This was originally posted on my Medium profile on February 17th, 2016.
I suppose it was inevitable. People have taken their kids to see Deadpool…and then complained it wasn’t appropriate for kids.
Look. I am the first person to say that the MPAA ratings are bullshit and usually far too puritanical. I believe parents know better than a bunch of film-rating execs what’s appropriate for their kids. What’s more, the MPAA ratings are hopelessly vague. An “R” rating doesn’t tell me if a movie is going to have an animal dying, which will have me more upset than a kid pranked with a fake trip to Disneyland. It doesn’t tell me if there’s going to be a rape or attempted rape scene, which will trigger the fuck out of me. I’ve learned that the best way for me to enjoy movies or TV shows is — if I think there’s a possibility there’s a chance for these things that will really upset me and basically ruin my entire fucking week — ask someone who’s already seen it, or have my husband pre-view it for me so he can warn me, and be on hand for cuddles afterwards if I do, indeed, decide to go through with viewing it.
I grew up watching things that were well “beyond my age”. When I was 10, mom took me to see the Kama Sutra movie in theatres — “Just act like you’re 18!” — because she knew that I could handle a positive portrayal of adult sexuality. And, in fact, probably needed to see a positive portrayal of adult sexuality, seeing as by the age of 10 I had already been assaulted. She was right. The Kama Sutra movie did not scar me (though the “sequel” which was “American tourists rekindle their marriage by exploiting Indian traditions” kind of did).
But that was one of very few positive experiences I had watching things beyond my age when I was very young. I was a really sensitive kid, you see. I’m still sensitive now, but I’ve had to grow an unnaturally thick skin just so I can survive daily life (which is full of people saying I’m too sensitive, a sissy, a coward, a pussy, etc). I was easily scared (still am, and horror is one of my fave film genres) and very empathetic towards suffering seen on screen — especially for animals.
When I was a little kid, my dad showed me Alien and Aliens. I still adore these films, but the truth is they scared the shit out of me when I first saw them. (I mean, duh, they’re scary films.) I was probably way too young to see them whenever I did the first time. I don’t remember how old I was; I just know that the Aliens franchise was part of growing up for me.
Terminator and the rest of the franchise was another part of growing up for me — another R-rated film that came out before I was born, that I saw probably way too young the first time. I remember watching it when we lived in Belcarra, and I know we moved out of that place by the time I was 6 or 7.
These weren’t the only R-rated movies that scared the pants off me when I was a kid that I’d seen mainly because my father wanted me to like the same things he liked. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, wanting your kids to like the things you like, but you need to tailor sharing your interests with your kids to what’s age- or personality-appropriate for them. Not only was I way too young, but I was also way too sensitive for most of these things. Which, yes, my father hated — one of his favourite phrases was “We’ve got to toughen you up.” Or “Stop being such a wimp.” If I’d been assigned male at birth, I think he might have tried to beat it out of me. I mean, more than he already did.
In 1994, my father took me to see The Puppet Masters. I don’t remember much of the film except that it scared the shit out of me and I left the theatre partway through, and he got mad at me.
In 1995, July, both First Knight and Species hit the theatres. Guess which one I wanted to see? Yes, the PG-13 Arthurian romance. My father told my mom he was taking me and my half-sister to it — which she complained about to no end in the car, because we were doing what her wimpy younger half-sister wanted to do and it wasn’t FAIR — and then at the theatre bought tickets to Species instead.
I left the theatre halfway through, crying. My father and sister teased me mercilessly about what a wimp I was.
I was 8. My sister was 17.
The next R movie that fucked me up I can’t blame on my father. Well, not really. I begged my mom to take me to Starship Troopers — despite terrible experiences with sci-fi films beyond my age forced upon me by my dad, I was still a sci-fi buff. I’d still been raised on Star Wars and Star Trek; mom and I sang aloud to the theme song for TNG, and if you think you can’t do that to a lyricless theme song you are wrong. I adored sci-fi, and still do — to the point where if something comes out and looks terrible but is sci-fi, I’ll probably watch it. Because even if it looks terrible, it’s sci-fi. And honestly, we don’t get enough of it.
Anyway, after a lot of begging to go see it, mom relented and took me to the movie. It looked a little violent, but you can’t blame her for thinking I’d have no trouble handling it — after all, it was 1997, the marriage was ending, and I’d already survived 11 years of violence from my father, both in the form of R-rated movies and his everyday treatment of me and my mother. Besides, I was 11 at that point. A bit older than a 5 year old watching Aliens or an 8 year old watching The Puppet Masters or Species. I’d grown up a lot in the past 3 years.
Though, not enough to be able to handle violence against animals. Call me a bleeding heart liberal if you must, but I started screaming and crying when they showed the propaganda film that had kids gleefully stomping on cockroaches. I ran out of the theatre, wailing.
(I still haven’t seen that movie in full.)
The thing is, it wasn’t only R-rated films that fucked me up. For 6 months after watching Jurassic Park — a PG-13 movie that came out in June, 1993, when I was 6-going-on-7 — I couldn’t go to the bathroom alone. I was convinced there were velociraptors in the toilet and they were going to eat my butt.
(My parents were lawyers, ok? I though the dinosaurs hated them especially and were going to eat me too because I was the kid of lawyers. I WAS 6.)
Other PG-13 movies that came out in the 90s and scared the poop out of me and/or fucked me right up include Tremors, Fire in the Sky, and Dances with Wolves (which I didn’t actually see until I was 12 and they showed it in class and I had to spend the rest of the school year being made fun of for crying when the wolf died). And there were probably more, I just can’t hold that many memories of being traumatized in my head. Something’s gotta be forgotten.
I was definitely the type of kid who could not handle a lot of more adult films. My parents knew this about me. One of them just didn’t care; the other made mistakes, which is fine. It’s sometimes hard to gauge whether or not something will fuck up your already fucked up kid. I was a hard kid to raise.
My husband, on the other hand, was completely opposite to me. Granted, he’s 5 years my senior, but a lot of films that would have had me crying or screaming or pooping in fright/upsetness didn’t bug him. He has skin as thick as a tortoise shell, whereas I’m basically Cassandra from Doctor Who. (“Moisturize me!”) Choices his parents made about what movies he could see would have been completely different from choices my mom made, because we’re different people.
So, here’s the thing, parents, and the ultimate point of my long-ass rant about my father’s shitty parenting and my childhood: you know your kids best. You know what they can handle. You know better than the MPAA.
BUT — and this is a big but, it’s why I capitalized it — Deadpool is rated R for a reason. It is probably not appropriate for most kids 12 and under, and parents are supposed to learn about the film before taking their kids to see it. Age 13 to 16 is more of a crapshoot because teens mature rapidly sometimes, and slowly other times, and in different areas.
And the thing is, this shouldn’t even have to be stated, or emphasized. But there seem to be a lot of parents out there who are…confused? I guess? That Deadpool isn’t appropriate for kids. This is probably because we haven’t had a lot of R-rated blockbusters for several years. Hollywood has been creating more family-friendly films in recent years; R-films are hard to come by. Add this to confusion about Deadpool being Marvel but not part of the MCU because of rights differentiation, and most of MCU being mostly kid-friendly, and you get a bunch of parents who don’t seem to know what that R rating actually means.
Parents, if you want to take your kids to an R-rated film, that is your choice. However, choices have consequences. If you take your kids to Deadpool but then complain that it wasn’t appropriate for children, the consequence will be that people call you a fucking idiot, because you are. R-RATED FILMS ARE NOT FOR KIDS. And if you level your complaints at Fox and get the sequel canned, basically shitting in the pool for the rest of us ADULTS who want to see ADULT ACTION FILMS featuring PANSEXUAL SUPERHEROES played by RYAN FUCKING REYNOLDS, you are going to have a LOT of people rightfully furious with you.
Not everything is for you. The choices you make regarding raising your kids are your choices, which means you need to live with the consequences. Just like you need to live with the consequences of having a kid — which might mean, I don’t know, giving up on seeing certain movies in theatres if you can’t get a sitter. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Or at the very fucking least, pre-viewing the movie, or just reading the PARENTS’ GUIDE CONTENT ADVISORY ON IMDB.
Just because Hollywood has been catering to your entitled asses for a few years doesn’t mean that every movie needs to be family-friendly.
Deadpool isn’t for kids. Make your own choices, but don’t try to blame the results on anyone but yourself.
(Note: I haven’t seen Deadpool yet, though I don’t need to to know that it’s not appropriate for kids. Husband and I were going to go on Valentine’s Day but decided we hated people more than we loved Deadpool and Reynolds and didn’t want to deal with the crowds. Next weekend probably.)
Edit, March 2017: I have seen Deadpool now. It is definitely not appropriate for kids under the age of 14. Period.
It’s also a fantastic movie and we adore it so much we bought the special steel-case edition and have watched it multiple times at this point.