Saturday, May 14, 2011

What an R18 is Like for Someone Too Young to Watch Them

NZ isn't like America. The censorship system here is a load of crap. We have our G's and PG's, which absolutely anyone can hire or buy. Then we have our M's, which anyone could watch, but some shops which are far too strict with their DVDs say that people under 16 can't buy them, simply because the label says "Suitable for mature audiences 16 and over." But I could go and see any M rated movie at the cinemas without any trouble. Then we have an R rating, which means that people under 16 can only watch the movie if they have parental guidance. The same goes for RP13 and RP16 movies, but they are extremely rare. And of course, we have our restricted movies. First is an R13, which of course means that you have to be 13 or above to watch it legally. Following that are the R15 (very rare), R16 and the very worst, R18 movies. About 50% of the movies I watch are R16's, and I'm still a little shy of actually being 16. And to be honest, no one gives a crap about censorship anymore.

I usually refrain from watching R18 movies, since none of them are really that great unless they're directed by Quentin Tarantino or David Fincher, but the ones I have watched have mostly deserved such a strict rating. Yet, I haven't gone and shot anyone because I was so affected by the film. After watching a certain R18 film the other night, I decided I'd list some of the worst offenders of the great rating that I've seen. No, Antichrist or The Human Centipede are not of the list.

Offender One

Now, I admit, I wasn't disturbed by American Psycho's violence and killing and whatnot. Instead, I was disturbed by Christian Bale. We all know that Christian Bale is pretty much very different in every role he rakes, whether he be scarily skinny or huge and buff. But in this movie, he's just...scary. He really has fun with being this guy obsessed with status and power, and having the perfect business card with a watermark. But from the moment I saw him pulling off his facemask I was disturbed by this character. Seeing him run naked down a hallway with blood all over him after a hooker with a chainsaw only made it worse. And I do admit I let out a rather large gasp when he said he ate some of his victims brains. American Psycho is gloriously violent, even though it isn't the non-stop killing spree I'd thought it would be. So, while I wasn't so disturbed by the fact that he had heads in his fridge and likes to dance to 'Hip to be Square' before he axes a colleague, I was just disturbed by Patrick Bateman. He was an odd fellow, that's for sure.
The effect it's supposed to have on young kiddies like me: I'd probably want to go and kill people just because I want to. I might want to get a tanning bed. I could feel drawn to eating people. Om nom nom.
Actual effect on me: Since seeing the film, I really wanna get a morning routine. And "I have to return my video-tapes" is the best escape line ever.
The R18 verdict: 90% R18. I probably wouldn't rate it any less, as it is pretty graphic and the extended sex scene really doesn't do it any justice.

Offender Two

Ever since I first saw Requiem for a Dream I believe I haven't been the same. The movie literally damaged me. Now that's not because the movie is graphically violent or it has loads of sex or whatever in it. I think it's just an R18 because it is emotionally disturbing. Like, I don't ever want to turn out like any of these people. I don't want to get my arm chopped off (I must say I watched that scene through my fingers). I don't want to get addicted to diet pills because I have false hope. I don't want to turn to prostitution just because I want to pay to live in a fucked up life. I just can't stand to think that some people live like this. That's why, on the two occasions that I've experienced this movie, I cried so much it was like the world was ending. And I don't think it's so much a content issue as to why this movie is so heavily rated, it just must be because the rating people know that it isn't the most pleasant movie to watch. It was rated NC-17 because of that sex scene that happens in the middle of the film, but I don't think that adds much to the rating.
The effect it's supposed to have on young kiddies like me: I will suddenly be drawn to drugs. I'll want to lose weight via diet pills. I will do awful things just to get what I want.
Actual effect it had on me: I felt like my happy life ended after seeing this movie.
The R18 verdict: 50%. As far as content goes, it's actually not that bad. But then again, I wouldn't allow anyone under the age of 18 to watch it for their own sanity.

Offender Three

Any film depicting rape is at once worthy of the R18 sticker. Ironically, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was originally rated R16 when it was released in cinemas. However, when it was released on DVD and a lot more people started seeing it, it started receiving a lot of complaints for it's brutality, and about a month or two after the DVD was released, the rating was changed, and instead of just containing "sexual violence" it got changed to "brutal sexual violence". I'm actually glad the movie got moved up to such a rating, because that rape scene, in itself, is so graphic that it shouldn't really be seen by the young. But I could take it...twice. Apart from the rape scene, there are a few graphic murder-themed tales and scenes, as it's a very dark film. Other than that, there isn't much to complain about. I still wouldn't recommend that anyone my age watch it, though, because I know that people three times my age can't handle it.
The effect it is supposed to have on young kiddies like me: 'Men who Hate Women': the original title pretty much sums it up.
Actual effect on me: Even though it looks like a lot of shit goes down there, I still really really really wanna go to Sweden.
The R18 verdict: 75%. There are a few really shocking scenes scattered throughout the film, and it is a very hard film to watch.

Offender Four

Again, any movie with a rape scene is worthy of a high rating. The Poker House, a little seen gem starring Jennifer Lawrence before Winter's Bone shot her to fame, has a rather graphic, horrible rape scene in it, which gives it the R18 sticker fair and square. Like, after I saw that one scene, I just about wanted to shoot myself. It was freaking depressing to see someone who looks as fragile as Jennifer Lawrence being tormented by a big hulking guy. Other than that, the movie only has a bit of swearing, some violence, underage smoking/drug use and it's a little bit emotionally scarring. I'd totally recommend the movie though, especially coz I think I'm the only who has seen it.
The effect it is supposed to have on young kiddies like me: I guess I should probably want to smoke more.
Actual effect on me: I learnt to stay away from my Mum's pimp. Except she doesn't have a pimp, so that lesson is pretty much useless.
The R18 verdict: 30%. The rape scene is the only thing that gets this movie the R18 rating.

Offender Five

The last R18 film I have chosen is Kick-Ass, one of my favourite movies, and one that I could watch over and over again. This rating is rubbish. I believe, if a film is to be an R18, it should have swearing, sex, lots of violence and it should be emotionally scarring. Okay, so Kick-Ass uses the word 'fuck' probably 200 times. That's R16 level, to me. There ain't much sex in this movie, as such, but there are a lot of suggestions about that matter. I think it's the violence that gets the film such a high rating, because the only reason I can think of as to why this movie would possibly be damaging is when Nicolas Cage is burning alive going "TAAAAAAAAKE COVERRRRR CHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILD! NOW SWITCH. TO KRYPTONIIIIIIIIIITEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Yes, that was emotionally scarring. However, the violence is gloriously giddy and it's really happy just throwing around blood. What really hangs me up though is that people get really pissed when they hear someone young like Chloe Moretz using the foul language she does, because that's not okay. But yet she can kill around five people in one scene with her own bare hands and no one bats an eyelash. Because swearing is worse than killing people.
The effect it is supposed to have on young kiddies like me: I shall want to wear a funny costume and going around killing bad people. I might want to swear all the time. I should probably get the wrong idea about superheroism.
Actual effect on me: Like Nicolas CAGE I have learnt TO put emphasis on THE wrong WORDS. I also MUST now name every CAT I see Mr. BITEY.
The R18 verdict: 10%. The violence is definitely at an R18 level, but I'm pretty sure everyone my age can handle it. Same goes for the swearing. Swearing is nothing to me anymore, as I'm pretty sure there aren't as many different swear words as their used to be.

Other notable R18 films I have seen which actually haven't really affected me:
Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, Machete, Reservoir Dogs, Se7en, Unthinkable, The Killer Inside Me, Perfect Blue, Harry Brown, Brooklyn's Finest, Women in Trouble, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, The Wackness.Plus, I'm a huge fan of True Blood, which is probably the biggest offender of all when it comes to the R18 sticker.

So, the point is, the R18 rating is merely a warning. People know that it isn't going to be all fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows because it's rated the highest possible censorship rating. And half the time, the content doesn't even match the rating. Bottom line is, when I finally turn 16, I'll be over the moon because I can finally go to R16 movies. When I turn 18, I'll be excited for...other stuff.


  1. I loved reading it, fantastic post. At first, I wanted to comment on many things, but now I realize that it would be pointless. I loved the way you covered this issue. Well done, Stevee!

  2. Yeah this is a great post. What an absurdly complex rating system you guys have.

  3. “What if a kid goes to school after seeing Kill Bill and starts slicing up other kids? You know, I’ll take that chance! Violent films don’t turn children into violent people. They may turn them into violent filmmakers but that’s another matter altogether.” -Tarantino says it all.

    Great post. I think India the ratings are U- Universal and A-Adult. I was rather surprised to find that Scream 4 had an A rating...big whoop. It's like if I was a year younger, my years would've burned everytime they said the F-word.

  4. I'm 19, so I may not be that into adulthood to have great perspective, but when I think of a sixteen year old who's not allowed to watch an R18 film... it just doesn't make much sense. Does it affect young people that much? To the point of actually making them do something? Because to disturb you emotionally you don't have to be 16 - movies like Requiem affect you no matter how old you are. And if anything, Requiem makes you stay away from drugs.
    Though sometimes it makes sense, of course - I watched The Ring when I was 10, damn right it traumatized me, still today I can't stand the sight of that girl.

    Anyway, I'm rambling. Great post and if Kick-Ass is R18, Deathly Hallows should be R16. And yet, at least in Portugal, it's still R12.

  5. If you think American Psycho is a messed-up movie, then you need to read the book. Apparently here in the U.S., you have to be 18 to buy a copy of the book.

  6. Cool post.

    Here in France there are few ratings, I've lived here for years and still don't completely grasp them... I think the highest rating I saw in my local cinema, was a 12+ for Shutter Island. Whereas Bad Lieutenant (the Herzog one) was pretty much open to everyone.
    Furthermore, when I was watchign Solomon Kane there, I noticed some like 6 year olds or something, with their parents. They left when it got to the crucifixion scene I think...
    SO I think ratings can be a good thing, but only if they specifiy exactly what the content is, like on IMDb. Otherwise it's too vague.

  7. Lesya - Aw thanks!

    Bonjour Triesste - It's absolutely ridiculous. Especially when you compare it to other ratings.

    Nikhat - What Tarantino says goes. I don't think films affect people at all. Sure, the content may take away their innocence but you get to an age, maybe 12 or 13, and you're okay with any type of film. After all, it's just a film.
    You have such a simple rating system! Scream 4 was an R16 here, surprise surprise, but the content doesn't actually look deserving of that rating. Maybe an R13.

    Maria Sofia - It really doesn't make sense. What's another two years? And you're right, Requiem is disturbing at any age, and it's basically doing the world a big favour by turning the young away from drugs.
    I must say, when I was 11/12, R16's used to traumatize me a lot more. Like The Ring, and I also got really scared by Carrie. Any other horror movies now? I don't get scared at all.
    R12? Now that sounds like a good rating. And I'm sure they are especially kind to the Harry Potter movies and just give it an M rating because they're so popular. And yet, it's probably worse than some of the other R16s.

    Anna - I read about the book...I don't even want to go there. And it's sold shrink-wrapped with an R18 sticker on it here. I didn't even know that R18 books existed!

    Jack - Shutter Island was an R16, and Bad Lieutenant was an R18. That's a little strange.
    Solomon Kane is an R16 here. I can't imagine having 6 year olds watching something like that. Once you get into the double digits, it's okay.
    Ratings are a good thing, to a point, but now they are treated as a warning once they get onto DVD. But they are very vague in comparison to what the content actually is.

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  9. Hey Stevee, great post!

    I think the inherent problem with rating systems is that they assume all people of the same level of emotional maturity. I was watching R18 movies from about twelve years old (behind my parent's back :P) and they never really affected me in a negative I don't think. But then again, there are probably some twelve year olds, or even some sixteen year olds (or hell, even some eighteen year olds) for whom watching SE7EN or REQUIEM FOR A DREAM would be absolutely traumatizing.

    Still, especially with the internet giving teenager’s access to all the R rated movies they want, it seems like movie classifications are largely ineffectual anyway...they never stopped ME from seeing an R rated movie, so I don't really worry about them.

    PS - THE POKER HOUSE sounds quite interesting; I'll definitely have to check it out

  10. Hey Stevee, great post!

    I think the inherent problem with rating systems is that they assume all people of the same level of emotional maturity. I was watching R18 movies from about twelve years old (behind my parent's back :P) and they never really affected me in a negative I don't think. But then again, there are probably some twelve year olds, or even some sixteen year olds (or hell, even some eighteen year olds) for whom watching SE7EN or REQUIEM FOR A DREAM would be absolutely traumatizing.

    Still, especially with the internet giving teenager’s access to all the R rated movies they want, it seems like movie classifications are largely ineffectual anyway...they never stopped ME from seeing an R rated movie, so I don't really worry about them.

    PS - POKER HOUSE sounds interesting, I'll definitely be checking it out

  11. I, unlike you, am going down the idiotic route with American Psycho. I'm going to read the book (which I already did), watch the movie and hopefully won't become scarred for life.

  12. Awesomesauce! So glad to see a list that includes Kick-Ass and Requiem for a Dream, no matter what it's about. Lately, I've been spending more time wondering about the other end of the spectrum and the subtle differences between PG and G - and the lobbying and ignorance that goes into deciding what's okay for all kids to see on their own, and how the heck having a parent along for the ride changes anything other than relieving the studios of liability for presenting little children with messages and images beyond their years.

    BTW: I call all cats Mr. Bitey now too.

  13. The American Psycho book isn't all that bad...then again I love books about sociopaths so it doesn't seem so bad.

  14. Andy - Thanks! I think that R18 is such a high rating, and they decide to just throw it around at any film even though it's really R16 material. That's strange about that movie only been given an M, considering that they are so strict. I must say that I'm surprised that Schindler's List passes as an M rated.
    I think I'll give the American Psycho book a miss. I might get really scared :/

    Tom - Thanks! That is exactly the problem. I've been watching R16s and R18s since I was 12 (behind my Dad's back, he's so uptight about ratings since he owns a video store. Mum doesn't care at all) and I've turned out alright. It does come down to emotional maturity.
    The only way a rating stops me from going to see a movie is the fact that I can't go see it at the cinemas. But when they come out on DVD, I simply don't give a shit.
    Watch The Poker House! I thought it was brilliant!

    Anna - Well, if you've already read the book, and survived, then you should be okay watching the movie.

    Steve - Kick-Ass and Requiem for a Dream are two films which I love dearly.
    The G and PG ratings annoying me too. There are barely any G rated movies anymore. I don't see the difference, either. Like, say someone says the word "shit" in a PG film...what's an adult going to do about it? And plus, anyone can go to a G or PG movie by themselves, so what's the point? There's really no difference.
    You do? Mr. Bitey is such a fantastic name!

    Nikhat - I have trouble reading books...I prefer my chick-lit novels (yet I hate chick flicks) since they are easy to read. Or I read books that I've seen the movie of. I might get a little scared by American Psycho.

  15. I just re-read my comment from above and it made no sense haha. I too, am often appalled by some of the films that receive an R Rating, but there are many that deserve it. Antichrist for one. I was never allowed to see MA rated films when I was under 15, but as soon as I was, I was also allowed to watch R-Rated ones on DVD haha. I had to ask my parents to buy/hire, but they did it for me. I think it works the other way too. I could never understand why The Doors was rated M, with 'some course language'. With such strict censorship laws, I don't know how it got away with that. I have read American Psycho and I think it deserves that R-Rated sticker. It is a brilliant book, but filthy...

  16. Antichrist was obviously given the R18 sticker here, and we actually had to enforce more labelling to show that this movie was actually the real deal R18, and that it wasn't going to be a nice happy movie. I've been allowed to watch whatever I like for quite some time, but my sister has to get out all of my R16 and R18 movies for obvious reasons. Other than that, they are often far too strict.

  17. Ahaha yea American Psycho is definitely graphic if you watch the DVD extended version and I didn't feel those scenes really brought anything extra to the movie.

  18. Someone had to do this post sometime!

    Seriously man, ratings aggravate me so badly. Usually, films that are stamped with an 18 don't deserve it, and you get some weird, fucked up 15 rated films, (Splice anyone?)

    It annoys me that if films have ratings, why don't books? People assume that what we see visually is more affective than what we can come up with in our head, and that is soooo wrong.

    The amount of fucked up books I have read, I couldn't even count. They've probably disturbed me more than any 18 film I have seen in my lifetime.

    Awesome post!

  19. Castor - I watched the extended version...I think. Such a strange movie...

    Cherokee - That's why I did it!
    Splice was an R16 here, which is strange...becuase I would say that movie would pass as an R18 knowing how tough they are.
    I guess books just don't have ratings because films have become more accessible. I'm not sure. It's a good idea though.

  20. Movie ratings will always have controversy and no system can ever be perfect. However, I'm grateful for their existence because they can provide some guidelines for people that need a more informed decision as to what they want to watch and what they will allow their children to watch.

    Realistically speaking, nobody expects a single movie to turn someone into a psychopath overnight. But exposure to material that a person is not ready to see can be traumatizing. The United States rating system worked great for someone like me because as I grew older, my viewing habits gradually turned to movies with higher amounts of objectionable material. As I said though, a system can never be perfect and there have been exceptions to the rule. But for the most part, staying within the film rating guidelines in accordance to my age have helped ensure that I would be mature enough to handle the movies' content.

    Businesses are not parents, so they cannot always accurately gauge what is acceptable viewing for every individual. So they create the best possible middle ground policies to help protect themselves from lawsuits or other confrontations that can jeopardize the company.

  21. Ratings are great's just a bit useless when 95% of the population has trouble adhering to it. The US ratings seem so much better than ours...NZ's ratings are weirdly complex and ultra annoying. But I guess they're doing a good thing, in the end of it all.

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