Wednesday, July 19, 2006

MPAA Rating and Parental Complacency

How does the MPAA come up with the ratings? They obviously are not familiar with the workings of the mind of my kid.

Take the movie, Camp, which is rated PG-13. Mark showed the movie to Iris when she was 3 because she was so fond of singing and dancing. He thought she would enjoy a movie about kids putting on a show.

Back in those days, she thought girls wore dresses and boys wore pants. When she asked me why one of the boys in the movie wore dresses, I explained that some boys like to wear dresses. They are called drag queens.

Shortly after her 4th birthday, we took her to see The Hoboken Chicken Emergency at the Theatre for Young Audiences in Orange County. At the intermission, we looked through the cast bios and we noted that the mutant chicken, Henrietta, was played by a man. In the second act, the slightly older child to Iris’ right pointed to Henrietta and referred to the chicken as she. Iris turned around and explained, “Actually, that’s a man in a girl costume. He’s a drag queen.” The people within earshot just bust out laughing.

All in all, Camp was fairly innocuous despite the PG-13 rating. YMMV.

Then we showed her Chicken Run which is rated PG so it should have been milder. You would think. But it is a chicken egg farm and eggs lead to chicks. The eggs were being collected to be eaten by people. As if that wasn’t traumatic enough, chickens that didn’t produce enough eggs were also being killed and stewed.

That led to discussions about whether, if left alone, the chicken eggs would hatch into little chicks. I told her, if the eggs were fertile, they could hatch. She said, “Oh, they are like fish. The girl fish lay the eggs and the boy fish swim over and fertilize the eggs.” I asked her how she learned that. She said that she saw it on the Discovery channel with her daddy.

Then she asked how come there was only one rooster and so many hens. I pointed out that another rooster joined the farm. She asked how one or two roosters can fertilize the eggs of so many hens. I did not want to discuss polygamy with my 4 year old. Then she wondered how the roosters can fertilize eggs with hard eggshells after they have been laid.

I tried to distract her by telling her about the insects that pollinated the flowers and vegetables in our garden. She kept going back to the chickens. I couldn’t believe that I was having a discussion about the birds and the bees with my 4 year old. It just wasn’t fair. I was supposed to have a few more years to warm up to this subject. I was going to play it cool and not slip into clichés about the birds and the bees. But there I was, talking about chickens and bees and flowers.

The moral of this story is that movies with milder MPAA ratings are not necessarily safer movies to show my kid. I might also add Discovery channel is not innocuous either.

While driving with a 3 year old Iris in 2004, she told me that, “Boys marry girls and girls marry boys, right?” I said that is usually right, but mommy is from San Francisco. In San Francisco, boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls. She went and related this to her entire preschool class. I got funny looks from the other parents for weeks.

To a 3 year old, marriage is about weddings and pouffy dresses. This conversation did not lead to a discussion about the birds and the bees.



  1. The MPAA's rating system has been a hoax for a long time .. the biggest crime is PG-13, which has just become a contest among directors to see how much filth they can cram in without getting an R rating .. It's easily where R was 20 years ago

  2. I totally agree with your opinion. Lets face it kid logic is hilarious yet so honest and sometimes insightful. I applaud your openness with your child. My biggest concern with media and children is the socialization of sexual roles by the media. Parents are often a bit to squeamish about the topic. I think kids can watch some inappropriate content on tv as long as they and their parents talk about it. Studies show that unmediated viewing of television by adolescents increases the rates of teen sex. I feel like if we were all a bit more open about the truth and instilled our beliefs about the subject with our childern they may exhibit more age appropriate behavior. Just a thought.


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