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That's puzzling!

Why can’t I watch an ‘A’ movie?

Avanti, 14, overheard a bunch of friends in her class talk excitedly about an ‘A’ rated (18+ film) on Netflix. This made her curious. So, after school she tried to watch an ‘A’ film on her sister Manali’s (19) laptop. Here’s what happens next…

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Avanti was eating her lunch during the break when she heard Tia and her other friends laugh out loud. She joined them and realised that they were talking about an ‘A’ movie that Tia had seen on Netflix using her parent’s account. As Tia went on to share the details of the movie, Avant found herself both getting curious and excited. 

She thought to herself, “Manali wouldn’t be home from 4 to 6 pm. I could have watched the movie on her laptop while she was in her coaching class. Mom and Dad too won’t be home before six. The film does sound super exciting!” 

With curiosity getting the better, Avanti went home and sneaked out her sister’s laptop out of her room. She got comfortable in her blanket and logged into her sister’s laptop and began to play the film. The movie had an 18+ only tag on the top left. It made Avanti uncomfortable but decided to watch on. 

Just as the opening credits ended, her elder sister Manali barged into the room. “Avanti, have you seen my laptop!I forgot to print out an assignment we were to discuss at the coaching class. Do you know… ?” Manali stopped mid sentence. 

But…why not?

“Avanti, what’s going on? Why are you in the blanket in the middle of the day and what are you doing with my laptop”, she asked.

“Nothing, Didi”,Avanti panicked and tried to shut the window as Manali closed in on her. 

Manali snatched the laptop out of Avanti’s hand and got a glimpse of the movie Avanti had just started playing. 

Manali raised her eyebrows and voice. “Avanti! This is an A rated movie. It even has an 18+ sign on it. Why are you watching it then!” 

Avanti was now looking down at her toe. “Didi, today in school Tia and my other friends were talking about it. I was just curious. But I don’t understand why we need to be 18+ to watch it? My friends are not 18 and they watched it. Can’t I too?” Avanti was curious now as she said, her voice tailing off. 

“Well your friend may have watched it from her parent’s account. I am not sure she knew she was not supposed to watch it. But I didn’t expect it from you”, Manali said to Avanti in a disappointed tone.  

Avanti replied, “I am sorry Didi. I broke your trust. I was just very curious…Why can’t we watch 18+ or A movies. What’s so bad in them!”

Confused, upset and uneasy 

Watching the regret in Avanti’s eyes, Manali softened and said, “Well different movies are A (18+) rated for different reasons. For example, some movies may have some violent or inappropriate scenes, which may scare or upset you”, replied Manali. 

“Many A rated films may have dialogues with strong abusive language. Blood, war, nudity or sexual scenes, which might make you uncomfortable”, Manali added. 

“But didi, last Friday, during our movie night we watched ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ – a film about war and romance. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so how are these movies different from each other?” a confused Avanti asked. 

“Good question Avanti. So Jodha Akbar was a “U/A” (Unrestricted/Adult Guidance) rated film. This means the movie is safe for anyone to watch. There were war scenes but they were shot in a way that wouldn’t make the younger audience uncomfortable?” Manali asked. 

“Yes, I rather enjoyed them. But how do we come to know what movie we should or should not watch?” Avanti asked. 

“It’s easy. All movies, documentaries or series etc have a rating. These ratings are generally seen before the movie starts or sometimes even displayed on the top right/left corner of the screen, now especially on Netflix or other such platforms”, replied Manali. 

“So we have kinds of films – for those below 18 and above 18?” Avanti asked. 

Mr. Potter to the rescue

“Well there are several age ratings. You remember the Harry Potter movies? So “Half-Blood Prince”, “HP & the Prisoner of Azkaban”, “HP & the Chamber of Secrets”, “HP & the Philosopher’s Stone” are all rated PG (Parental Guidance) as they only have some scary imagery, little violence, bad language and some amount of sensuality”, replied Manali. 

“While other parts – “HP & the Goblet of Fire”, “HP & the Order of the Phoenix”, HP & the Deathly Hallows (Part 1 and 2) are all “PG-13 rated films, which strongly caution an adult to be with a young viewer during the film. These movies had moderate fantasy, violence and threat or even some injury details”, Manali added. 

“You are right, I did find the last two movies rather dark especially the use of death and torture curses. It helped that we watched these together”, Avanti recalled. 

“Yeah they were a bit dark. But still these can be watched by teenagers. But 18+/ or ‘A’ films are completely unsuitable for anyone under the age of 18. Most of your horror movies like “Scream 2”, “Anabelle” or “Paranormal Activity” too fall under this category”, replied Manali. 

But my friends…

“Di, what exactly will happen if I watch an ‘A’ movie? My friends seemed to have enjoyed it”, Avanti asked. 

“Your friends may have found it exciting to watch it because they know they were not allowed to watch it. It is the same excitement that you get when you have ice cream on a winter night when you are not supposed to”, Manali explained. 

“Haha, you won’t ever forget my ice-cream story! But tell me, what if I just watch it to see what’s there”, Avanti asked. 

“Avanti, your time will come. Trust me. For now these movies won’t entertain you as they should, because at this age you would lack an understanding of the context and the reasons for portraying what they do. Do you think when you were 5-7 years old you would have been able to enjoy and appreciate Jodha Akbar?” asked Manali. 

“Lol di! I was too invested in “Chota Bheem” and “Princess Sofia” to even watch such films!” laughed Avanti. 

“Exactly! As you get older, you develop an understanding which allows you to enjoy the film plots. ‘A’ rated films have content that might be difficult for younger people to comprehend. They may expose you to certain topics in a wrong and inappropriate way. At your age, you also won’t be able to differentiate between what is real and what is fantasy and it may leave you confused or upset”, Manali replied. 

Better late than sorry

“Hmmm… I remember Tia being very depressed for days after watching a suicide scene on a series she had been watching”, a thoughtful Avanti said. 

 “That’s the point. If instead of entertaining you, a movie or a TV series leaves you upset, uncomfortable or confused, then maybe it is worth waiting for the right age to watch such films, don’t you think so?” Manali replied. 

“Yeah, I remember not being able to go to the bathroom alone for weeks after watching “Anabelle”, Avanti recalled with a shudder. 

“Similarly, the movie you were about to watch may have portrayed relationships in a way that might leave you confused or upset. It is better to first understand these things better (usually comes with age and experience), and then you are free to watch whatever seems fit. Is that ok?” Manali asked.

“Absolutely! Thanks Didi for explaining in such detail. I am sorry for sneaking out your laptop”, Avanti replied. 

“Oh yes, my laptop! I am late for my class. Now for that, I won’t forgive you!”, Manali shouted as she ran out of the room. 

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