October 12th, 2011

Me 2 (B&W)

Blog Life: not the same ring to it as "Thug Life"

Why not try to blog about something from long before I blogged?

The first R-rated film I saw in theaters was Stand By Me.

It was a family trip. All four of us went. We also, all four of us, had gone the year before to the first PG-13-rated film I'd seen in theaters, Cocoon, and I remember...being a little more excited over seeing a PG-13-rated film than maybe I should've been. Even a good one, like Cocoon. I wouldn't shut up about it being PG-13, until I was asked to shut up.

But to give a little more context to me being obnoxious about getting to go to a PG-13 movie, soon after PG-13 started? EVERYTHING seemed to be PG-13 or R. PG-13 debuted in August 1984 with Red Dawn -- I remember seeing the newspaper ad for it, with Soviet parachuters flying into Colorado, and seeing the MPAA box say "PG-13" for the first time. At the time, I was 10. (I was also already a media geek and a movie geek, so of course I saw that ad. At Virginia Beach's Great Neck Area Library, if I remember correctly.) By spring 1985, PG-rated movies had almost dried up. There was one time that May or June when my family was sitting in a D.C.-area Wendy's, reading that day's paper and trying to decide if we, including then 11-year-old-me, could all go to a film. I wasn't going to suggest anything PG-13, and the PG-rated films? THERE WERE TWO. The only title I remember of the two was Rustlers' Rhapsody, and no, at that time, I was not going to watch a Western, especially not a singing Western. The other? Probably something aggressively kid-oriented, and serious trying-to-grow-up me would NOT have gone for it. Or maybe it was a film I'd've loved forever had I seen it. Don't remember the title, so I can't know. And interestingly, Rustlers' Rhapsody was sort of a parodic, Meta-Western that maybe I would have responded to. Things look different when you're older and know more...

(That summer, the PG-versus-PG-13 thing was still in play in my family, at least for family outings to the theater. Thank everything Real Genius, a film I love to this day, was PG. That was another family movie-going trip. Came down to either that or Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, which we decided not to see, so I didn't get in on the ground floor when it came to being a Tim Burton fan. But I digress.)

Anyway. At Stand By Me, then-12-year-old me managed to behave. And I'd like to think that even if I'd started out obnoxious, I would have started behaving by getting caught up in the film...the quiet, harrowing, sad, lovely-acted film. (I'd calmed down during Cocoon, after all. And because it was a good movie, not just because I got to see Tahnee Welch's naked butt.) Maybe you're supposed to feel like you're growing up when you're young and you first see Stand By Me. By then, maybe the closest I'd come to seeing death, beyond what I'd seen faked in movies and on TV shows, was the loss of the space shuttle Challenger as I watched that launch in real time. I wonder if I'd seen death in as in-depth a treatment as that film gives it. The film lingers on it, weighs on it. It also, of course, shows the rough trip the four friends go on in the story. I didn't know yet, but that's a lot of what Stephen King likes to do, show friends dealing with an ever-worse situation. (The film was also my first exposure to King, which I didn't realize until this past decade after much, much more exposure to King.) I know I was quiet afterwards, walking with the parents and with T.J. back to the car. I had a lot to think about.

I hope this is making you remember Stand By Me, and I hope the memories are good ones.