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Once Again, Parents Are Being Told What’s Good For Their Children

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I’ve been keeping a lid on my opinions regarding Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 for the simple reason I have not yet seen the film. Up to this point, all I can do is surmise Moore may be more of a publicist than a filmmaker. He’s certainly managed to whip up a frenzy that will ensure him attention at the box office when the movie releases on June 25, 2004.

But today his antics crossed my line in the sand. Watching the morning news on KTLA, I’m left with the impression Moore knows what my kids should be able to see in the theater better than I do.

At least that’s how I felt after hearing him announce plans to appeal Fahrenheit 9/11’s R-rating. By arguing his film should be PG-13, Moore is diminishing the importance of having parents guide their teens through the viewing experience of a film that contains (quoting the MPAA rating caption) “violent and disturbing images…”

According to AP reporter, David Germain, the movie shows “a public beheading in Saudi Arabia, Iraqis burned by napalm and a grisly scene of an Iraqi man dumping a dead baby into a truck bed loaded with bodies.”

Any film released to theaters with this type of content would warrant at least a restricted rating. And in this instance, these events are not simulated but actual pictures.

Because images like these have been shown on television, Moore reasons they should be open to younger audiences in theaters. He also feels, “It is sadly very possible that many 15 and 16-year-olds will be asked and recruited to serve in Iraq in the next couple of years. If they are old enough to be recruited and capable of being in combat and risking their lives, they certainly deserve the right to see what is going on in Iraq."

Moore’s tough love logic may seem sound on the surface, but with closer examination, there are some definite faults to his lucrative plan of having every teen in the nation see his movie. (He should also be so lucky… this film will hardly be a “top ten pick” on most adolescent’s lists.)

However, it’s important for parents to recognize Moore’s claim to show “what is going on in Iraq,” is only valid when we recognize the selective nature of any media. It doesn’t matter who is behind the camera, Michael Moore or myself, the bottom line is a camera can only show what it’s being pointed at.

That may seem ridiculously obvious, but no matter how many awards a filmmaker is granted, he or she still has control over what goes into their movie. I don’t have to see Fahrenheit 9/11 to know that it—as well as every other documentary—contains clips of video that have gone through a rigorous selection process, leaving only segments backing the creator’s opinion. Its important for young people to have someone who can help them critically evaluate the information they are receiving.

I don’t believe it’s possible for anyone to create a film so pure and true that the entire populace should be required to view it. To me, such an idea erodes my rights to an even greater degree than the “censorship” Moore feels is being imposed upon his work.

As much as any of us may agree or disagree with Moore’s movie, he has the right to make it. But film ratings were created as a guide to allow parents to carefully judge what is appropriate for their children to see. (An R-rating will never stop any adult from attending a film, and if they feel inclined to do so, they can bring their three year old with them.) As parents, we should always have the right and expect the support, from organizations like the MPAA, to decide what our families see.

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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