My first R-rated movie

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Reading this edition of "The Big Question" at Hitfix.com got me thinking about the first R-rated movie I ever saw. The film itself—a Michael Douglas thriller called The Star Chamber—was not so memorable, but the circumstances around my viewing of it are, in retrospect, amusing.

The Star Chamber
When I was growing up, the LDS Church strongly cautioned parents not to let their children see R-rated movies, so that was exactly the rule my parents established for us. I followed it, too, though not always happily.

I don't remember what it was about The Star Chamber that made me willing to break that rule. Since I was close to turning sixteen, it was probably just time for it to happen. My friend David, who was a little younger than I was, kind of wanted to see it too, so he asked his parents to take us. So, it was time plus opportunity, I suppose.

(I had seen R-rated movies already, but on video at friends' houses, not in an actual movie theater.)

We had to drive about ten miles north from Kaysville to Ogden to catch the movie. "I have only one condition for this," David's mother told me en route. She was an elementary school teacher, and in fact had already taught two of my sisters and was about to have a third start her class. She was a good Mormon woman, and my parents thought the world of her. "You can never, ever tell your parents I took you to an R-rated movie. Okay?"

I agreed, and getting away with something like that with the help of my sisters' grade-school teacher probably made the movie seem way cooler than it really was. Thank goodness for teachers.


This all happened thirty years ago, in August 1983. Interestingly, it was 1985 before my (sort of) hometown of Kaysville, Utah, ever saw an R-rated movie of its own. Kaysville had only one movie theater, the policy of which was to show nothing with a rating over PG (or maybe PG-13 by then).

It was huge news, then, when the theater decided to change its policy and show Beverly Hills Cop. The local Mormon congregations organized moms to come out and picket against the corruption of its child-safe, down-home entertainment venue.

Is it any wonder everyone seemed so fucked up at my 20-year high school reunion? I say that with all good humor.

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on September 4, 2013 9:18 AM.

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