A friend of mine was recently worrying about his 14 year-old son wanting to go and see Logan, and the growing realisation that there was probably precious little he could do to stop him if he decided to do so. He couldn't decide whether to give tacit parental approval which might come back to bite him, or exercise parental veto that might be ignored and thus set a dangerous precedent.
There are a bunch of things to unpick here. First of all, Logan is a 'proper' 15, rather than an 'accidental' 15 like, in my opinion, Suicide Squad. Suicide Squad is a movie that aimed for (and got) a PG-13 rating in the States, but which tipped beyond our upper limits for a (roughly corresponding) 12a in this country and thus ended up with a 15 without really meaning to. If you lined up Suicide Squad next to, say, Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy (which all scraped 12a ratings over here), you'd be hard pushed to spot any substantial difference in terms of strength of content or violence.
Logan's a different beast. Like last year's Deadpool, this isn't a movie that went one punch or headbutt too far for the constraints of the 12a: it's a movie that was custom made to romp around within the rather more forgiving limits of the MPAA R rating. Nobody is going to mistake the content as being at the same strength as a standard 12a superhero movie. Logan gets bloody, make no mistake.
So, that takes us back to whether you should stop a 14 year-old trying to blag their way into the cinema to check it out. First of all, of course, classification systems are different the whole world over, meaning that the '15' cut-off, if not exactly arbitrary, certainly isn't the same from country to country. In the US, with that same R rating, a 6 year-old could be admitted to see Logan if their parent decided to take them.
Secondly, are there any positive sides to a 14 year-old getting in to see a 15 movie?
I fondly remember my first underage 15 at the cinema (Good Morning Vietnam) and my first underage 18 at the cinema (Misery). I sat in the darkness, terrified that the usher would suddenly click and think 'Hey, that kid looked a bit young', hunt me down in the darkness and throw me out. So I sat through the movies in silence, and guess what? The habit stuck. I went from being a kid who jabbered in movies to being an adult who knew to shut the hell up as soon as the certificate hit the screen. If I'd been robbed of that experience, if the first time I'd sat in an age-restricted movie I'd have been brimming with a sense of my entitlement to be there, maybe that process of growth would never have happened or have been severely delayed.
Alongside that memory, I also remember the first time I disobeyed one of my parents' decisions regarding whether I was allowed to see a movie or not. I was about 13, and my best mate Dan had recorded Blade Runner from a TV showing the night before. I asked if I could watch it. I was told 'no'. For the first time in my life, I thought 'Sod it, I'm going to watch it anyway'.
And I did, and that was that. From that point on, I just never asked permission any more. Once that seal of requiring parental approval for viewing choices is broken, it's never going to get put back together. So use your veto wisely, parents.
Ultimately, I guess, I think it's possible that an age restriction system works better when it leaks.
A while back, I saw a late-teenager (probably around 17 or 18, I reckon) get asked for proof of age when buying a 12 rated DVD. The kid was indignant and angry, but ultimately caved and showed some ID.
Whilst travelling the States, I saw a 55 year-old woman get refused alcohol in a San Francisco comedy club because she didn't have ID with her.
The last time I was asked for ID for alcohol I was 33 years old (as I indignantly told the woman behind the counter; "I'm the same age as JESUS!").
None of these examples make me feel confident that a common-sense principle is being applied here. I'm much happier with the idea of a 14 year-old getting in to see a 15 rated movie than I am with the idea of a 55 year old being refused service for a glass of wine (presumably on the basis that she might have been involved in some kind of Freaky Friday body-swap shenanigans).
A few days later, I caught up with my friend. His kid had, indeed, got into Logan.
He loved it, of course, but I guess that's not the point.
Or maybe it is.Suggest a correction