Watching an R-Rated Movie With My 5-Year-Old

by Matt Chapman
Originally Published: 

I’m aware that a PG rating in 1981 is different from what we would consider a PG movie today, but it didn’t bother me as a parent. Most of the scenes and language are harmless, although The Great Outdoors pushed the envelope with at least one ‘shit’ and an ‘asshole’ comment. The PG-13 rating didn’t exist until 1984, inspired by movies like Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Up until then, PG rated movies included a wider spectrum of violence, language and adult situations. Did you know the original Jaws is rated PG?

This past weekend, our movie of choice was Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a classic ’80s comedy with Steve Martin and John Candy. Grady saw a promo of the movie on TV, recognized John Candy from The Great Outdoors, and wanted to watch another movie with that “funny fat guy” in it. So we fired up some microwave popcorn, turned down the lights and sat down for a few laughs.

The movie was going along swimmingly, Grady laughing along with me, and nothing inappropriate for what I thought was another one of our ’80s PG movies. Then came the car rental counter scene. If you know the movie, you’ll recall it. For some reason, I didn’t remember what was about to unfold. Maybe because I saw the theatrical release in the ’80s, and have only seen the edited-for-TV version since. Well, here is the scene:

Yep. 19 separate F-bombs in under a minute. No chance of receiving the Father of the Week award this time. The next day a simple Google search would confirm that Planes, Trains and Automobiles is, in fact, an R-rated movie. Oops. Steve Martin’s tirade was in full swing; Grady was still sitting there on my lap. I didn’t know where the remote was, and in the middle of everything I decided that trying to plug his ears would only draw attention to the situation and make it worse (or maybe I was laughing so hard that it impacted my common sense). So I waited it out. Silence from the little guy. Did he miss it? Was he nodding off? Suddenly he turned his head toward me. “Daddy, what does f*cking mean?”

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