Why I do not watch R-rated (cert 18) movies?

There have been some other really good posts on this topic.  I will mention only two: Scott B.’s retrospective of other R-rated discussions and his Zeitcast with John C and his brother.  In a future bloggernacle retrospective, this post will not be mentioned.

Just prior to returning home from my mission in April 2004 I had an interview with my mission president. Having heard the rumours (read: horror stories) about the advice MP’s have given during those interviews I was prepared to stand my ground in the face of any absurd recommendations. I was pleasantly surprised when my MP suggested that during the next 10 years I should aim to hold a temple recommend, remain active in the church (i.e., hold a calling), pursue education and/or begin establishing my career, and find a partner. He did make one final suggestion. He suggested that while flying home that I should make a list of ‘gospel’ standards that I intended to keep. I do not recall whether he suggested standards around media but during that flight I began thinking about my choices regarding films.  I decided that, in reality, I would never stick to a rule that prohibited certificate 15 films but that I could avoid certificate 18 films (see Appendix). [Translation: I would watch some R-rated films but not all].

Since returning from my mission I have only seen two[1] certificate 18 films. It is practically the only standard that remains from that quite hastily made list some 9 years ago and, if I am honest, I am little proud of that. The problem is that I have been rethinking this rule now for quite some time (at least 18 months) and I still unsure whether to relinquish this somewhat arbitrary rule. Below is some of my thinking:

Why I do not watch 18 films?

1. Because I (almost) have not watched one for nine years. As I said above, I am fairly pleased with the fact that I have been able to avoid watching them and I actually feel it would be a shame to (re)start now. The problem with this reason is that fundamentally, as a friend recently remarked, it boils down to an moral principle that finds support in having a ‘good streak’.

2. Many of coreligionists do not: community is important to me and one of ways that I signify my membership in this community is by following media norms. The challenge with this argument is that it is fairly clear to me that not all Mormons agree on whether we should watch R-rated (or 15-, 18-rated) films or not.  Moreover, we do not really agree on what is wholesome or not. I suspect, and have good reason to believe, that these standards differ among the GAs as well.

3. Gratuitous violence and sex: I do not believe that all R-rated films are evil or detract from the spirit (I am not really sure what this even means, if I am honest) nor do I think that all non-R-rated films are virtuous. However, if I were to guess, I would argue that films with a higher rating may be more likely to contain sex or violence that I would consider gratuitous. Again definitions are difficult here but I do believe that watching gratuitous violence for enjoyment as a form of enjoyment is some problematic for me. The gorno genre, e.g. Saw,[2] is a good example. The issue is that some non-R-rated films are guilty of this as well (so potentially are certain sports) and I think the issue is not so easy to pin down with regards to sex.

4. I do not trust myself: behind all of these explanations is another disheartening truth. I do not trust myself to avoid watching gratuitous films. For example, I know that I would watch Django Unchained and that I would probably enjoy it. This is problematic because in reality I know that I should be more mature and make those decisions myself according to my own standards of morality.

Why this is a dumb rule?

1. It is inconsistent: Only a few years ago some friends asked to watch The Shining with me and I refused because it was an 18. Now it has be re-rated as a 15 and I have subsequently watched it (it is a great film).

2. I am allowing a group people I have never met be the arbiters of what media is verboten: this is fairly self-explanatory and the silliness of this kind of approach is quite stark when we see cross-national differences (see, again, Appendix 1). The problem with this argument is that, if I am honest, I do not believe that any of us can make those judgments against an objective criteria because we are located within cultures which shape those assumptions quite profoundly. So, if my decisions are a product of my culture and society then why not let that same society provide some guidance on what is already decision without a firm basis.

3. The value of watching R-rated films: some argue that watching R-rated or certificate 18 films allow us to see a world that we would not otherwise experience. This is not incorrect per se but this seems inadequate and it can, in some guises, assume that this new perspective is a good thing. However, this logic, if pursued, would just move the value judgment to another place: so instead of looking at ratings we should only be watching films or TV that has, or strives for, an element of social realism. It is not entirely clear to me how we would divide films that are able to offer insight in an unfamiliar world and those that don’t.

4. Some R-rated and certificate 18 films are totes amazeballs: this is the most persuasive argument for me because it is also the most honest. I know that I would love ‘The Wire’ and ‘Breaking Bad’. If I do not think that they are gratuitous or morally damaging (which I do not, as far as I can tell) then why not enjoy them? The problem here is that I do not quite think that entertainment is a good enough reason to start. There are relatively few areas in my life where I have successfully held to a moral standard (admittedly one of my own making). In nothing else I would like to try to keep as many of those areas as untouched as possible.

One final complication:

In the interests of full disclosure, and so that I can be mocked for my inconsistency, I have and would buy certificate 18 films or TV shows for other people as gifts, even if I have not seen them. For example, I have purchased season 1 of Breaking Bad for two people based on recommendations from friends. My logic here is that I do not think others should necessarily hold to this standard (especially those who are not Mormon) and I doubt that these films are gratuitous in the way I outlined above. In short, I would not buy someone Saw but I would buy them ‘The Wire’.

Conclusion: I know this has been hashed out in some detail before and i do not pretend to offer any insight on this issue, but I would be genuinely interested in hearing why my reasoning is faulty from either side. In fact, it would be great to hear from people who do have a media standard that they adhere to.

Notes:
1. The two films were: The Godfather trilogy, which I still own and will watch in the future, and Die Hard, my wife had not seen it and in a moment of weakness I agreed to watch it together. “A dirty vest covereth a multitude of sins”.

2. There is a Saw theme park ride in the UK which is very good but I am not sure how it would be ‘rated’.

Appendix
Comparison of US and UK film ratings.
The British use a different film rating system than the US. This has always made the R-rating rule regarding media choices somewhat confusing for British saints. Of course, the advice to avoid inappropriate films still stands but this allows the individual to make the choice and will inevitably result in some differences of interpretation.

Film US rating UK rating
Saving Private Ryan R 15
The King’s Speech R 12A
Saw R 18
Pulp Fiction R (Original: NC-17) 18
The Matrix R 12

Comments

  1. Aaron, I am not sure I understand your reason #4 – you do not trust yourself, that is fine, but don’t trust yourself to do what? To only watch good films? If that is the case then perhaps outsourcing your standards to a third party (which is what a cert 18/rated-R rule essentially does) is a good thing, but in no even is it a substitute for cultivating a personal sense of morality. If you want to use those ratings services as a lodestone that strikes me as a perfectly acceptable measure but not something viable in the long term if you want to be able to articulate a clear moral stance. In some ways I would think that we should be making choices more stringent than these categories.

  2. PS Django is pretty awesome but it’s not his best movie.

  3. I have debated this within myself often, partly because there are R-rated films I would genuinely like to watch. I enjoy movies in general and it seems there are R-rated films that are likely at least enlightening if not wholly uplifting. I have decided not to watch R-rated films for many reasons. Partly for some of the reasons mentioned above, but most importantly because of the example of a Catholic friend I knew some years ago. She did not eat meat, not because Catholic doctrine forbids it (it does not) but because she had determined that this was a small but meaningful lifelong sacrifice she could willingly make to demonstrate gratitude to God. She liked meat, and giving it up was meaningful. I have never tried most of the things Mormons avoid, and frankly have little desire to; as a consequence, however, it doesn’t seem very meaningful for me to continue avoiding alcohol and tobacco, for example. R-rated movies, however, are something in which I would be genuinely interested. It is frankly no longer clear to me whether the church standard is to avoid them, but I do so anyway as a small but meaningful personal sacrifice; a reminder of the much greater gifts given us by divine grace. In this way, every time a new movie comes out and tugs at my cords of want, by not indulging and by feeling a twinge of “wow, that would be pretty cool,” I am reminded of my covenants and of grace.

  4. Seems like you are aware of the flaws in either side of the argument. I’m a big believer in taking each film (regardless of rating) case-by-case. IMDB and other sites have great parental guides these days, no one should ever be surprised by a film being “below their standard”. My rule: I do not watch anything that makes it hard to feel the spirit. And even now, I’m not so much mormon and don’t necessarily even believe in “the spirit”, the rule still stands: does it bring me down? does it make me unhappier with the world I live in? will I find it hard to be who I want to be after watching it? will it leave images/words in my head I don’t want there?
    Of course, I acknowledge that I have unique sensitivities- the F word doesn’t bother me one bit, but it really bothers my husband; certain “stupid humor” really brings me down (I’m a very empathetic person, any movie where the main character is in a constant state of embarrassment leaves me feeling edgy and unhappy) but helps my husband relax and laugh.
    Under this logic, Braveheart, Amelie, and the King’s Speech are all fair game for me. Most Ben Stiller films are not. And I get that that is for me- every one else is welcome to Ben Stiller, I doubt that kind of humor affects them the way it affects me. I also can’t watch Law and Order or most Crime Forensics shows- they just affect me too negatively because of my own weird hangups. But the Last Samurai? Bring it on.

  5. I’ll watch pretty much any movie or TV show if I think it might be good, but I respect those who choose otherwise as long as they’re cool about it. Also, the UK rating system seems a bit more logical than the American one. Possibly the biggest downside I see from Mormons who won’t watch any R-rated is more social than religious: My wife and I like to try and watch most of the critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated movies each year (not that the Oscars necessarily celebrate the best films, but that’s a different discussion), but when we’re talking movies with our church friends the discussion is a bit limited when most of our favorite movies happen to have been rated R. Sure, Batman and The Avengers were fun, but there’s only so much you can wring out of those and I’d rather discuss the moral complexities of Zero Dark Thirty!

    If anyone cares, I wrote a blog post about this topic last year as I was grappling with my churchgoing ways and my love of Game of Thrones: http://www.experttextperts.com/2012/08/entertainment-standards-or-how-i.html

  6. Great post. I wish we had your system of rating, which seems more discerning than ours. I avoid most R movies but try to remind myself that it’s not because I am a paragon of virtue compared to my evil R-watching coreligionists, but simply because I don’t enjoy watching them. I have a sensitive stomach when it comes to violence.

  7. Steve, Cynthia’s comment highlights part of the reason why I do not trust myself. I would like to have Cynthia’s reaction to certain films (particularly violence) but, at the moment, I do not. There are films where I imagine that I should be more bothered by the violence, for example. Whether there is some negative consequence to this ambivalence to violence is not clear to me. I suppose, at root, I want to trust my ecclesiastical leaders enough to think that they have a point when they tell me that those forms of media could be potentially harmful to my relationships in some ways (at least, that is how I read them).

    Would I like to be able to articulate a clear moral standard on this issue? Probably, but I have yet to see one made and so I am not really convinced that it can be done. So much personal preference goes into these choices that I am happy enough (although not that happy, as you can see) with outsourcing these decisions to my society and refusing to watch what they deem as ‘adult-only’ content.

  8. Kudos to you for thinking this through. I don’t think watching or not watching a film because of an arbitrary rating makes much sense as an “institutional standard”, but I think it’s perfectly legitimate to make a “personal standard” based on that. We should each look at ourselves and decide what best helps us on our journey through life. Your commitment might be movies. Someone else might be not eating meat. Someone else might be whatever. But more power to you for looking at this.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I care less about ratings. Instead, I go to http://www.imdb.com and look at the movie there. There is a section called “Parent’s Guide” where people can list “Sex/Nudity, Violence, Profanity, Drugs, etc.” People don’t make value judgments whether it’s good or bad, but just list what the movie has. An individual can then make a decision as to what’s right for themselves. For example, there are a bunch of PG-13 movies full of crap I don’t want to see, while King’s English was a wonderful film that received an ‘R’ rating for a word that I hear many days. IMDb gives enough granular data that I can determine that and decide what to see.

  9. What Cynthia said. The UK rating system seems much more reasonable. I watch rated R movies, often after seeing what’s in them to avoid gratuitous sex and excessive violence. There have been time when I’ve watched an R rated movie left me wanting my 2 hours back topped with a layer of guilt that it was rated R to boot–but then I remember there are far more movies that weren’t rated R that made me wish I had my 2 hours back.

    “However, this logic, if pursued, would just move the value judgment to another place: so instead of looking at ratings we should only be watching films or TV that has, or strives for, an element of social realism. ” Yes. This.

  10. Hi Aaron
    Thanks for this:) I too, like you, decided to abandon 18s- in a strange quirk I’ve not seen an 18 since I was 17. The high school students I used to teach were always shocked by this- but I find it easier to draw a line in the sand- maybe it’s a lazy way of making decisions but it helps me know some boundaries. Having said that, with the growing acceptance of certain content in films, it now seems like I avoid most 15s and even some 12s. The wide range of films available at the 12 rating- from Harry Potter to the Dark Knight- means that I still find myself drawing greater lines of demarcation for my children (though the first rule (which is subject to the scorn of their and my friends) is that they’re not allowed 12s until they’re 12. It does mean, however, that certain films and tv series I’m led to believe I have missed out on- but there are lots of other things to watch and do:)

    The rule I was taught was “Would I feel comfortable watching this with my Saviour”- I ameliorated that to “with my Nana” and now it’s “with my kids”!!!!! That certainly changes my perspective slightly and makes me a bit more careful about my personal responsibility for my morality.

  11. Aaron, my own media standard has no rhyme or reason. It usually depends what mood I’m in, which seems like a pretty poor way of determining what is ‘right’ or not. But if you are gonna ditch your standard, I’d try A Prophet. I usually avoid 18’s, but that is one of the best films I’ve seen in the last couple of years. Pretty violent though.

  12. James, that’s an interesting rule but I wonder if it leaves some styles of film completely out of the question unnecessarily. For example, most drama or suspense movies could be completely excluded (depending of course on the age of your children).

  13. gomez, that has been one of the films on my to-watch-if-I-ever-drop-this-dumb-rule lists.

  14. By buying The Wire but not Saw, you have already conceded the argument and you know it Reevesie. All else is denial.

  15. I love movies and TV and need a place to draw the line in order to keep addictive behaviors at bay. Not primarily for reasons of inappropriate content (an R-rated movie with sex or violence that is moral in its treatment of these topics really is better for the soul than an Austin Powers film), but more because if I opened that door I know I’d spend a lot more of my time watching movies than I want to. This is because I’m only interested in seeing really good films and the lion’s share of quality filmmaking is happening the “R” category, so excluding that group of movies dramatically cuts back on the time I spend watching movies. For this same reason I try to not venture outside PBS in my live TV watching. Not because there isn’t valuable stuff to watch elsewhere or that everything on PBS is quality TV, but because it helps keep my media consumption at a reasonable level. As more of my active LDS friends have left off avoiding R-rated films, keeping this line for myself has come to have a bit of a Lenten feel to it, as Tyler talks about. That wasn’t my original reason for deciding to keep this rule as an adult, but it’s taken on that feeling of meaningful personal sacrifice. (“I abstain from my beloved Daniel Day-Lewis for you, Lord.”) I don’t know if it means much of anything to God, but it means something to me.

  16. Last Lemming says:

    Several commenters have noted the British rating system seems superior to the American system. Is there a website Americans can go to see British ratings for films?

  17. I’m a film-by-film sort of person. Lots of sexual humor bothers me, but most profanity does not. Violence in context does not bother me, but gore does. I avoid a lot of PG-13 movies because of crude humor and immature treatment of sex, but I will watch R-rated movies with sex when it is in context of realistic experiences. My one exception was Bridesmaids. I would not normally see a film I figured would be mostly vulgar, but after being begged by a friend I relented and, though it is vulgar in parts, I laughed my head off and didn’t regret it a bit.

    My oldest child (almost 13) was a bit horrified when he first realized I watched R movies, but we have had frequent conversations about the standards I use to judge movies for myself and tell him that he is free to do this as he matures as well, developing his own sense of what he feels is appropriate and not based on his own sensitivities. We do this now with movies, TV, and video games. Though we choose most of what he watches, there are times he is with friends and will call to ask if he can watch a certain movie or play a video game with a questionable rating. In most cases we tell him to go ahead, but pay attention to how he is feeling and not be afraid to turn it off if he is uncomfortable. We’d rather he learn to listen to his own gut than be dependent on someone else to tell him what is good or bad.

  18. The King’s Speech is rated R in the US? That surprises me. There is no rating at all in Spain, and we watched several films while living there that we later discovered were rated 18 in the UK. Our family did not implode.

  19. Aaron you asked about personal media standards. I’m not a good film watcher but 40 years ago I decided I would never read “The Sun” or even agree to have my fish and chips wrapped in it. I’ve kept to that peculiar standard even though I admit to seeing things far worse in other printed media.

  20. I am the type that would liked to stick to no R rated films. The problem was I lived in England for a while so I unknowingly watched R rated movies having no way to know the US rating (I did watch Platoon but didn’t watch Full Metal Jacket but back in the states good Mormon teens didn’t watch either). So when I returned to the US as a teen and didn’t watch R rated movies (out of respect for my parents rules) it did seem a little arbitrary. I always, always support anyone who has the rule. I just didn’t make the rule for myself as a young adult because I only make rules I am 100% committed to and I knew too many wishy wishy live it for 5 months and then quit types.
    If I had married someone else, I would have happily gone no R. But I married my guy. I do not care for all the entertainment that is watched in my home. In the spirit of compromise and the strong belief that I shouldn’t ruin my marriage just so my kids don’t watch a few questionable things, my kids have watched things I would have not allowed had I a different husband. But, I have found a way to raise them without a rule and so far I have been content in choosing my battles to be over specific things. My influence is strong enough that my children sometimes now make their own decisions about when to leave or avert their eyes.
    So, coming from this side of things, it can be stressful. To sit down and watch TV and movies and not know how bad it will get. To make a few missteps and be exposed to filth. To wonder how something could possibly be entertaining to people you love.
    Most of the anxiety centers around raising children and never being quite sure when it is worth it to step in and say no. It is easy to forget what is in what show even when you’ve seen it before. But then there is so much that you haven’t seen yet so you don’t know. But since the ratings are arbitrary I pretty much never know the rating of anything I watch because it isn’t really going to affect whether I watch it. I can’t make it an issue for the kids because their father can let them watch anything at anytime on TV. So if you are going to get rid of the rule, you won’t be missing out on as many films, but you will have to spend far more time researching and checking if you don’t want to hate your choices. I never quite have enough time to do that so it means more trial and error than a well thought out plan.
    So, I can’t recommend life here on the road more travelled. I can do it and live the gospel and raise my children in the gospel. However, I would prefer the other way. And yet, I guess I can’t say I regret it either because it really was the only practical choice for me and the best available for my circumstances.

  21. I should add that my kids have never mentioned the “No R rated movies” rule to me. I’m not saying our ward has never taught it necessarily, but I doubt it is mentioned much. And since my kids don’t have Mormon teens to hang out with and since the youth contains a high percentage of partially active or convert teens, my kids are oblivious to much of Mormon culture. In fact, I was offering rebates for anyone who hired my daughter to babysit and appealing to their compassion because I was concerned that my daughter would never be invited to enter another Mormon home besides her family’s.

  22. Ratings be damned. A better way to chose might be, is the film in question a simple “entertainment” (Die Hard) or a work of art, i.e., an enlargement of our vision or what we thought possible on planet earth (Brokeback Mountain)?

  23. Glenn Thigpen says:

    I do not watch R and many PG rated films because of the language and gratuitous violence that are included. I have a six year old granddaughter in my home 24/7 and will not watch anything I feel she should not be watching. I have started watching several films without checking the rating and was going along fine with interesting story lines until a graphic sex scene, graphic violence, or graphic language (often the language), would crop up and I would hastily change channels.

    I cannot trust any of the makers of R rated movies and some of the PG rated movies. I do not even try to sort through the R rated ones any longer trying to find the few that may be worth watching. I will not lose anything by it. I actually find many PG rated movies to be less than stellar. But there are some, such as “Second Hand Lions” which I can watch with the granddaughter and my wife and enjoy them completely, with no caveats.

    I detest graphic violence. Even one of the Church videos depicting the scourging that Jesus suffered prior to His crucifixion turnedme off. I had an inactive family in my home to watch it with me and the children were visibly affected by that scene.

    Those are my standards, for myself. I do not ask anyone else to accept those standards nor do I question the standards that anyone else will advocate. They are their own and between them and the Lord.

    Glenn

  24. I could never fall in for drawing a line in the sand with ratings. They are just entirely too arbitrary and don’t tell me anything I want to know about a movie. To me, the “R ban” only leaves an outward print with which to be judged by others. This may seem like an overstatement to some, but there have been movies I have seen that have literally changed my life. I am a better and more complete person for having seen them. One of particular note is the movie version of Hedwig and The Angry Inch which of course is Rated R. Trainspotting is another. If I had missed out on these movies because of some arbitrary standard (the original Psycho was Rated R–puhleeeeeze) my life would be less rich for it.

    tl;dr I evaluate movies on a case-by-case basis.

  25. No one has mentioned the source of the “no R-rated movies” prohibition. If I’m not mistaken, it was originally mentioned in a priesthood session of Conference by Ezra Taft Benson, and the whole talk is directed to the YOUNG MEN of the church in 1986. So of course they shouldn’t be watching R-rated movies. Here is the relevant quote pulled from the talk:

    “We counsel you, young men, not to pollute your minds with such degrading matter, for the mind through which this filth passes is never the same afterwards. Don’t see R-rated movies or vulgar videos or participate in any entertainment that is immoral, suggestive, or pornographic. Don’t listen to music that is degrading.”

    Here’s the whole talk:

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1986/04/to-the-youth-of-the-noble-birthright?lang=eng&query=rated+movies+ezra+taft+benson

    I’m all for personal standards, but I believe this particular “standard” has been culturally adopted by many church members as an easy way to make media choices. I don’t believe it was intended as a prophetic prohibition to all saints and therefore should never be used as a measure of righteousness.

  26. Rodney Ross says:

    I have wrestled with this issue for many years. I seldom watch any movies in the theater because of lack of quality. The Marvel series my children and grandchildren watch and enjoy seems like so much drivel to me and is a repetition of the same plot over and over. I see very few PG-13 movies, but find, strangely, intelligence and humor behind the Pixars. “The King’s Speech” was the first R movie I had seen in years. Admittedly, I saw a version with the offensive language removed. Probably the most inspirational Hollywood film I’ve ever seen was “Glory,” an R-rated, undervalued Civil War drama. That being said, I feel Hollywood dumps a lot of garbage on society. Gratuitous sex and violence are unnecessary and dumbs down an audience over time. Hollywood is responsible for a fair portion of the deterioration of our society. Im sick of it and will only support a superior product at this point in my life.

  27. “A better way to chose might be, is the film in question a simple “entertainment” (Die Hard) or a work of art, i.e., an enlargement of our vision or what we thought possible on planet earth (Brokeback Mountain)”

    Hang on, are you suggesting Die Hard is NOT those things?

  28. We already have to make this kind of personal judgement calls on the books we read which (fortunately!) don’t have ratings. And while I haven’t seen an R-rated movie in 18 years (except for once when I accidentally watched “Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion” which was such a horrifically bad movie I really think shouldn’t count) I read “R-rated” books all the time. Like, All.The.Time. I don’t even know what to do with that hypocrisy.

  29. I like movies, but I also like substance. There are some R-Rated films that need not ever be released, or even conceived, for that matter (i.e. Movie 43). I think that we should look at context and content. I think too many times, we religious folk get too high and mighty over things that can actually broaden our perspective. I agree that children and teens should not be allowed to view R-Rated films until they’re of age, but as a adults, I think you can make an informed decision. I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss a film just because it’s R-Rated. It’s about personal preference and good judgment, but, I’m not going to NOT see and R-Rated film with substance (ie Zero Dark Thirty) just because it’s R-Rated. Now, if it’s just some outrageous, gratuitous foolishness, like The Watch, Movie 43, or some really bad “horror” (ugh, don’t even get me started on flippin’ Paranormal Activity, Saw, and other awful films about supernatural nonsense), I’m likely to pass. Now, there are some movies that I just don’t even watch or buy, like stuff about demons/possession, or evil spirits. Uh uh. Freaks. Me. OUT. But for the most part, on a personal level, I think I have pretty good taste in movies, and in the small (but growing) collection I have, I have exactly 3 that are R-Rated, and those are Atonement, Elizabeth, and The Hurt Locker, all three of which are award winning and just great films that I greatly enjoy because they are well conceptualized, beautifully shot, and bold in their portraits of pivotal moments in our human story. Overall, I don’t think Heavenly Father will condemn us for our, for the most part, healthy viewing habits, whether they be R-Rated or PG.

  30. *Correction: 4…the other one that I have is Pan’s Labyrinth which is AMAZING!

  31. Forgive me, Casey. What was I thinking?!?

  32. Sharee Hughes says:

    I just posted a comment and it didn’t post. So here goes again. I don’t see a lot of movies (the last one I saw was Les Miz on Christmas Day–don’t know if I saw any others last year or not), but I look more at what they are about than what they are rated. Haven’t seen Lincoln, but staunch LDS friends have recommended it. I have seen a number of excellent R-rated films: Last of the Mohicans, Schindler’s List, The King’s Speech. I dislike raunchy sex comedies. For that reason, I seldom watch sitcoms. My favorite TV channel is the Food Network.

  33. I avoid many R-rated movies, but I will watch ones I believe are uplifting and/or educational in an important way. I certainly believe the spirit can be felt, powerfully, while watching an R-rated movie, as many of them teach wonderful messages. I can watch Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan and be moved in a positive way – so I have no problem whatsoever watching some R-rated movies. Otoh, I also know my own natural man tendencies well enough to know what type of movies I need to avoid – and there are others that I believe strongly have no redeeming value whatsoever and are actively degrading. Of course, I believe that about some non-R-rated movies, as well, so we’re back to square one.

    Also, I would say the general advice from back in 1986 when President Benson gave his talk to the Young Men (who, generally, weren’t old enough to see those movies legally on their own) is less relevant now than it was then – since there are many PG-13 movies now that would have been rated R back then.

    Thus, I think all we have left, reasonably, is the spirit of the law – and, with such arbitrary rating standards, that means, in practical terms, I must choose according to the dictates of my own conscience, let me watch how, where or what I may.

  34. hawkgrrrl says:

    I can’t keep track of movie ratings any more. I watch most movies on flights, and while they aren’t edited, depending on the airline the ratings differ. In Singapore, The Kings Speech was rated PG, and Argo was PG-13, but Glee (TV show) is M16, and Modern Family is M18! In Australia, Silver Linings Playbook (which I thought was pretty uplifting) was rated M, the same as Jack the Giant Slayer. I quit watching a movie if I don’t think it’s worth watching, but language doesn’t make or break it for me. For me it’s about content and enjoyment.

  35. I suffocate watching movies of little value whatever the rating. A story well told so I am able to suspend my disbelief (movies, TV or books) then bring it on. Some of the great stories in literature have “R” rated themes. The old testament comes to mind among others Sunday evenings watching Nature on PBS brings to life the words “…red in tooth and claw”.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I like to keep in mind that the rating system is not the church’s rating system or even a community-based rating system but one designed by the movie industry to allow them to do what they want without accepting responsibility. It is, as Keith Merrill has said, meaningless. Pres. Hinckley said we should not see “inappropriate” movies, an appropriate piece of advice and wisdom which allows us to make informed decisions and be accountable for them.

  37. Thanks everyone for the comments.

    Anonymous, “the rating system is not the church’s rating system or even a community-based rating system but one designed by the movie industry to allow them to do what they want without accepting responsibility”. A couple of points: 1) I am aware that any non-church rating system is not produced by the church. 2) You overstate your case regarding the relationship between the rating system and the movie industry. There are quite regular disagreements between movie producers and the ratings agency over the appropriate rating (cf. The King’s Speech in both the UK and the US). 3) As I discuss above, using notions like ‘inappropriate’ is not very helpful because what is considered inappropriate is constrained by time and place. In other words, basing value judgments about films on notions such as ‘inappropriate’ are doing almost exactly the same thing as the ratings agencies, you might get different results but that is only because of your assumptions about what is appropriate.

  38. The original The Karate Kid was a (15) when released which is absolutely mental. It’s a classic film which demonstrates valuable principles.

    There is a great document on the BBFC website outlining their guidelines for film classification. I’ve found that us LDS seem to get caught up on only the Sex, Violence and Bad Language content when there are too many other things that could be morally damaging that go unnoticed. The BBFC takes this view as well. You will find phrases such as “‘U’ films should be set within a positive moral framework ”

    Ronan posted about the Les Miserables film a few months back. The moral value of this film is exceptional. According to http://www.kids-in-mind.com you’d get the idea this is one of the worst films available to mankind.

  39. Great post Aaron, and kudos to you for thinking this through. I’ve thought about this a fair amount as well, and I guess I tried to flip the argument on its head a bit.

    I feel like the argument shouldn’t really be about avoiding something viewed as “bad” within the movie, but should be about embracing the good. The question is whether or not this movie will enlighten, enliven, enrich, and stimulate (in a positive way). So as an example, I have a hard time believing that Saw is any of those things. Ergo, I’ve chosen not to watch that (even though I like horror movies). The Godfather, OTOH, is brilliant! A fantastic look into a world I could only ever dream of seeing, a message about family, the grips of money, the value of a life, revenge, corruption, etc. It would be a shame NOT to see The Godfather!

    I try to judge each movie on a case by case basis as to whether or not it will provide me with an enriching experience. And often, in a well done movie, the sex, violence, or language feels “right” to me, as if the story really is enhanced by those additions. In those cases I accept it as part of the messiness of real life.

  40. I was actually just about to write a blog about this! I’m from Canada and just moved to Utah for a few months. When my Mormon family comes to visit my family in Canada, we joke about how they can now watch the movies that they cannot watch in the US. In other words Canada has a much more lax rating system so many movies rated R in the US are pg13 in Canada. However, I did not know that the reverse rule would apply to me when I moved here. My family will not see any of the movies that I am interested in or even movies that I have seen and recommend. This experience to me has shown the arbitrary nature of this rule. For example, I found the French movie The Intouchables very uplifting but no one would watch this movie here because it has a few swear words and therefore has an “R” rating. While I understand the principle of avoiding gratuitous violence or sex, I also think it is foolish to not watch a movie based on an arbitrary set of rules imposed by your specific country.

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