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Expletives, violence, sex _ and kids

(ran V, SS editions of METRO & STATE)

John Kelly made a deal with his 9-year-old son: If he took him to see Eminem's movie, 8 Mile, the boy would have to close his eyes during sex scenes.

He was also escorting three 13-year-old boys _ his other son and two friends _ to the R-rated movie last week at a multiplex in suburban Randolph, Mass. "I'm a little embarrassed to admit it," Kelly said, laughing.

Here's how he rationalized taking the boys to the movie, which is rated R, meaning anyone under 17 must be accompanied by an adult: "You can't shelter kids from language these days. They hear worse on the school bus."

The opening credits weren't even over when the first F-word sputtered from the screen. The second and third ones quickly followed, and from then on, the expletives flew furious and fast. There were a couple of violent, bloody scenes, and one graphic sex scene. The movie is raw and gritty, a portrait of a rap artist as a young man.

Adults who would normally never set foot inside a theater featuring Eminem are taking their underage children to see 8 Mile, which was the nation's top movie in its first weekend and second to the new Harry Potter last weekend. Ironically, the kids whose music purchases sent the movie's soundtrack to the top of the Billboard charts aren't allowed to see the film without a parent or guardian.

What's a parent to do? Some are saying no way. Others are saying you can go, but you're stuck sitting with me. Many said that their kids see worse on the TV news and hear worse in the schoolyard.

As for theaters, "We're enforcing the rating," said Jennifer Hanson, a spokeswoman for theater chain National Amusements. "We recognize that this is a popular film, especially with the younger set."

Although she had misgivings, Lisa Lyons took her 11-year-old daughter, Erica, to see the movie, deciding there were lessons to be learned. After the movie was over and the others had filed out, Lyons sat there with Erica, talking.

First, about the language and violence. "What was okay about it was that it showed the real-life situation of how some people live," Lyons said. And about that sex scene between Eminem and a woman he has just met? "That's a portrayal of what a slut is," she said. "You don't give yourself away that freely." (For the record, Erica shielded her eyes during that scene.)

Last, about the film's message: "It's hard for Eminem to be part of a group and to leave his buddies at the end, to go back to work and to earn money to get some studio time," Lyons said. "I liked that."

Lyons said she was queasy over the sex scene but decided it wasn't as graphic as Saturday Night Fever, which she had begged to see when she was her daughter's age. "That had a lot more sex than this," she said. "My mother was having a heart attack over that." (She did let Lyons see it.)

Though some of her daughter's friends are not allowed to see 8 Mile, Lyons believes that "you don't teach values by censoring." But she doesn't think it's okay to take your child to 8 Mile without talking about it.

Child psychiatrist Ned Hallowell has a 13-year-old daughter who is begging to see the movie. But he won't take her.

"Unless there is a powerful reason to ignore the R rating, I think parents should abide by it," he said. "What harm do these movies do? They overstimulate. They overexpose. They take what ought to be shocking and make it mundane too soon. They turn kids into jaded, seen-it-all adults way before their time."

Clementine Parkman, 60, was there with her two grandchildren, ages 12 and 13. "I don't have a problem with it," she said before the movie. "If you listen to the radio or ride the train and bus, you hear everything."

During the film, Parkman chuckled and tapped her foot to the beat. But during the sex scene, she leaned over and said to her grandchildren, "Okay, y'all close your eyes now." Afterward, she said she found some of the movie funny but was not crazy about the language.

Next to her, Carol Nelson sat with her 10-year-old son, Michael. "My son wanted to see it, so I decided to give this a chance," she said. Her concerns beforehand: "that his language isn't appalling and that he treats his mother fairly."

Her judgment after? "I think they did a pretty good job," she said. "I think the setting was excellent." And the bad language? "It's just the reality of their lives." His lousy relationship with his mother? "It was better than I expected."