Fifty Shades of Grey: Valentine’s Bait For Teens?
Nothing says Happy Valentines Day like a movie featuring bondage sex. Each year, around February 14, the film industry releases a romance to put people in the mood for love, but the typical Nicholas Sparks’ novel adaptation isn’t on the marquee for 2015. Instead, we are being marketed Fifty Shades of Grey, a story built on a novel brimming with erotic, sexual violence, as the go-to for initiating amorous thoughts.
A month ago it was reported advance tickets for the film were selling faster than any other R-rated title in the history of movie ticketing service Fandango, prompting theater owners to add more show-times and bump other movies from their screens. The hype for the novel-turned-movie is heating up quickly with the likes of Kim Kardashian enthusiastically voicing praise after viewing a private screening. And it convinced the lead star Dakota Johnson to tell her mother not to go see it. Her father, Don Johnson (yes, Mr. Miami Vice) says he’s not interested either. Looking back on the production, Dakota also admits to thinking, “What the ____ have I done?”
Good for Johnson’s Mom and Dad, but not so good for the legions of teens who undoubtedly know this adult fare was “inspired” by the beloved Twilight franchise and are soaking up the aforementioned hype that is saturating talk shows and media. In the UK and Canada the film has captured an 18 rating, meaning it is off-limits to anyone under that age. But, surprisingly, in the typically more restrictive United States, adolescents will only face a flimsy R-rating standing between them and the box office. CORRECTION: In Canada, most provinces have rated the movie 18A, which offers a similar situation as the US except the accompanying adult must be 18 or over.
In the US, an R-rating lets a six-year-old in as long as they are accompanied by someone 17 or over. That leaves theaters wide open to admitting scores of teens. The MPAA, the organization that administers the “voluntary” rating system used across the US, has the more restrictive NC-17 rating within its arsenal, but it is seen as the mark of box office death. As well, many theaters refuse to exhibit movies with the NC-17 rating, putting heavy pressure on the ratings board—and movie creators—to carefully trim their sex and violence content to shoehorn their production into the more desirable R category.
For most parents, the movie’s theme and description will be enough information to want to convince their teens to find another choice. However we know, all too well, how easy it is for kids to gain access to an R-rated movie. Correlations between underage viewing of R-rated movies and other risk taking behavior have been discovered in previous studies. Medical professionals are also voicing specific concerns about teens viewing Fifty Shades of Grey too. So perhaps the best gift parents can give their teens this Valentine’s Day is a date to a better movie—or just some mom and dad time with a sweet treat.