Kicking the Tweets

The Just Us League

Internet Piracy: You're Whining, They're Winning

People who comment in Internet "Comments" sections drive me crazy. Rotten Tomatoes is the worst. Look up the "Rotten" reviews on any given film and you'll see dozens of snarky, uninformed mouth-breathers taking cheap shots at any critic they disagree with. It'd be one thing if they'd set out to open a spirited exchange of ideas, but more often than not, these misspelled, emoticon-and-abbreviation-infested mini-missives are the equivalent of yelling, "You suck!" in a lecture hall.

These cretins' bogus sense of authority and entitlement is truly unsettling, and it reminds me of the well-worn adage: "The best thing about The Internet is that it gives everyone a voice. The worst thing about the Internet is that it gives everybody a voice."

I'm sorry, but calling out Christy Lemire, Peter Travers, or even Armond White as being hacks, idiots, or worse is just silly--especially coming from people whose inability to articulate disagreements without resorting to the tired, "did we watch the same movie?" only reinforces the assumptions one might develop based on a commenter's photo avatar (the fuzzy web-cam portrait of a scrawny, basement-dwelling college drop-out, the vacant smile of a fat soccer mom whose opinion of most foreign films could likely be summed up by "Hunh?", etc.).

While these critics, and a hundred others, might not agree with you, they've often done the heavy lifting of watching movies and writing substantively about them. Many are career professionals with, if not degrees, then decades of experience. So when one of them suggests that, just maybe, Captain America is a big, dumb waste of time, a proper response might be to write your own essay and link to it--rather than offer up, "This guy prolly dosnt like action anyways hed rather watch some artsy shit. Cap rules!"

What does all of this have to do with Wolverine and Internet Piracy? That's a great question. In truth, this post is only tangentially about commenters. I'm really here to discuss the recently announced sentencing of Gilberto Sanchez, a New York man who received a year in federal prison for uploading the workprint of 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I hadn't intended to write about it, but the comments on IMDb's version of the story drove me absolutely crazy.

The long and short of the issue is that  the Justice Department has made an example of Sanchez. They want to send a loud, clear message to anyone who's thinking about uploading or downloading illegal content that, yes, the worst could happen to them. To me, it's an open-and-shut case. Since at least the 1980s, with the advent of VHS tapes, the feds have placed impossible-to-miss anti-piracy warnings on movies, CDs, and most other forms of purchasable media. They're the annoying, can't-miss-'em, badge-looking things that you frequently try to fast-forward or next-chapter through--the "bullshit legalese" that no one's ever read, 'cause it's 'stupid".

Well, it's not stupid. It's the law. And one's opinion of the law has no bearing on its validity as an enforceable policy--meaning there's no reason to complain if one gets caught breaking it. In Sanchez's case, there's really no getting around the fact that he knew that what he was doing was wrong. At 49 years of age, unless he beamed to the Big Apple from the rain forest, he must have known about copyright laws, or at least that pirating material is illegal. Additionally, given his history of drug convictions, Sanchez should have been even more savvy to the fact that people really do get busted for breaking the law.

Worse yet, after uploading Wolverine to the Web, he boasted about his achievement and was totally shocked to find the FBI on his doorstep two weeks later.

On the IMDb message board--as well as other sites, I imagine--commenters rail against the injustice of Sanchez's imprisonment. Many of the so-called arguments boil down to the following:


  • A year in federal prison is too harsh a sentence for a "crime" that didn't hurt anyone.
  • The feds spent a lot of time and money prosecuting a movie pirate instead of Wall Street crooks, drug dealers, and pedophiles.
  • "No one" can prove that Fox lost money due to the piracy; besides, Wolverine was a terrible movie, so who cares?
  • Even if an amount of lost revenue could be calculated, Fox and star Hugh Jackman are rich enough that they won't miss the money.
  • Going out to the movies is too expensive, especially for families.


Aside from the first point, I agree with all of the above. But none of these things has anything to do with Sanchez's conviction. The law states that people who are caught pirating movies are subject to large fines and/or prison time. Sanchez wasn't even caught; he pretty much scrawled his confession on a virtual sandwich board and stood outside FBI headquarters to see what would happen. Oh, he also has kids.

Fuck this guy.

Sorry for the language,* but Sanchez and his defenders need to understand just what kind of a world we live in. If there's a common belief that the government is in league with corporations to protect moneyed interests and squash easy targets, why on Earth would anyone tempt fate by becoming an easy target?

If you think a year in prison is too harsh a term for piracy, either run for office and work on changing the sentence, or support someone who will. Become a scholar or an advocate. Don't just complain about consequences that should surprise absolutely no one.

I think this all goes back to the commenter mentality; there's a perceived notion of both anonymity and invincibility when it comes to all matters digital. People write things on blogs and in feedback sections that they most likely would never say to someone's face, and they believe that Big Brother isn't interested in their modest corner of cyberspace, where downloading songs and music for free is the ultimate middle finger to iTunes or whatever corporate devils foolishly believe that artists and artists' agencies should be paid for their wares.

But I feel like I'm tiptoeing into a different argument here. Let me just step back and reiterate that I don't care about issues tangential to Sanchez's sentencing. I'm only interested in the misdirected anger towards a system that people think is corrupt for all the wrong reasons. Movie studios and record labels may be monolithic, spirit-crushing, greedy entities that are afforded unfair protections by a back-scratching federal government. But they at least give everyone the courtesy of a plain-English warning: "If you steal from us, we will take your money and put you away."

And if you think things are unfair now, just wait until SOPA becomes law. We may be entering an era where even posting a picture from the Internet in good faith (such as the one accompanying this piece) becomes a sticky legal issue.

To all the prospective Gilberto Sanchezes of the world, I offer nothing but the best of luck in your endeavors. I sincerely hope you're skilled enough and smart enough to get away with whatever it is you're doing. But when you hear that over-loud knock at your door, I hope your first thought isn't, "Woe is me", or "Damn the Man", but instead, "I'm happy to go up the river knowing that I gave the world a fuzzy, partially complete version of Wrath of the Titans!"

*Not sorry enough to delete it.


Classy Warfare

Chicago's Patio Theater Reminds Us that Silence is Golden

While watching Cowboys & Aliens the other morning, I was reminded of just how much the moviegoing experience has changed in the last twenty years--and how the experience has changed moviegoers. It used to be that arriving a half-hour before showtime meant plenty of quiet, dimly lit time to either read a book or catch up quietly with friends.

Somewhere in the mid-90s, as I recall, theatres everywhere started showing movie trivia and advertisements as slide shows before movies; weird, but still unobtrusive. The turn of the century saw the advent of the Fake Radio Station, which played just loudly enough over the slide show to make whispering not quite adequate enough to talk to the person next to you (as much as I appreciated being made aware of Smash Mouth's contribution to the latest spring high school comedy, I certainly didn't need DJ Danny Douche screaming at me to buy the soundtrack album now).

Today, we have full-blown commercials, movie trailers and behind-the-scenes featurettes playing on-screen at least thirty minutes before most major motion pictures. The cranked sound ensures that even if I don't want a Coke, I'll be unable to shake the sound of bottles popping open for at least half a day; and if I want to say something to a friend sitting two inches away, I practically have to make a public announcement.

I can't be sure, but I think this is a big part of the "Theatre as Living Room" problem that has led to increased customer dissatisfaction in recent years. The default Loud Mode of the average patron was born out of necessity but has mutated into a lack of consideration and, possibly, a lack of self-awareness (or at least awareness of one's surroundings).

Before the Cowboys & Aliens were scheduled to begin, a giant, red screen full of bubbles and dancing AMC logos played along with generic techno music. I'd tuned it out, as I've trained myself to do, by reading a great book of essays by the actor Wallace Shawn ("Inconceivable" Guy from The Princess Bride). The audience applauded two minutes later, when the music stopped; understandable, I guess, because if you're going to be trapped in a seat without the ability to enjoy a good conversation, whatever's playing on the big screen had better be entertaining; in other words, not just a screen saver advertising the theatre you've already paid to sit in.

A funny thing happened next: There must have been a technical problem in the projection booth, because the theatre was quiet for at least five more minutes; no images on the screen, no music or advertisements pumping though the speakers. It was quiet enough to think, read, or have a nice chat.

Instead of doing any of those things, the people around me--not teenagers, mind you, but middle-aged adults--began to complain. Loudly:


"Is anybody up there?"

"Start the movie!"

The best one came from the guy two seats to my right, who said, "Does anybody have the number for the theatre?"

As I sat there, unable to concentrate on my book, I considered how quickly it took a group of strangers, sitting in silence, to grow simultaneously restless and incapable of doing anything to improve their situation. Not to sidestep too far into armchair politics, but it made me wonder what would really happen if America faced economic collapse; my guess: the Midwest would look like The Walking Dead in about six days.

Finally, the previews started.

Instead of applause, I heard variations on, "Jesus, it's about time!"

Fast-forward to last night.

I went to Chicago's newly restored Patio Theater for a screening of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris with my friend, Bill. After being closed for a decade, the 84-year-old theatre re-opened in June, offering second-run movies, bargain concessions, and five-buck admission, seven days a week. Of course, the real attraction is the theatre itself, which has been resurrected by the Kouvalis family, who owns and operates the Patio. The high ceilings with twinkling-star lights and projected, animated clouds; the gold, sculpted walls and ornate light fixtures; and simple, recessed movie screen at the front of the auditorium (complete with stage and organ) recall both the Music Box and Pickwick theatres, but in their splendor manage to out-do them both.

Bill and I arrived a half-our before showtime. We had the place to ourselves for twenty minutes of that, and spent it walking the aisles, inspecting the yet-to-be-completed balcony, and talking about how going to the movies has changed so much over time. The pre-screening Patio is a church, a gorgeous, 1500-seat house of worship whose every ornamentation guides the eyes and the mind to the front of the house. Even as other people filed in and we took our seats, we couldn't hear a single cell phone or annoying conversation; we didn't stumble over any half-full buckets of popcorn. There was just us, the theatre, and jazz from other Woody Allen films playing softly over the sound system.

In short, it was the perfect setting for watching a movie--especially Midnight in Paris, a lyrical, big-screen experience that romanticizes the 1920s. I don't know what it will be like for people going to see Captain America and Transformers: Dark of the Moon in the next couple of weeks (for one thing, there'll likely be more than a few surprised gasps during the Intermission--or should that be "Intermissions", for these two-plus-hours movies?). I imagine watching big, dumb summer blockbusters at The Patio is akin to attending an iPad demo at the Vatican. But I understand that the Kouvalises need to recoup their investment, and that means drawing in as many people as possible. I'll definitely return to this amazing theatre, but likely during Oscar season.

I'm grateful that The Patio and the few remaining theatres of its kind still exist. They're boastful reminders of a time when people respected the weekly trip to the movies; when venues didn't look like big-box stores, and people understood that they were part of an audience rather than a member of the cast. If you live in or are planning to visit Chicago, I can't recommend The Patio enough. It will sour you on multiplexes inside of a minute and may just re-awaken the joy of seeing a movie on the big screen for the first time.

The Patio is located at 6008 W. Irving Park Rd, Chicago Illinois 60634
Photo by William Zbaren

Crash Into Me

Kicking the Seat Salutes a Fine, Fine Human Being

"He's an idiot. He's dead. Gooood. You mean there's one less doorknob in the world?"

Bill Hicks, Dangerous

About fifteen years ago, my dad and I were watching TV and making dinner. A special report interrupted the broadcast to announce a horrible plane crash in which everyone on board was killed. Almost immediately, my father started cracking jokes.

Horrified, I asked him how he could laugh so easily and so quickly at that kind of tragedy. His answer changed my perspective on death.

He simply asked, "Did I know anybody on that plane?"

Answering himself, he said, "No. So it's okay to laugh. Fuck 'em."

You see, the old adage that tragedy plus time equals comedy is true. There's something inherently funny about the human condition and the innumerable, interesting ways in which we die. And I don't think there's anything wrong with telling a joke about someone who's just passed away, if you're honestly compelled to tell one. For some people, it's as natural and as legitimate a way of dealing with bad news as breaking down in tears.

Which brings us to Ryan Dunn. Two days ago, the star of the Jackass movies killed himself and a friend in a car wreck. According to reports released this afternoon, including results of a toxicology exam, Dunn sped off a Pennsylvania highway at upwards of a 130 miles per hour, slamming his Porsche into a tree. The impact ignited a fire, and investigators couldn't determine which of the two actually killed the intoxicated driver and his intoxicated passenger.

There was that little left of them.

Many have referred to this as a tragedy, the first element of our golden humor formula. But this is not a tragedy.

Let me repeat that: Ryan Dunn's death is not a tragedy.

It's a logical outcome for a guy who lived the way Dunn lived. His record reads like a cautionary tale, littered as it is with multiple guilty pleas to charges of reckless driving, DUI and speeding. April Margera, mother of Jackass co-star Bam Margera, says she warned Dunn repeatedly for years to slow the hell down.

Throw in a day job whose only prerequisite is the ability to perform outrageous, dangerous stunts in front of cameras, and you have a story that could only have ended one of two ways--with Dunn wrapping his brains around either adulthood or a tree.

Why am I writing about this? Honestly, I have no idea. Probably because I'm really annoyed with the mouth-breathers I've had to endure on radio, television, and the blogosphere today.

As you may know, Roger Ebert tweeted about Dunn's death almost immediately after the story broke. It was a brilliant use of 140 characters, but because most of Dunn's fans apparently dropped out of school before the English Lit section on "irony", the Internet went bonkers and called for the venerable film critic's head.

Ebert followed up, explaining himself and offering great sympathy for Dunn's family. I offer no sympathy for his friends or loved ones, only condemnation. Seriously, where the fuck were all of you for the decade-plus that Dunn was tearing up the road? Were you planning interventions, or laughing off his antics in the back seat?

Yeah, I know, we're ultimately only responsible for our own behavior and no one else's, but I find it hard to believe that anyone close to Dunn is surprised by what happened this week. I'll allow sadness, sure, but shock? Disbelief? Let's not kid ourselves.

According to one of Margera's salvos in the Twitter war against Ebert, "millions of people are crying right now." If you are one of these millions, I invite you to contact this site and share what it is about The Other Fat Guy on Jackass dying that messed up your day. I promise to listen carefully, and to not transcribe my giggles for all to see.

But before you begin your screed about how heartless I am, let me pose this question:

What would you have thought of Ryan Dunn had his Porsche flown into a school bus full of kids?

And what if he'd been the only survivor?

My guess is you'd see him as a reckless, criminal scumbag--I've just cut out the hypothetical middleman.

It's significant that Twitter and Tumblr have removed the photo Dunn posted two hours before the crash, the one in which he and his co-corpse, newlywed Iraq War vet Zachary Hartwell, are seen drinking with an unidentified third reveler. I think Dunn's fans should write in to these bastions of social media and demand that the last, living image of their bloated, red-faced, scruffy idol be scooped out of the Memory Hole and restored.

Okay, now I'm just being cute. What's the point of all this? Like I said before, I don't really know. The lesson here, kids, is that it's okay to not feel anything at all for someone who was very clearly a selfish asshole. He may have been the life of the party and a loving presence to those he left behind.

But I hope to God that if I die in a spectacularly boneheaded and humiliating fashion that my loved ones will have the good sense to call me out in public and defile my memory; because I will have deserved it.

In the end, Ryan Dunn was a danger to himself and everyone else on the road--off the road, too.

Hell, if you're feeling mournful, weep for the tree.


Kiss Me Deadly

A Throwing the Remote Special Comment

My wife and I are huge fans of Modern Family, but we didn’t get into it until about midway through last year’s debut season.  ABC ran promos before a good number of the films we saw in theatres, all of which made the show look like another generic family comedy that focused on three couples and their wacky, intertwined lives.  The only thing that stood out was the fact that one of the couples was comprised of two men—I rolled my eyes the first time I saw them on-screen; immediately pegging one of them as the straight-laced guy and the other as the flamboyant queen.

One evening, Darlena and I were having dinner with our friends, Brad and Hannah, when one of them asked if we watched Modern Family.  We both shook our heads, and I recall having given a derisive sneer (it happens).

“Is it any good?” I asked.

“Oh, my God!” said Hannah.  “It is sooo good!”

“Really?” I asked, shocked.

Five minutes later, the four of us were watching one of the several episodes they had on their DVR.

Five minutes after that, I was positively giggly.

Fifteen minutes after that, I was just about fighting back tears.

Modern Family is so perceptive and honest in its writing and in the performances of its characters that every episode brims with laughs and ends in earned heartfelt moments.  It somehow takes tired sitcom tropes (clueless dad, grumpy father-in-law, smart teen, horny teen, awkward pre-teen) and makes them compelling, funny and relatable.  The fact that the show drew record numbers of viewers last year and garnered an Emmy for actor Eric Stonestreet is proof that something in Modern Family’s DNA has captured the cynical hearts of sitcom viewers—and made regulars out of people who don’t watch television.

As some of you may know, the show made headlines this week for its big, prime-time gay kiss.  Columnists and talking heads speculated about what this bold move would do to the ratings giant; would people be turned off and tune out?  Would more people flock to the show out of curiosity and then stick around?  After all the hype, I’d expected the episode to feature a slobbery, flaming make-out session.

Alas, the kiss happened so quickly and out of the main focus of the scene’s composition that I had to rewind it so that Darlena could see that it had, in fact, happened.

Which brings me to the point of this piece.  I went back to the article that first alerted me to the controversy, and perused the reader comments.  I expected a lot of “What was the big deal” remarks—and there may have been—but I made the mistake of starting at the top, where people chimed in before the episode had even aired.  I never made it to the bottom.

A few folks were supportive of the kiss, which, incidentally, was a loving quick peck on the lips between husbands Cameron (Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson)—and it came at the end of an episode that was all about family members learning to overcome their insecurities about showing affection in public (yes, even the straight couples learned lessons and smooched).  Mostly, I read dark, hateful diatribes by self-described “Christians” that turned my stomach and smashed my heart.

I find it hard to believe that in 2010 there are still people who think that homosexuality is a sin, a choice, a test from and/or an affront to God, or unnatural.  If you’ll indulge me (and why wouldn’t you, if you’ve come this far?), I’d like to break these theories down and explain to anyone who might not get it why the anti-gay argument is both total bullshit and the work of the Devil (for my atheist friends, substitute “religious nut-jobs” for “Devil” and we’ll be on the same page).

1.  “Homosexuality isn’t natural.”  That’s the big one, and it almost doesn’t involve religion or God.  It’s also patently ridiculous.  If you’re doubtful, please consider this list of other unnatural things: airplane travel, wearing clothes, the Internet, and books (even Good ones).  The corollary to this argument is that God meant penises to only go into vaginas.  If that’s true, why didn’t the very first act of sodomy end with the guy on top getting his dick zapped off by a bolt of lightning?

2.  “Homosexuality is a choice.”  For a more eloquent and humorous debunking of this myth, give a listen to David Cross’s album “Shut Up, You Fucking Baby”.  The gist is that being gay today—even with the pervasive media indoctrination everyone complains about—is an existence marked by suspicion, hatred, and a lack of equal rights in the “freest” country on the planet.  Even if an openly gay person finds refuge in a big-city community, there are numerous social obstacles that they must deal with every single day.  In other words, it’s not the kind of lifestyle one would choose, unless they had a persecution fetish.

3.  “Gays are an affront to God.”  Is being gay such a horrible, unforgivable sin as to be insulting to the very being who…um…created gay people (allegedly)?  If that’s the case, you’d think He’d have made wiping out the scourge of homosexuality a priority on mankind’s Things To Do list—it didn’t even make the top ten.  I’ve been told that being gay isn’t a sin; it’s acting on the gay impulses and desires that leads to damnation.  Can you fathom living your entire life not being about to outwardly express your love to someone because a several-thousand-years-old book told you not to?

4.  “Being gay is a test from God”.  A rare argument, sure, but a troubling one that ties in with the point above.  There’s an idea that homosexuality is an evil urge that must be resisted by those afflicted with it, that if one can simply live their life without giving in they’ll be rewarded in heaven.  This is the humans-as-ants-under-a-microscope Lord, and if He’s the one in charge I don’t want to spend eternity anywhere near Him.  He can go fuck Himself (would that make him gay, though?).

5.  “Being gay is a sin”.  Again, it’s more the acting out part that some people have a problem with; but going back to the Bible, there are far greater and more common sins than “laying with another man.”  Overeaters, for example, are subject to death by plague (Numbers 11:32-33); children born out of wedlock go straight to Hell (I have a feeling they used to wind up in Purgatory, but a few years ago the Pope decided it no longer exists) (Deuteronomy 23:2); kids who make fun of unattractive people get mauled by bears (2 Kings 2:23-24).

So, yeah, maybe you should suck in that gut, keep your junk in your pants and teach your kids some manners before you consider witch-hunting the queers.

Those are just five of the vile talking-points I’ve heard.  I won’t even get into the alleged link between homosexuality and pedophilia; anyone who would dare raise that as a valid excuse for discrimination is ignorant of both statistics and real-life gay people.

Just for a second, though, let’s take the whole “kids should be raised by a man and a woman” argument to its logical conclusion.  I’ll jump right on-board with gays being denied the right to adopt children, so long as the kids from every marriage that ends in divorce become immediate wards of the state.

For those of you who aren’t on board with the gay lifestyle, can you at least see how ugly and hurtful these slurs are?  Can you hear the echoes of slavery, woman’s suffrage, and the Civil Rights movement ringing in your ears?  Do you really look forward to the day, fifty years from now, when your grandkids or great-grandkids laugh at you for being on the wrong side of history?

Hey, wasn’t I writing about a sitcom earlier?

Let’s get back to Modern Family.  Mitchell and Cameron kissed on TV, and the earth didn’t split open. America’s husbands didn’t magically start sucking each other off in front of the kids, either.  All that happened was a group of very talented writers and performers reminded everyone watching that it’s okay—wonderful, in fact—to openly express love for another person.  To repress love—to deny it—they argued, is to turn passion into frustration and resentment; and, ultimately, into regret.

I don’t know what God thinks of Modern Family—or any other topic for that matter (his autobiography is contradictory, unevenly paced, and I still don’t get the ending).  But I know people, gay and straight, who just want to love and to be loved.  Any twisted, bizarre rube who has a problem with that can kiss off.


"R" You Kidding?

It's Time for the Grown-ups to Grow Up

She doesn't need children. That's a judgment call and I'm makin' it. But it also happens to be true and that gives it the force, that extra “oomph”.

--Bill Hicks

I saw Resident Evil: Afterlife on Friday and, judging by the people in the theatre, you’d think it was the family film of the year.  More families than genre geeks packed the auditorium, and I was shocked to see this little troll woman bouncing a one-year-old with a bottle in the top back corner.

Yes, this kind of thing still shocks me.  Maybe it’s the optimist in me (who, incidentally, is constantly getting his teeth kicked in by his heavier, cynical brother), but every time I go to an R-rated horror movie, I think, “This is the one.  This is the movie in which there won’t be some little kid having nightmares planted in their head by blood-curdling THX screaming and 3D body parts flying past their heads.”  But I’m always—always—wrong.

During this particular movie, I had a flashback brought on by the guy sitting directly in front of me.  I recognized him from the lobby, where his belligerent cow of a wife berated him for not being able to pick out the combo she wanted from the way-too-busy concessions menu; all the while half-paying attention to her two boys—ages, I’d guess, five and eight.  The punch-line to this sad joke of a scene was the guy’s t-shirt, which read, “I [Heart] Hot Moms.”

He sat in front of me, alone.  I heard some whining and turned to my left.  His wife and kids were seated three rows further down, all the way to the left.

Sitting next to Mr. Beleaguered was a frat douche who asked, “Gotta get away from the wife and kids, huh?”

“You know it,” came the answer.

Believe it or not, I lived out a more horrific version of this scene last fall, when I went to see Halloween 2.  The difference is that the children were much younger, at probably eight months and four years.  The infant carried on for quite a bit, and the mother refused to do anything; fortunately, the father stepped up and improved the situation by moving several seats away from his screaming daughter.

The capper to this flashback is the touching moment in the film where an ambulance driver—freshly mutilated by a head-on collision with a cow, and gradually going into shock—tries speaking through his broken jaw.

All he can get out is the word “Fuck”, which he says about thirty times in varying ways.  It’s almost like a phonics exercise, really.

The four-year-old girl in the audience certainly thought so, as evidenced by her excited cries of, “Fah!”

I’m a new dad, so what I’m about to say may not carry a lot of weight with those of you who’ve been at it a lot longer; but this needs to be said:

If you bring your kids to horror movies, you’re a bad parent.

I mean, Jesus, have you not seen the boundary-pushing, ratings-bending terrors of modern slashers and sci-fi movies?  Why would you subject a toddler to the sights and sounds of a dog’s head splitting down the center to reveal rows of angry, drooling teeth?  What could you possibly say to junior that would convince him that the gang rape and torture in The Last House on the Left is only make-believe?  Are you so dense that you think Saw VI is just as good for your kids as Bob the Builder because they’re both shows about tools?

Even setting aside the trauma that may manifest later on in school fights and pulling the wings off flies, have you considered that other moviegoers might be uncomfortable having to share the theatre with a bunch of pre-schoolers?  I guess the answer to that is a proudly ignorant “no”.  I’ve seen countless families plop into their seats at horror movies (and sex comedies, too) with all the rowdy glee and anticipation one would expect from the latest Pixar film.

It’s pathetic.

I can’t believe that it’s cheaper to bring the whole brood out to the movies and stuff their faces full of candy, soda and popcorn than to hire a babysitter for two hours.  And if the family wants a movie night, there are plenty of age-appropriate options at every multiplex in America.  It’s not like you’re going to show up at the box office next week to find everything sold out except Devil (even if that does happen, there are plenty of fun bonding activities you can do at home—some of which involve interacting with your young’uns; which, I know, can be really uncool).

I was relieved to find that a local theatre has posted a sign in the lobby stating that after 7pm, no kids will be allowed into R-rated movies, even if the parents give consent. 

What a novel idea, right?

I just wish there were more teeth to this stance, and I hope something like it becomes widely adopted.

In my darkest moments, when I’m in a theatre, trying to concentrate on a naked teenager being filleted by a masked killer, I think about the little boy sitting next to me, asking his ever-shushing father why the bad man is doing that with the big knife.  My mind wanders into a utopian fantasy where a S.W.A.T. unit rappels through the roof and whisks the boy away to therapy—simultaneously forcing dad to ingest some egg-fart-smelling carcinogen that will render him sterile.

If you think I’m blowing this out of proportion, just think back a couple months to the news story about how some theatres were forced to pull the teaser trailer for Paranormal Activity 2.  Why did they have to do this?  Because mothers complained that their pre-teen girls were being traumatized by scary images at the midnight screenings of Twilight: Eclipse.

Let’s break that sentence down to its key elements:  Pre-teen girls.  Midnight movie.  Oh, and Twilight: Eclipse—you know, that flick in which one of the main characters is gang-raped and beaten nearly to death before being resurrected as a blood-sucking creature of the night.  The one that’s part of a PG-13 franchise.

The bottom line is that parents need to do their research to determine what is and is not appropriate for their children to watch.  And when they discover that something isn’t appropriate, they need to do the appropriate thing and keep their kids away from it—as much as they can.

Yes, I was raised on horror movies, but certain lines weren’t crossed before certain ages, and I always had a parent around to discuss what I was watching; incidentally, these discussions always happened at home because my folks were not the kind of people who enjoyed making fools of their family in public.

There are some movies that just aren’t meant for little kids.  I mean, you wouldn’t let a five-year-old watch Debbie Does Dallas, would you?

Wait.  Don’t answer that.