The morality of R rated films is no doubt a hot button issue. Along with caffeine, it’s probably one of the most common points of contention. Is this because it is a favorite sin that we’re indulging ourselves in, and thus overly defensive over? Possibly so. Let me play devil’s advocate (perhaps too literally) and give some of the poorer arguments that I’ve heard in R rated films defense.
- Only one prophet specifically said it.
- It was said long ago and is no longer as relevant.
- He was only addressing youth.
- It’s not rated R in Australia (yes I’ve heard this.)
As I said, I don’t consider these particularly good reasons. The fact that only one prophet has said it doesn’t hold too much weight for me. This doesn’t tell me that it’s no longer true, only that it’s not terribly important. President Hinkley has more important things to talk about at any given conference. I’m not going to bother going through the value of the other points and move ahead with the Chris doctrine.
The fact is that if I were a perfect person I wouldn’t watch R rated movies. I don’t really think there are any movies that are SO good that Christ himself would watch them. Perhaps there are some that he’d use as a teaching tool for others, including many that wouldn’t be “church movies.” The point being that I wouldn’t lose anything by never seeing a movie again, and would probably be better off for it. Movies are primarily for entertainment. You can, and I do, learn a great deal from them, but this same information and experience could be gained in different ways. So if I was avoiding all possibility of evil I could avoid movies altogether. However, this is not where I’m at spiritually. I am currently saying, thinking and doing many things wrong in my life. I’m striving to become better, and slowly succeeding at doing so. The fact that I do see some R rated movies is exceedingly low on my list of things to change about myself.
I’m not going to let the MPAA decide what movies are appropriate for me and what aren’t. Why should this group control my moral decisions? The ratings are in fact guidelines, and guidelines that I do pay attention to. I support the idea of ratings, but they are obviously terribly subjective. I investigate every movie that I see (I don’t usually bother with PG, but any PG-13 or R) beforehand to see if there will be objectionable content. I make my own decision from there. I think this is what the Church wants us to do. Make informed decisions about what will be uplifting and what will be detrimental to us, regardless of what others say.
For instance, I was moderately uplifted by V is for Vendetta. It wasn’t the best movie ever, but I definitely learned something from it. There was a bit of blood, a bit of swearing and a bit of nudity. Honestly I don’t care about swearing. I went through the public school system; no movie can compare to what I’ve heard all my life. Violence doesn’t bother me too much, unless it becomes excessive, and this particular movie wasn’t. Again, excessive is extremely subjective and is something you have to determine on your own. The main thing I look at when I’m investigating a movie is the sexual content. V had none. The nudity was nonsexual, not at all provocative and completely appropriate. That said, I wouldn’t recommend this movie for young children. This is where the ratings are helpful, because I think what’s appropriate for me and what’s appropriate for an 8 year old are completely different. It’s not that anything is fine for me, but I am able to understand and appreciate mature themes that others can’t. There’s a reason we have age restrictions on drugs, driving, voting etc. It’s not that everyone above the age limit should use these privileges (if drugs can be called such) but that those above the age limit are better able to make choices concerning these issues.
I’m tired of discussing this now (this is actually because of fatigue and a hectic schedule, not irritation at the subject.) I suppose my summary would be that the Church leaders make a point of not dictating everything to us. This is one of the topics they leave us to judge for ourselves. All comments about R rated movies that I’ve read discuss what CAN be found in R rated movies and how we need to avoid bringing any extra temptation into our lives. It’s not that R movies are bad, it’s that they can be. We need to learn to distinguish what’s inappropriate and shun that, but not shun everything. O be wise, what can I say more?
Song of the moment: “Staralfur” by Sigur Ros.
Here’s Orson Scott Card’s take on the matter. He has no more authority than I, but is certainly a better writer: