Barely Legal

I saw a late-teenager (probably around 17 or 18, I reckon) get asked for proof of age when buying a 12 rated DVD last week. The kid was indignant and angry, but ultimately caved and showed some ID.

Whilst travelling the States in 2002, I saw a 55 year-old woman get refused alcohol in a San Francisco comedy club because she didn’t have ID with her.

On a similar tack, I got asked for ID buying a bottle of wine a couple of years ago. 33 years old I was at the time (as I indignantly told the woman behind the counter; “I’m the same age as JESUS!”) and it was the first time I’d been asked my age buying alcohol since I was 17.

All of these examples are utterly fucking stupid, and I worry that they’re indicative of a growing culture where using your judgement is seen as a dangerous and unneccessary risk. If you seriously aren’t comfortable enough with your judgement that a grey-haired, not-particularly-well-preserved woman can be served alcohol, I’m really not comfortable with you doing ANY job whatsoever. It comes down to the old argument that by operating like a machine and insisting on ID for everyone, you are potentially stopping a single 17 year old getting served. And that’s got to be a good thing, right?

Bollocks. Here’s my two pennies; cash ’em in for the currency of your choice. Drumroll..

An age restriction system works better when it leaks. When it is flawed. When 17 year-olds occasionally get served beer in pubs and get into 18 movies. Because if you’re a 17 year old in an environment that you’re not meant to be in, there’s at least a chance that you’ll shut up and keep a low profile. That you’ll hang back and see how things are done. If you know that if a particular bartender notices you you’ll get thrown out, you’ll avoid drawing too much attention to yourself. You’ll blend. You might even take it relatively easy on the booze intake. Your introduction to the adult world is gradual and subdued, since you know you don’t really belong there yet.

If, on the other hand, every age restriction works 100%, by the time a kid hits his 18th birthday he’s got a massive sense of entitlement backed up by absolutely no experience whatsoever of the environment that he’s entering. He walks in, flashes his newly minted ID, never learns any sort of bar etiquette, gets shitfaced and falls over or starts a fight. He knows that he won’t be ejected until he’s done something actively bad, and never learns the ropes because he doesn’t need to.

Movies work the same way. I fondly remember my first underage 15 at the cinema (Good Morning Vietnam) and my first underage 18 at the cinema (Misery). I sat in the darkness, terrified that the usher would suddenly click and think ‘Hey, that kid looked a bit young’, hunt me down in the darkness and throw me out. So I sat through the movies in silence, and.. Guess what? The habit stuck. I went from being a kid who yabbered in movies to being an adult who knew to shut the fuck up as soon as the certificate hit the screen. If I’d been robbed of that experience, if the first time I’d sat in an age-restricted movie I’d have been brimming with a sense of my entitlement to be there, maybe that process of growth would never have happened or been severely delayed.

Every time a supermarket increases the age at which you ‘might’ be ID’d, for the good of us all, it breaks my heart a bit. The woman who ID’d me for the wine was essentially arguing that maybe, just maybe, I might possibly be 25 and just have aged horribly badly. Her sign told her that if customers looked under 25 they must show ID to prove they were 18. Therefore a 33 year old has to prove that they’re not 17. Or a 55 year old has to spend her comedy night without a glass of wine. Madness. Not only that, but by boosting the ages of ‘forbidden fruit’ to 21 (as most States in the US have) they are introducing another element into the mix in the shape of cars. In the States, a kid might have been driving for 5 years by the time they get served in a bar. By that time they’re reliant on cars and unfamiliar with their alcohol limits; another recipe for disaster, especially in a country like the US where it’s hard enough to be a pedestrian in the first place.

I vote for a return to people using their judgement, and if the odd kid gets through a few months underage it might actually end up improving things in the long run.

Basically I just want teenagers to shut up in cinemas, and I’m willing to try anything.

My name’s Pat Higgins and my conscience is clear.

Post-Christmas Avatar Blues

Well, it was a nice Christmas and New Year. Highlights included Rage Against The Machine getting to the Christmas Number One (which was mainly fun because it demonstrated the very public breaking of a pre-determined narrative, and proved that we actually still have a say in popular culture) and the 3D overload that was Avatar.. I walked out of it feeling like I’d just seen something incredible, but the next day couldn’t quite shake the feeling that if I’d seen it in 2D on a small screen I’d have been mocking it quite a lot. If you haven’t seen it yet, *please* check it out on the big screen in 3D, if only so when you inevitably see it in a smaller, flatter, rather more flaccid form in the years to come you can feel a little bit embarrassed about just how much you liked it.

The Devil’s Music also finally came out on DVD, of course, which was great. From the feedback I’ve received so far, folks seem to be really digging the disc.

We’ve also been looking around for a decent screening venue for the cast and crew screening of Bordello Death Tales, prior to letting critics look at the sucker. I always feel that cast and crew should see a movie first.. The idea of a critic seeing a flick before one of the cast does just feels wrong somehow, but this screening has been a long time coming. Hopefully not much longer. The problem seems to be that all the venues are either too big or too small; there are a lot of screening rooms with 35-odd seats, there are a lot of cinemas with 300-odd, but there aren’t all that many with around 80.

And, of course, the writing continues. In an ideal world, we’d do another back-to-back shoot in the summer of 2011 the same way that we did in the summer of 2006, but I sadly can’t see the money coming together so I’ll have to flip a coin..