The new movie Bad Moms is a sort of super-group comedy about a band of mothers who just want to let loose a little. Starring Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, and Kristen Bell (among others), it seems engineered to draw in real-life mothers who just want a night away from the kids.
But two Florida mothers were refused entry to the movie — at a 7:45 p.m. showing — because they had their still-breast-feeding infants in their arms. The mothers were part of a group of 50 women who had organized a group outing on Facebook. They say that while everyone else was buying their tickets, an employee told them the babies were too young to enter the theater. The women decided to sneak in with their sleeping babies anyway, and were later kicked out.
Regal Cinemas, which owns the theater, has the law on its side here. Florida law protects mothers who need or want to breast-feed in public, but a movie theater isn’t public. And while most theaters use a ratings system that means anyone under the age of 17 must be accompanied by a parent to see an R-rated movie, Regal has decreed that no one under the age of 6 is allowed to see shows after 7 p.m., parent or no parent. That’s why Regal’s CEO Amy Miles can go on record as saying that in order to provide the “best moviegoing experience” for patrons, they sometimes “limit the number” of children in R movies.
Fair enough, but the problem here is a lot bigger than two moms trying to see one movie. One of the mothers herself conceded to USA Today that the theater has “the right” to have their rules, and breast-feeding mothers aren’t in a special class legally where discrimination can be at issue. But the broad application of the age restriction for R-rated movies in this case is evidence of a serious misunderstanding about how very young babies operate.
We restrict children from viewing movies for adults mostly because we believe that violent, emotionally stressful, or sexual content isn’t appropriate for them. But as someone who watched several seasons of The Walking Dead while my newborn daughter slept (or didn’t) in my arms, I can tell you, as can millions of other mothers, that there’s a short window early in the life of a child where they don’t ingest content in the way that even an 8- or 9-month-old baby does. An infant is simply unaware of “motion pictures” as a concept, and so the manager’s misguided attempt at protecting the child from seeing Bad Moms because of the content of it is absurd.
It’s fair that the theater doesn’t want rowdy kids to disturb the other patrons. It’s perhaps less fair, if comprehensible, that the theater doesn’t trust the breast-feeding mother of an infant to get up and leave if her baby starts crying. But the blanket “no kids under 6” rule really demonstrates how little companies value — or even seek to understand — the realities of parenthood.