Opinion: Hollywood Needs to Clean Up Its Language

Filed under: Opinions

The movie may be rated R, but what's the title rated? Illustration: Christopher Healy

I remember a time, not so long ago, when a parent could take a child to the movies and only have to worry about any profanity or objectionable material in the film they were actually going to see.

Lately, though, a family visit to the multiplex may require a lot of eye-shielding, as you parade your kids past increasingly disturbing imagery on horror movie posters (I would have liked to pixelate most of the posters from the Saw series, for example). And as of this weekend, with the releases of the action comedy Kick-Ass, it's beginning to feel as if we might need a ratings system for the marquees outside the theaters.

Inglorious Basterds
was bad enough (was the misspelling supposed to may it okay?), but at least its polysyllabic nature gave budding readers some pause before they started sounding it out. Kick-Ass, on the other hand, is Profanity 101. Even my preschooler stands a shot at working that one out phonetically. Making matters worse is the fact that the Kick-Ass characters are superheroes -- you've got colorful costumes with masks and capes right there on the poster, begging little kids to look their way.

Of course, kids don't even have to be literate to hear the name of the movie spoken aloud during its TV ads. But I'm not naïve enough to think that a Kick-Ass trailer is the only place on television for kids to hear the old A-word. Or the B-word. Or the other B-word. Or the D-word (and I'm not talking about "damn").

It never bothered me in the slightest to hear mild swear words on Saturday Night Live or used by late-night comics like Jon Stewart, but this salty verbiage has been creeping earlier and earlier into prime time. Sure, there are some shows that just aren't intended for kids, like the NBC drama Trauma, which recently used a formerly forbidden term for male anatomy. But there are others that will have kids in their audiences -- and still don't watch their language. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution revolves around children, but its star is a little too free with the cursing (even if his accent makes it sound endearing). And young viewers are definitely attracted to reality shows, but I don't believe you can watch an episode of any without hearing one contestant refer to another with, shall we say, colorful language. I think there's a direct correlation between the loosening of those television standards and the fact that we now have the word "ass" emblazoned across the front of movie theaters in giant red letters.

I don't consider myself a prude by any stretch. I'm just a parent hoping to keep his kids innocent (i.e., hold off the inevitable) for as long as possible. My simple request to the film industry: Can we please keep the R-rated stuff in the R-rated movies?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.