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Summer vacation can make you do strange things. With little to do all day, you stare at the wall, stick your head in the freezer, and, if you’re like me, get the unrelenting urge to go see an R-rated movie.
Once upon a time, this might have been easy. But Al Gore and his MPAA buddies appear to believe that their executive and business powers can defeat this urge. They apparently think that keeping kids out of American Pie is the best way to prevent us from massacring our classmates. By making theaters card all youths who approach the doors wanting to see an unsavory movie, they think they are saving us from ourselves.
They’d have better luck stopping lemmings from throwing themselves off cliffs. As a 14-year-old with a taste for the forbidden, I’ve found these restrictions to be nothing more than a nuisance, at worst.
I and others of my youthful ilk have repeatedly defied the moralists’ regime this summer, often by theater-hopping in multiplexes. With tickets for a PG-13 movie in our hands, my friends and I have slipped past the vacant, pasty-faced stares of ushers into R-rated movies at the Cineplex Odeon at 4000 Wisconsin Ave., for example. We were nothing more than the swift movement behind their backs. There we sat among the adults, keeping money flowing into the media-driven economy.
A second trick of the trade, which is more legit than theater-hopping, is employing a parent. Some trusty mothers or fathers will, in some cases, take you and your friends up to the door and say simply, “I am the parent of these five [kids, all aged between 12 and 14], and I would like to give them my permission to go see [the R-rated movie].”
The gentleperson at the box office will say, “Why, certainly!” You and your pals have foiled the moralists again.
This policy has been encouraged at the United Artists Bethesda, which features the brilliant idea—upon “parental” permission, of course—of stamping your hand when you pick up your ticket, in order to show the ushers that you can’t be harassed about your age. The management at the Bethesda realizes that few teens want to be within a mile of their parents when Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise do their thing. At least someone wants to take our money.
But beating the morality police isn’t always so easy.
The defense of so-called morals has become the mission of some theaters’ managers. Such people take a much stronger attitude toward underage patrons than their more laid-back counterparts. Not even the virtually foolproof parent bit will sway them. Many theaters have management like this—especially the one-screen joints that don’t treat you like a nameless, faceless consumer but as a “guest.” Even the beloved Uptown, home to The Phantom Menace and Vertigo, has fallen upon moral health.
The mother of one of my friends was trying to get us into the big old theater’s showing of The Matrix. The management didn’t buy it. After a few moments, the mother realized that we could simply pay for the ticket of a bystander in exchange for his getting us in. This is method No. 3 of getting into a R-rated movie. This method is very rare—I have used it only this once—and should be viewed as a last resort.
After my friend’s mother had left and everything seemed to be going as planned, the ticket-taker piped up to the bystander as he was giving her our tickets. “I saw what you did out there, and I know that I can’t do anything about it,” she told him, “but if these kids do anything, you’re all going to be in trouble.”
The man shrugged her remarks off, realizing that in such a mass of moviegoers, she could never find him. He was just happy to get into the movie free. This 20-something guy should be commended for his act of bravery—a quality that many lack.
In mid-July, many of my friends wanted to see American Pie. A raunchy romp through the seedier side of suburban Michigan’s schools, the film is a classic in its own right. But the MPAA has rated it R. Of course, one little letter couldn’t stop our drive to go see it. By going behind our parents’ backs and using a 20-year-old camp counselor who said he was taking us to a tamer film, we saw it three times at two different theaters.
Of course, fooling some bean counter in a Loews uniform is one thing. Fooling your parents is another. Lots of problems arise with schemes to go behind their backs and see movies that they don’t care for you to see. The worst of these problems is the loose-lipped talk of friends who know too much.
One balmy August evening, my friend and I sat down with my parents at the dinner table. After dinner had been served, the conversation started. On chance, the conversation focused on American Pie.
“How many times have you seen this movie, Wilson?” my father asked.
“Two times.” A lie. They only knew about the two times.
“I thought that you said that you saw it three times,” my friend said.
My parents’ eyes fixed on me.
“Who’d you see it with?” my mother demanded.
“Uh,” I tried for an explanation, “I didn’t see it.”
Of course, I could only come up with denial. My friend was having a hard time containing himself, hiding his cackles behind his T-shirt. He piped up again.
“But you told me that you saw it when you were in camp.” My parents knew that camp was at least a week before they finally gave me the OK to see that particular flick.
Finally, I gave up and told my mother and father about it. They turned from me and tried to extract more confidential information from my friend. He refused their inquiry only after a sharp kick in the shin stifled him.
There is a certain honor among youths who sneak into R-rated movies. We’re beating the system in our own small way. Where would the first breath of the American Revolution have been if that same kind of trust hadn’t been there?
For the next three years, until I am able to see an R-rated film without any hassle, I am going to keep voting with my feet against this moral crusade. I’m going to slip into any film, regardless of rating, that strikes my fancy. And there is nothing that theaters, my parents, or the vice president himself can do to stop me. CP
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