“the MPAA is basically supervising the vulgarization of America by hoisting all this violence on us with its approval of the R-rating while at the same time restricting any mature or thought provoking look at sexuality”
The Motion Picture Association of America is a self-governing organization in charge of supervising what the people of America see in theatres. While it cannot ban a film from the public outright as the organization is not government run, it still has the ability to restrict the mainstream viewing of a film.
As we saw with last week’s outrageous decision to give Blue Valentine an NC-17 rating, the MPAA is not looking out for the best interests of American filmgoers but rather what makes its members personally uncomfortable.
Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is a bleak, realistic look at the highs and lows of a relationship, starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. It may seem strange that a film which features basically no nudity or violence would receive the feared NC-17 rating, however, anyone acquainted with the MPAA’s seemingly nonsensical decision making it should not be surprised.
The scene to which the MPAA objected was one in which the married couple, played by Gosling and Williams, spends a drunken night in a hotel in an ultimately futile attempt to save their marriage. In the scene, Gosling’s character pushes for sex and Williams’ character gives in. While sad and disturbing, the scene is also a realistic look at a failing marriage. In no way does it deserve this radical rating which will keep the film from wide distribution. Not surprisingly, the Weinstein Company is lawyering up in hopes of changing the MPAA’s decision.
The problem is not with an R-rating as that usually means no major change in box-office intake, but rather the issue is with the NC-17 rating. When a film receives an NC-17 rating it usually means no major theatres will run the film, cutting the audience to a fraction of what it could have been.
While the films that it targets usually do not feature anything more graphic than most teen comedies, it is the way they tackle the topic of sexuality that gets them in trouble. In 2001, Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien had to be released unrated due to it receiving an NC-17 rating. This also greatly reduces potential distribution.
Cuaron’s film follows two teenagers as they take a road trip with an older woman and explores the realistic sexual discovery that teenagers face. The MPAA took great offence from a film which is actually beneficial to a teenager’s growth yet has had no problems putting its stamp of approval on the hyperbolic bloodbath that is Zack Snyder’s 300.
Similarly, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers received an NC-17 rating for its frank depiction of sex and sexuality. These films should not be any more shocking than any R-rated film but due to the conditioning that the MPAA has created by allowing extreme violence to become normal and realistic sex to be demonized, these images seem shocking.
We can be grateful that the MPAA does not have the ability to ban a film, yet their ability to stop a film from being widely seen is just as damaging. Some guidance is needed but the MPAA has proven it is as useful as a movie usher without a flashlight.