The 80s R

So I watched American Ninja last week for several reasons: It has recently become available on Amazon Prime, and I wondered if it would be something I could watch with my boys who are not yet teenagers. I watched it on Showtime when we lived in the trailer park, many times because there’s not much to do in a rural trailer park, and I would have been only a year or two older than the oldest is now (because we moved into the trailer park one month before my thirteenth birthday because the trailer park would not let families with teenagers move into the park).

Wait a minute, Brian J. you say. Wasn’t the reason you watched American Ninja Judie Aronson? “Shut up, Ted,” is my reply. One of the reasons, surely, but not the only reason.

But American Ninja is rated R. So I hesitate to show it to my children because they’re sensitive, or I like to think they’re sensitive, young people protected from screen violence. I’m watching American Ninja, trying to gauge the violence and swearing, and it’s not so bad.

I especially call it not so bad because I followed American Ninja with Kick-Ass, which is also rated R. Which made the difference between an 80s R and a 2010 R very stark.

Take a look at the violence in the final fight in American Ninja:

Now, take a look at the first big fight with the diminutive Hit Girl in Kick-Ass:

American Ninja has violence, but it looks more and more like the 50s Westerns where a gunshot causes the bad guy to clutch his stomach and fall down. Kick-Ass, on the other hand, has dismemberment, splatter, someone set on fire, and a guy getting microwaved until he explodes. American Ninja has soldiers and bad guys swearing in context, while Kick-Ass has an 11-year-old girl with quite a potty mouth at every opportunity (which, sadly, might be the linguistic landscape in the twenty-first century).

But, jeez, an R rating changes across movie eras, ainna? It’s clearly not an absolute guide to sex, violence, and swearing in a film, but a relative measure of how much a movie contains relative to other movies released contemporaneously.

I suppose that’s clear to any thinking person, but I got the proper visceral (literally figuratively) reaction with the juxtaposition of these two films.