As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of the library. Here in Shadowland, we have an entire bookcase devoted to library books -- the ones we've borrowed and are reading. Yes, we check out so many books at a time that we need that book case. And yes, its contents get rotated constantly.
We also use the library to check out movies, cd's, etc. And lately, our library has gotten itself hooked up electronically with a massive inter-library loan system that means we can "order" books (or movies) from just about any library anywhere.
Until this evening, I thought this unfettered access was awesome!
This evening, I chanced upon one of the girls starting a movie she'd ordered through inter-library loan. It was a movie I'd never heard of. Requiem for a Dream. It sounded creepy. It looked kind of creepy. When I asked what it was about, she said she didn't know, she hadn't seen it yet.
I got curious, and looked it up. Wikipedia's initial description doesn't sound too awful. They say,
"Requiem for a Dream is a 2000 drama film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, and Marlon Wayans. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Hubert Selby, Jr., with whom Aronofsky wrote the screenplay. Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. The film was screened out of competition at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. The film depicts different forms of addiction, leading to the characters’ imprisonment in a world of delusion and reckless desperation that is subsequently overtaken and devastated by reality."
Doesn't sound exactly uplifting, and might even provide a cautionary tale. I've always kind of liked Ellen Burstyn..... But further research (IMBD) revealed that it's rated NC-17. Even so, the quick summary at the top of IMDB's page didn't sound that scary. They said, "Drugs. They consume mind, body and soul. Once you're hooked, you're hooked. Four lives. Four addicts. Four failures. Despite their aspirations of greatness, they succumb to their addictions. Watching the addicts spiral out of control, we bear witness to the dirtiest, ugliest portions of the underworld addicts reside in. It is shocking and eye-opening but demands to be seen by both addicts and non-addicts alike."
Again, a cautionary tale, but that bit about being shocking and eye-opening... bearing witness to the dirtiest ugliest portions of the underworld hints at why it was originally rated NC-17. When I discovered why it got that rating, I interrupted my daughter to talk about why she ordered it, and whether she knew what she was getting into. She didn't really answer me, saying only that a friend had said it was good. I'm not sure she DID know, but either way she shut it off.
It got that rating because of scenes later in the film in which one of the addicted characters essentially sells herself for sex, engaging in orgies, including some on camera sex acts that would make me more than a little bit uncomfortable to watch. You can read for yourself here, if you're so inclined.
Now, according to Wikipedia, " In the United States, the film was originally rated NC-17 by the MPAA, but Aronofsky appealed the rating, claiming that cutting any portion of the film would dilute its message. The appeal was denied and Artisan decided to release the film unrated. An R-rated version was released on video, with the sex scene edited, but the rest of the movie identical to the unrated version." Note... edited, not deleted.
And I can't tell from the box containing the disc which version my daughter brought home. I suppose I could watch it myself, and then tell her what's there and let her decide if she's really ready to see that, but frankly, I don't want to watch it. It sounds horribly depressing.
This is where I start wanting libraries to exert a little more control over who gets to borrow what. Our library already exerts what I consider to be appropriate control over who gets to look at what on the internet while at the library.
Upstairs, where the general stuff is, in a space between regular fiction (for grown ups), and non-fiction, there's a bank of computers. I think you have to be at least a teen, but maybe even an adult, to use these computers. It can tell because among the information they have keyed into your library account is your age. On these computers, you can pretty much access anything on the internet.
Our library has a wonderful space on the first floor just for kids. There are computers there that you have to have a child's library card to use. Those computers don't access any sites that would be questionable for someone under the age of 12. Parents of four year olds can feel safe letting their kids use the computers (assuming they know how). They have age appropriate games on them too.
They also have a room just for teens. This room also has computers. In this room, you have to have a teen's library card to access the computers. These computers will go to a broader range of internet sites, but do not go to "adult" sites. I'm guessing that you can't even get to many sites that deal with recreational pharmaceuticals.
And yet, my 15 year old daughter was able to use her teen library card to check out an NC-17 film??? Or even a film that was originally NC-17, but that had one scene "edited" to sneak it into an R rating.
Really? Had she gone to the theater, she would not have been allowed to go in to see that film. After all, the R rating means that no one under 17 can see the film without a parent or guardian (note, that means I'd have to take her), and the NC-17 rating means that no one under 17 can go in at all, even with a parent or guardian. If she can't see it alone at the theater, why can she check it out of the library?
I'm not saying that I haven't let her see R rated films. But there's an R rating and an R rating. Some I have no problem with; others ... well, I prefer to discuss the issues, and/or scenes, with my daughters either before, during or after the film. It's what I consider to be part of responsible parenting.
I've written to the library, hoping that this was a bizarre event, and that they do, in fact, have some system in place that prevents teens from checking out films they'd otherwise either not be allowed to go in to see, or would at least need their parents along to see. (Heck, I think they should also have a system in place that prevents 8 year olds from checking out PG-13 movies withou their parent's permission). After all, we know they know how hold they are -- it's in their account. Should I have been worried that the girls could bring home Caligula when they were 9?
Have I become a fuddy duddy? Have I leapt off the bridge into ultra-conservatism? Or am I being a reasonable person here?