My First PG-13 Movie
The 1990s was an era of crossroads that challenged society with increasingly mature content taking over the mainstream. Raising a child in this time must have presented various obstacles, and many parents had no choice but to shelter their children from these negative influences. BGCA, CCD, D.A.R.E, PBS, YMCA; there were all sorts of acronyms aimed at educating children on how to lead "proper" lives and assist guardians in keeping a watchful eye on their precious angels.
The censorship or restriction of certain types of media (TV, movies, books, comics, video games, music) which society labeled as inappropriate or mature content became an especially popular strategy. Ratings had already started to be readily applied to everything years before, but now they were enforced. For parents, already busy with their own lives, this definitely helped in finding suitable content for their children. Nevertheless, there was nothing more disappointing than buying a CD at Walmart and realizing it was censored.
With the ever growing access to media assisted by cable TV and the rise of the internet, it become much easier for young people to experience whatever they wanted, no matter how hard adults tried to restrict it.
My mother never supported my exposure to this kind of mature media while I was young. She was not overbearing in anyway, and certainly did not go to the extreme as many other parents did, however she did not approve of much of the lyrics in the music I listened to or the violence in some of the TV shows that I enjoyed watching, such as Dragon Ball Z or much of the other anime that started to invade the US around the late 90s. In her defence, she was just trying to be a good mother.
Unfortunately for her, my father was not of the same mindset and I saw all sorts of crazy movies I probably wasn't supposed to see when I visited him on the weekends. Therefore, when I turned thirteen, seeing a PG-13 rated movie wasn't such a big deal, but it did mean that I could go see one at the theatre without parental supervision. In the eyes of society, I had finally become mature enough to handle this content.
Without a paddle - 2004
I don't remember the exact details of why this movie was chosen. More than anything, I think I was just excited to go out with a couple of my neighborhood friends. Hopping on our bicycles, we rode down the main street towards the County Theatre, stopping only to shove our pockets full of snacks at a local convenience store. I was using my birthday money for this movie ticket and I didn't want to waste any more of it on overpriced popcorn or movie snacks.
Considering this was my final time there, I regret not trying their popcorn, though. You can really taste the soul of a theatre through the care they put into it. On the other hand, judging by the scrappy interior or the less than state of the art speakers or screens, it may have been a let down. Regardless, the 80s atmosphere and stadium style seating were appealing, especially to us young teens. If it had survived until today, it probably would have made a comeback as a retro theatre with fans of 80s pop culture and cinema.
Although I have watched it several times since, I can clearly remember the first time seeing “Without A Paddle”. It is a silly comedy about a group of friends who go camping in the northwest coast to honor a friend who has recently passed away, but encounter far more than they thought they would. This experience changes their lives and they come out as better people. Totally unrealistic and at points just laughable, but that’s the whole point of a comedy. It was fun.
My friends and I, despite our youth, laughed at the sexual innuendos and drug references we merely pretended to understand. We didn’t need an adult to guide us along or explain things. Perhaps that’s something kids today are missing. A small dose of parental neglect might do some good at times.
There is more to the story than just this small right of passage.
One of the kids who lived down the street has always been a comedian even when we met in fifth grade. He was never the type to intentionally distrupt class or cause trouble, though. Instead, he was crafty and smart, and when he made the class laugh, the teacher was in on the joke as well. He liked games, especially Nintendo, horror movies, and superheroes. There was always some reference to Spiderman in his online RuneScape and AIM screen names.
I am not sure if this makes any sense, but it just seemed natural that a guy like this would be the one to sneak in a box of Everlasting Gobstoppers.
Before the movie began, we arrived early, ascended the stairs to the back of the stadium style seating, and sat in the very last row. We were well behaved, with the exception of the snacks we snuck in, and we watched the movie quietly. At one point, things were getting pretty intense. A dip in the action before the actual climax. My friend shifted his footed.
That's when the box of Gobstoppers fell over, sending a steady stream of rainbow colored candy balls down every row of seats. It sounded like a sudden downpour had begun. Somehow, we managed to keep straight faces, as several people in lower rows felt their legs being pelted by Gobstoppers. Needless to say, we bolted out of there when the movie ended.
I guess even though we could handle the mature content of the film, we were still kids at heart. Sixteen years later, I wonder about this system of ratings and if they really are effective. My father's leniency may have allowed my mind to mature faster. Or perhaps it did irreversible damage. Who knows. The argument about what content children should or should not experience is rather arbitrary and highly subjective, but I think we can all agree that bringing Gobstoppers to a movie is probably not a good idea.