Age Restrictions on Movies Spark Student Opinions

It is Friday night and the opening of a new movie everyone has been dying to see. The theater is crowded and there is a long wait in the snaking line.

The smell of popcorn in the air and the buzz of movie goers is all around; people are full of excitement for the big screen.

Yet when you get to the front and ask for a ticket, the cashier says, “I’m sorry. You’re not old enough to see this film.”

Everybody knows the drill.

If you are not 17, you cannot get into the movie, unless a parent accompanies you.

There is much debate about 17 being the consenting age for a teenager to see a R-rated movie.

At 16 you can drive and have a job. Teenagers are expected to take care of themselves to some extent.

Sixteen year olds are even legally allowed to make health choices without parental consent.

At 16 they are trusted to make the right decisions about themselves, yet they are not given the opportunity to decide whether they can see a movie or not.

Dimond High School Junior Piper Sato said, “It doesn’t make sense that at 16 I am allowed to drive a car, an act that potentially puts other people’s lives in my hands, but I have to wait another year to see a R rated movie, something that only affects me.”

She makes a great point.

It does not seem logical for the age to be 17 when at 16 you can drive yourself to the movies.

However, Junior Dolan Drury seems to think differently.

He said, “It would actually make more sense if it was 18. Fifteen is too young. You’re not mature enough. At 16 maybe you’re mature enough because you can drive, but you still may not get parent consent. Seventeen is mature and shows some progress towards independence. I think it’s good to have stages of independence like that.”

He continued saying, “I wouldn’t want my kids at 16 going to an R-rated movie.”

Junior Myah Precie said, “I get both viewpoints, but if you think about it, at 17 these people have had a year of driving, debit cards and more experience with what could potentially be an adult life. They are looking at colleges, taking the SAT and looking at their futures. I’m not saying that at 16 you can’t be trusted, but you don’t have as much experience with independence.”

Both of those points are valid and do point out the difference in maturity between being 16 and 17.

The controversy is due to the modern movie ratings and restrictions, which were originally created in the 1980s and 1990s with G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 or more commonly known as X, according to the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA).

There are no age restrictions for movies rated G, PG or PG-13, and for R movies you must be 17 or accompanied by an adult who is 21 or older.

NC-17 movies do not permit anyone under the age of 17 into the theater regardless of parental supervision.

The MPAA says, “Movie ratings provide parents with advance information about the content of movies to help them determine what’s appropriate for their children.”

“Ratings are assigned by a board of parents who consider factors such as violence, sex, language and drug use and then assign a rating they believe the majority of American parents would give a movie.”

Now movie ratings are very helpful and do make sure that young children are not exposed to content that is too mature for them.

However, why is it that at 17 you are suddenly mature enough to see the content of an R-rated film?

If teenagers at 16 are allowed to drive and make numerous other decisions about their bodies, minds and lives, why is it that they can not make this decision?

Kenzie Lindemann, a junior at Dimond, said “For kids that have more lenient parents it becomes a hassle because we could see it at home and our parents would allow us to go see it, but it’s the theater’s policy that is preventing us from seeing such movies.”

Junior Denali Bunker said, “I can drive at 16, but I can’t see a movie that my parents would let me watch at home? That’s a stupid law.”

However, the regulations are not laws. theaters do not have to follow them.

Jacob Gershman wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The rating system is a voluntary guide for parents, and courts have said theaters aren’t obligated to enforce it.”

The fact of the matter is that most theaters are a part of the National Association of theater Owners (NATO), which encourages theaters to follow the MPAA guidelines to maintain the “credibility and consistency of the system,” as put by NATO representative Patrick Corcoran.

The United States Government does have a “compelling interest” policy that prevents the “dissemination of obscenity, child pornography, or material harmful to minors,” as stated by the United States Supreme Court Syllabus in the Supreme Court vs. the American Library Association case.

This is where is gets a little fuzzy, because 17 is still considered a minor.

Yet, theaters can allow “high school age patrons” into films, said Gershman.

The laws and regulations are not black and white in this situation, but what is obvious is that major theaters are adhering to the MPAA ratings even if they do not seem logical.

Bunker said, “I just don’t get why 16 and 17 are such a huge difference.”

It seems as if teenagers do not understand the reasoning behind the restriction, and they are vying for it to be changed to 16.

Sato said, “By 16, you’re old enough to make decisions and live the consequences if it doesn’t work out.”

Bunker said, “I think 16 makes logical sense as a good age to see a R-rated movie without parental consent.”

The debate is still open with each side making a good case for justifying the age restriction and for lowering it.

Either way, most movie theaters will continue to follow in suit with the MPAA policies and the ideals of NATO.