By Daniel Guerrero
After scanning all of the movie selections and times in the lobby of the movie theater, my friends and I decided to watch the Oscar winner, “Parasite.” We bought our tickets from the box office and walked towards the usher, becoming more excited with every step we took.
In an instant our night was ruined, however. The usher refused to let two of my friends pass into the movie because they were 16, one year under the age requirement for rated R films. We reluctantly exchanged our tickets for a new movie at a later time and left disappointed, knowing that we had missed out on watching a cinematic masterpiece.
Since the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) introduced the R rating in 1968, many films have been able to explore and add more graphic and raw elements of society in unique and creative ways. These elements, along with masterful cinematography and clever screenplays, have the potential to leave lasting impressions on audiences. As directors, actors, cinematographers, and crews continue to further explore the potential of the category, rated R films have begun to inspire a new generation of film lovers, especially with the increasingly easy ability to view films at home through streaming services.
Film has become an increasingly important and inspirational art to teenagers, especially as more films are exploring the teen experience in coming-of-age films. However, they are limited in what they can watch in the theater, even if not at home.
“I was trying to watch ‘Call Me By Your Name’ when it came out in theaters with my sister, but they did not allow me to watch it because I was underage. It was pretty upsetting because I already knew what was going to happen in the film. I’ve read the book, so I don’t see why it was such a problem,” senior Julia Lopez said.
Coming-of-age films like “Call Me By Your Name” often attempt to accurately depict the modern teenager; however, they also often receive an R rating due to discussions on sex, teen partying, language and uses of drugs and alcohol. It is highly ironic that teens are not allowed to watch films attempting to describe their own lives.
Even further, in 2018, “Eighth Grade,” a film that reflects the beauties and horrors of the typical life of an eighth-grader received an R rating, which prevented the intended audience, eighth-graders, from watching it in theaters. This eventually led to the film’s distributor, A24, to collaborate with some theaters across the nation and allow teenagers to watch the film for free for one day. The purpose of coming-of-age films like “Eighth Grade” is to allow teenagers to reflect and relate to the realistic characters being portrayed on this screen. Creating such a connection would inform them that they are not the only ones who are confused about life, contributing to their understanding of maturity and adulthood over time.
“It didn’t feel like our responsibility to portray a reality that was appropriate for kids, but rather portray the reality that the kids are living in,” “Eighth Grade” director and writer Bo Burnham said to Salon.
What theaters also fail to realize is that once these restricted films are released on-demand, teenagers watch without any pushback. With this in mind, keeping teenagers from watching rated R films in theaters only makes them feel left out when the film is being showcased to the public. The rating is not preventing them from viewing the films, merely limiting the location they can view them.
“It is my choice to see the movie. My parents already didn’t want to see it with me, so I had to wait for it to come out on DVD to see it,” Lopez said.
When theaters eventually re-open to the public, they should reconsider allowing younger teenagers to watch rated R rated films, especially if they are the intended audience. This would keep teenagers from missing the opportunity of watching cinematic masterpieces or experience coming-of-age stories about themselves being played out on the big screen. I would recommend teenagers, who are the ages of 15 and up, to have the ability to watch rated R films that tackle mature themes, as they are expected to tackle those same themes in their everyday lives.
Time has changed the way teenagers behave in real life and view rated R films, so it only makes sense that movie theaters and the MPAA change as well.