Over the past couple of years I've taken to introducing my step-daughters to movies that came out before their time. We've plowed through Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Groundhog Day, ¡Three Amigos!, Back to the Future, the original Star Wars trilogy, The Apple Dumpling Gang, Home Alone, Better Off Dead, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and more that I can't think of right now. Good fun.
Well, last night I introduced them to The Bad News Bears. The original, not the recent remake with Billy Bob Self Mutilation. The 1976 classic with Walter Matthau, Tatum O'Neal, Vic Morrow (some seven years before being killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie), and a bunch of kids you've never heard of.
It was rated PG, but that was before the PG-13 rating came out. I remembered quite vividly that there was some choice language, especially from the kid Tanner, but that it was of the "shit," "goddamn," "son-of-a-bitch" and "asshole" variety.
About 10 minutes into the movie, right after Matthau meets the team, Tanner says, "All we got on this team are a buncha Jews, spics, niggers, pansies, and a booger-eatin' moron!"
Um, yeah, didn't remember that one. My wife said, "Um, Jeff..." which translated to, "Hey, jackass, I thought you said this was appropriate!" I told her I didn't think anything like that was said again in the movie, and of course immediately after that a kid basically repeated what Tanner said. We kept watching, and the movie ended up being as silly and charming as I remembered, though the term "faggot" was also used a couple times.
Talk about being in a tough position as a parent. You can't just say "Times were different back then" and leave it at that. The idea that a little kid would say something like that, no matter what the time, is shocking. It was so shocking that it took the edge off that fact that the rebel kid, Kelly, rode a motorcycle and smoked cigarettes (he was maybe 12).
So I did what any good father would do and took a newspaper into the bathroom to let my wife explain.
Nah, that's a lie. We basically just told the girls that we were as shocked as they were. We also said that the good thing is that times have changed for the better, and that while there are unfortunately still people out there who think and talk that way, there aren't as many today as 30 years ago.
Today, that line would never make it into the movie. If it were in the original script, it would be removed during re-writes. If somehow it remained in the movie, the movie would be threatened with an "R" rating and the producers demand it be removed. It'd be different if the line was used as a step toward some sort of anti-bigotry message. But it was just simply there to be funny. Back then, it was funny, which makes me feel a little creepy. I know there are definitely people who would find it funny today, but that's a different matter of personal bigotry. In 1976, it was outward societal bigotry. Ick.
Tonight we're going to watch the original Love Bug. I think that one's safe.
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