Open Letter to a Mother at an R-rated Movie

Note: This article originally appeared in The Charlotte Observer. Lawrence Toppman

Open letter to the mother sitting in front of me at last week’s Cradle 2 the Grave screening:

Your daughter seemed to be about 8 years old, with her white dress and her hair done up in braids. I wonder what she thought when the people in this R-rated movie kidnapped a little girl about her age, duct-taped her mouth shut and shoved her into a van, planning to kill her later.

Did your child get an eyeful when Gabrielle Union stripped down to bra and panties and started a lap dance on a lip-licking hood she was trying to distract?

Was she paying attention when Jet Li broke opponents’ bones with a vivid snap, or when DMX smashed a villain’s head into a cement wall? Did she catch Anthony Anderson mowing people down in a tank? Was she facing front when a nuclear device ate away a man’s face from the inside?

If she was listening carefully, I know she caught all the crucial dialogue, every grunted "m-----f-----" and sneered "n-----" tossed her way. I’m sure she’ll assimilate those into her dialogue in the near future.

Of course, you can take comfort in the fact that you weren’t alone: I saw more than a dozen kids her age around the theater, all soaking up images that were meant for people about a decade older.

So here’s a tip to everybody: If you’re too cheap, lazy or clueless to hire a baby sitter when you want to see R-rated movies, stay home.

If you can’t do that, don’t be surprised if your little girl grows up to be a thug, because you started exposing her to degrading images when she was still in elementary school. And don’t blame society, either. Blame the person you see in the mirror.