  • Mom24@4evermom

    Well…personally, I’m okay with a baby-baby, one who is very little. We have taken our kids that young to movies and they’ve slept through the entire thing, I don’t see that as a problem.

    Four or five year olds? No way. Bad parenting, sorry.

    However, I would say the same of 12 or 13 year olds. If a movie is R I do not believe kids that young should be there. But, then again, I’m the nutty mother that doesn’t let her 8 and 10 year olds see PG-13 movies. At the very least, there’s something to be said for the joy of finally being old enough for certain milestones.

    • Melisa

      I agree with the “baby-baby”, if they sleep and/or are quiet the entire time. (The parents who won’t leave the theater w/ a crying baby, though? GAH.)

      I also agree with the “being old enough for certain milestones” thing. If we let our kids do everything early, what’s there to look forward to? (Reminds me of something in our scout troop: the minimum age for certain high adventure trips is 14, yet the parents of boys who are 13 often will beg and cajole the leadership to try and get their boys included “because they are just missing the age deadline”. My reaction? “Sorry: wait til next year!”)

      • Headless Mom

        Mom24 and Melisa-

        This was going to be my point. My boys aren’t allowed to see most PG-13 movies… PG-13 just isn’t what it used to be, that’s for sure. I think that kids need to have things to look forward to… as well as be ready for. The language alone is worth putting them off!

        But yes, poor parenting decision for a 5 year old to be in that movie. And yes, I’m being highly judgmental and I don’t care. Get a sitter or wait. My husband and I haven’t been to a movie that wasn’t geared towards children in, oh, 11 YEARS. (Just so no one thinks I don’t practice what I preach.)

  • Lisa @ Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy

    I can’t even imagine walking into that movie and seeing kids. We rented the first one and I kept turning it down afraid my kids who should have been sleeping, MIGHT have heard it. I could see something that was questionably borderline, feeling desperate for a movie and not having a trustworthy baby sitter…MAYBE! I can’t see taking a 4 year old to that movie at all. I personally think the issue of a child disturbing someone else who’s paid good money to see a movie is a bigger issue though. I think if you want to screw up your kids, you’re going to do it publicly or privately. But I am just sooo over everyone being so damn rude these days.

  • Cyndi

    Images are powerful. Once children are exposed to something inappropriate, like graphic nudity, a parent can’t exactly delete that from their memory. We need to PARENT our children, and when they are mature, we hope that they will have wisdom and discernment.

    Children act like children. I think it is irresponsible when parents put children into an adult situation, like a formal wedding or fancy restaurant, and expect them to act like adults. It is wonderful when a child knows how to sit quietly and behave, but oh, the misery to us all when the child doesn’t!

  • Heather

    I agree with Cindi. Completely. Kids are like sponges and they pick up EVERYTHING. What happens when that 4 or 5 year old goes to daycare/school/whatever during the day and repeats a line from the movie? I bet the parent would feel like a prize ass then.

    Actually, on second thought, I highly doubt that parent cares at all. Sad, seriously.

  • Tara R.

    Preach it sista! My kids used to gripe because we didn’t let them go to R movies until they were old enough. Now, that they are both over the restricted age, they get it. Complain all the time about ‘high school’ kids or even younger, at the movies.

  • Patty

    I agree with you on part about bring small kids to movies in the late evening like after 9PM or so. They are probably tired and crankly after a long day. That’s what bugs me…the chair kicking…yeah I’ve commented to the kid or the parent and it stopped.

    My friends and I were going to the movies by ourselves since we were 13-14 and our parents had no idea what we were watching. I never really paid attention to the ratings and neither did they. We survived not scarred by any of it because its make believe not reality. Our house was one where our parents were really upfront about everything. They were constant teachers of good behavior and not letting tv or the movies influence us. That was entertainment. They also had the sex talk early on and we knew what the consequences would be should we be tempted to “reenact a movie scene”.

  • Jennifer

    I’m a little late on this, but I’d NEVER bring my 5 yr old son to that movie! I saw the first one and that’s just wrong all the way around. It’s not fair to the other movie goers who paid money to see it, expecting adult time without kids. I’m a single mom and getting a sitter is a huge deal, but that’s no excuse. I’d be pissed if I thought I was getting grownup time, only to see other parents brought kids my son’s age. I’d leave & get my money back. Also, why would you want your kid asking you questions about what they saw? Questions they shouldn’t know about yet? Ugh.

    In my opinion, the movie theater staff should be allowed to say no small kids at a movie that blatantly inappropriate. An adults-only designation for the after-9pm shows maybe?

    • Melisa

      Actually, the adults-only designation IS something my theater does for evening shows, and it’s a great idea. Actually, now that you bring that up, I’m fairly positive that their “rule” is that children can’t attend movies there unless it’s designated as a family show, which leaves out the Rated R ones, and now I’m even more annoyed because the kids who were at “The Hangover Part II” with me were NOT supposed to be there according to the theater’s own rules. So apparently, they don’t practice what they preach. GRRRR.

      I agree with your question “why would you want your kid asking you questions about what they saw?” I mean, as kids grow up they have plenty of questions: I just don’t think it’s necessary to put yourself in a position to have to explain certain things to them way before it’s necessary. That also desensitizes them, which (in my opinion) can start a whole array of other issues…Grrrr again! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer!

  • David

    I’m super late with this. But I just got back from the movie 21 Jump Street and I had to leave after the first 15 minutes and I demanded my money back from the manager.

    There was a toddler in the movie. Now the baby wasn’t crying but they were making all sorts of strange noises which was very distracting.

    To make matters worse this movie started at 10:00. What the hell are parents doing out at 10:00 at night going to an R rated movie with toddlers?

    I disagree with Mom24. Under no circumstances should a toddler be aloud to go to see a rated R movie, especially at 10:00 at night. Even if the baby is usually quiet and well behaved there’s always a chance that the baby could start acting up. With the high cost of movies these days people do not deserve to be exposed to that.

    When I go to a movie, I want to order a soda, a popcorn, and get sucked into the movie and forget about my problems for 2 hours. This experience of going to the movies is totally ruined when you have a baby acting up.

    There is a way of solving this problem. Start charging full admission price for children under the age of say 8. If parents are too cheap to hire a babysitter than they are probably too cheap to pay for a third ticket.

    • Melisa

      Hi David,
      I think you’re right: I don’t think it’ll ever happen but charging the adult price for small kids would make parents think twice about bringing them.

      I also agree about wanting to get sucked into a movie and forgetting about everything outside for the duration. This weekend we saw a preview of “Mirror Mirror”, which is rated PG so it was full of kids. There were not one, not two, but THREE crying babies (at different times) whose parents didn’t remove them from the theater immediately while they were making all of that noise. That could be a whole different post: the entitlement that parents feel when coming to a movie that is rated for kids: some figure that as long as the theater has tons of squirmy kids in it, it’s okay for babies to cry. That drives me a different kind of insane. (I sound like I don’t like kids: I really do!)

      I’m sorry you had to leave “21 Jump Street”. I hope you get to go back and see it in a quiet theater next time!