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The Plugged In Show, Episode 89: When Books for Teens Turn Into R-Rated Entertainment


When R.L. Stein began writing his Fear Street novels in 1989, the author wanted to reach a slightly older audience from the one that gobbled up his Goosebumps books. He made them a little bloodier, a little deadlier, a little more mature—but he always kept his content pretty age appropriate.

 You can’t say the same for the movies.

 “For me, they were always going to be R-rated,” Leigh Janiak, director of Netflix’s trio of Fear Street films, told “I was thinking about being 10 or 11 and sneaking to the video store to rent, you know, Child’s Play or Nightmare on Elm Street. Movies that I wasn’t supposed to see. But that was kind of the pleasure of sneaking these slashers. So yeah, we want to keep this fun spirit of the books and everything, but there’s gotta be blood.”

 There’s a certain, sad irony that these films—targeted (according to Thrillist itself) at “teens or even younger”—are explicitly rated TV-MA by Netflix, the television equivalent of an R-rating. And unlike Janiak, teens or preteens don’t need to “sneak” into a forbidden movie theater anymore. R-rated content is available with just a click of a remote or swipe of the screen. Which begs a whole bunch of questions. But we’ll start with just a couple. One, why turn a teen-targeted book into an R-rated movie? And two, do ratings even matter anymore?

 The Plugged In team takes those questions and runs with them on this episode of The Plugged In Show. And as we talk, we’ll explore what it means for your family, too—and how you can guide your own children and teens into better entertainment choices.

 So don’t be afraid of this audio street of ours. Walk it with us—and check out everything we mention in the episode in the links below.

Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

6 Responses

  1. -First of all, I wanted to say that it’s incredible that you guys have direct links to so many media products that you mention in this podcast. It’s very rare I see that kind of attention to detail.

    Second of all, this made me think of 13 Reasons Why. I’ve heard very abhorrent things about the TV series, but I felt the book was a solid PG-13 and even on the low end. Even awful subjects like (Trigger Warnings) rape, nonconsensual voyeurism, and the actual act of suicide were handled tactfully.

    1. -Although agree the book is probably better then the show (from what I’ve seen of it- in my opinion it has to be better then the show considering how much horrible and unnecessary over top content they put in….), have to say think that even though some of these (suicide, rape) are obviously very real subjects, should still teens/very still impressionable and maturing read about it either? If it’s handled very carefully and obviously as only a warning of not to imitate then maybe yes, but even then I would much rather my kid read something that is better for them mentally and emotionally. The world is already scarred enough as it is…

    2. -well agree with you the book might be better, but still think it’s a horrible premise…

  2. -Some good blog points and very refreshing ie thank you for warning about potential dangerous corruption and awful viewing choices (wish the female writers would write similarly…) so sad that the world thinks that our kids and children need to be exposed to all this garbarge and agenda. MIss the days when movies were good movies promotiing good values, morals, and godly concepts instead of all the agenda crap they’re pushing now- ruining kids innocence and how were created etc. Thank you for being one the few writers voice of reason in a dangerous and messed up world…

    1. -Rhoda, which halcyon days of cinematic moral purity are you nostalgic for? The risque pre-Code ’20s? The gangster movies of the ’30s? The film noir of the ’40s and ’50s? The free love movies of the ’60s? The nihilistic, anti-authoritarian crime films of the ’70s? The slasher movies of the ’80s? The alienated-white-male-stuck-in-a-soulless-job subgenre of the ’90s? The torture-obsessed horror movies of the ’00s?

      My point is that vice, villainy, violence, sleaze and moral ambiguity have been part of the Hollywood package from the start. The concerns you raise about “agenda” and the absence of traditional morals and values are perfectly valid, but social conservatives have been saying that same thing for as long as movies have existed.

  3. -So will see if this comment gets deleted as well, but say thank you for this blog and godly, actual Christian points you make here. Thank you for pointing out that no we shouldn’t be watching something just cause the world says it’s okay and even if they think it’s okay doesn’t make it right or good. Too bad other people and the world is so messed up that now cant different the difference between what one should watch and what one shouldn’t- no matter what may seem “cool, “hip” or “in style…”