Here is the text of a letter-to-the-editor that appeared in today’s edition of our local newspaper, The Herald Journal, from one Lori Watts, resident of North Logan, Utah:
Regarding “The Facebook Movie.” Parents beware! This show is very underated. It is very much an R-rated movie. It is not proper viewing for tweeners (or anyone else) to watch it. I am horrified at the thought of my teenagers going to this movie thinking it is something else and then being bombarded with nearly X-rated scenes. How this got a PG-13 is beyond belief.
Sigh. Welcome to Utah.
I’m not sure even where to begin with this woman’s ridiculously cuckoo statements, but I will start with where I agree with the writer: The Social Network isn’t a movie for young teens, and not because it should have been rated R or is “nearly x-rated.” Neither of those statements are remotely true. The Social Network easily fits into the guidelines the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) and CARA (Classification and Ratings Administration) has established for PG-13 ratings, and The Social Network most certainly doesn’t have any sexual penetrations, oral sex or happy endings that would qualify it for an X rating, which, by the way, doesn’t even exist anymore. It’s obvious to me Lori Watts hasn’t seen any R rated movies and has never seen a porno. The Social Network is Sesame Street compared to both.
If Lori Watts had done her homework before seeing “The Facebook Movie,” she would have realized it wasn’t going to be Farmville and Mafia Wars and cute little smiley faces. No, the movie was rated PG-13, which, according to the MPAA and CARA, means that “Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.” That, alone, should make Watts and anyone else check out the film online, say at Kids-in-Mind.com, before heading to the theater. A closer look at the actual movie ratings rules for rating a movie PG-13 reveals even more:
A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning by the Rating Board to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suited for them. A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category.
The theme of the motion picture by itself will not result in a rating greater than PG-13, although depictions of activities related to a mature theme may result in a restricted rating for the motion picture. Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity in a PG-13 rated motion picture generally will not be sexually oriented. There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence. A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context.
I’m sure there is a disconnect with the public about movie ratings across the country, but in Utah, headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the naivete and misunderstandings are even more paramount because of an oft-mentioned, oft-misquoted, Ezra Taft Benson (the 13th president of the church) statement on entertainment and keeping the mind clean, taken from the May 1986 Ensign magazine (page 43):
Consider carefully the words of the prophet Alma to his errant son, Corianton, ‘Forsake your sins, and go no more after the lusts of your eyes.’ (Alma 39:9.)
The lusts of your eyes. In our day, what does that expression mean?
Movies, television programs, and video recordings that are both suggestive and lewd.
Magazines and books that are obscene and pornographic.
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.
This quote, while true, leads to an interesting conundrum/statement that anyone living in Utah has heard in the last 24 years: I don’t see R rated movies.
How serious am I? Seeing an R rated movie is tantamount to voting for a Democrat or drinking caffeine, maybe even worse. Consider this: When I was a junior in high school, and not a Mormon, I took a date to see Death Warrant, an R rated Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, and she fell asleep on my shoulder. I thought it was a tender moment that was a declaration of her love for me, but I came to find out she was faking because she didn’t want to pollute her eyes with the martial arts violence and swearing taking place on the screen. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I know of people who won’t watch Saving Private Ryan because its rated R, but will see anything and everything PG-13. My own wife almost backed out of our engagement because I confessed to her I had been watching some R rated goodies on late night cable.
Fortunately, the church, in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, has been more clear:
While much entertainment is good, some of it can lead you away from righteous living. Offensive material is often found in web sites, concerts, movies, music, videocassettes, DVDs, books, magazines, pictures, and other media. Satan uses such entertainment to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal and exciting. It can mislead you into thinking that everyone is doing things that are wrong.
Do not attend, view, or participate in entertainment that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in entertainment that in any way presents immorality or violent behavior as acceptable.
I love that no rating is placed on the entertainment in this statement. Not because it gives folks a hall pass to see anything I want, regardless of how decadent it might be, but because it puts the onus back onto the person and not the MPAA or CARA. It says to me if someone is going to take the moral high ground and vow to avoid entertainment that contradicts the church’s teachings, they better make sure it covers all entertainment and not just one letter.