In the year 2006, British comedian Sascha Baron Cohen brought the character Borat from the HBO series Da Ali G Show to movie theaters. The film was subsequently ruined by overzealous frat boys walking around drunkenly quoting the film, but it was a fearless (and quite hilarious) look at how ass-backwards this country is when it comes to many topics, with racism taking the forefront.
Now Cohen has turned to the last of his characters to make it to the big screen (though no one really remembers Ali G In Da House). Bruno (a film in the same mockumentary style, but from the perspective of a gay Austrian fashion icon) is set for release on July 10th of this year and it has already caused a controversy. As first reported on the news and blog site The Daily Beast, Bruno has received a rating of NC-17 from the Motion Picture Association of America, the same people who told my parents not to let me see the South Park movie when I was thirteen.
Briefly, for those who are unfamiliar with the MPAA, they're a volunteer group of people who sit in a room, watch movies a couple of months before its release, then decide whether it should be rated G, PG, PG-13, or R. However, every once in a while, a film surpasses those ratings and winds up with an NC-17, meaning no children under seventeen are allowed into the theater. Period. Even if their college-aged cousin is with them. The big deal here is that when a film receives that rating, it becomes an uphill battle for the film to actually make money. A quick comparison: the highest grossing film with an NC-17 rating is campfest Showgirls, which made $20.3 million. The highest grossing R-rated film of all time is Biblical snuff film The Passion of the Christ, which made $370.8 million.
Bruno has received this rating in regards to its supposed graphic sexual content. From the original post on The Daily Beast (beware mild spoilers):
Among the objectionable scenes is one in which two naked men attempt oral sex in a hot tub, while one of them holds a baby. In another, Bruno—a gay Austrian fashionista played by Baron Cohen—appears to have anal sex with a man on camera. In another, the actor goes on a hunting trip and sneaks naked into the tent of one of the fellow hunters, an unsuspecting non-actor.Knowing Cohen's style of comedy, I can't imagine any of those scenes go on for more than a few moments for fear of being exploitative, but this isn't the first time the MPAA has forced a film to cut some of its content to receive an R-rating. But that's been well documented already, so I won't get into that.
What I will get into, however, is the MPAA's willingness to automatically comdemn anything more graphic than a gay kiss in a film. The 2005 film Bad Education by Spanish auteur Pedro Almadóvar, in which male actor Gael García Bernal plays multiple roles, one of whom is a woman who performs oral sex on a man. The scene lasts a whole two seconds and yet the film was rated NC-17 for "a scene of explicit sexual content."
But heterosexual oral sex? A-okay, evidently.
As for the anal sex scene, clearly when a man does it to a woman--or even when a woman does it to a man--for some reason, it's not a problem. Keep in mind the latter example did not have to cut a single scene to get down from NC-17 to R. They simply appealed the rating.
So we've gotten over the fact that Milk notwithstanding, gay sex is largely taboo to the MPAA, the members of which to this day remains a secret (to be fair, Milk wasn't exactly graphic either). So you would figure a group as staunch and as moral as that would certainly disapprove of a horror film with a prolonged rape and torture sequence that was a remake of a film infamous for the same thing, right? Guess not.
Can someone tell me in what world is it okay for three degenerates to brutalize and rape two teenage girls for ten minutes straight (and eventually kill one of them), but two men having sex on camera for a fraction of that time just goes too darn far? A friend of mine tried to argue that the scene was done in such a way as to make the villains more villainous. Sorry, but it's just exploitative and mean-spirited. Plain and simple.
The MPAA has a longstanding issue with letting countless horror, action, and just about every other genre of films that depict brutal violence against women get away without a scratch, while simultaneously condemning films based on homosexual content, or even excessive female nudity.
Knee-jerk reaction on my part? No. As someone who follows the film industry like my life depended on it (if I had a life, that is), this is just another infuriating entry on the long list of things the MPAA has done that causes me more stress than it should. Eventually, homosexuality will become such a common thing (let's give it twenty years) that these kinds of things probably won't matter much in the future. But in a world where violence against women is so commonplace in itself, I get the feeling we're going to be seeing plenty of films like The Last House on the Left in that same future come out highly recommended by the people I work with and the idiot at the movie theater who tried to convince me to see that instead of Sunshine Cleaning.
So until the MPAA pulls its collective head out of its ass, expect more of these entries from me as more situations like this arise, as well as me pointing out hipocrisy on how women are treated in film and the industry itself in general. And I encourage you to check out the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated for more examples along the same lines. An interesting note, the film was ironically rated NC-17 because it featured scenes from other films with the same rating. Go figure.
It's good to be back posting here. I hope to contribute on a weekly basis, and I'll be focusing mainly on the entertainment industry and other medias, but I'll veer off into other territories if I discover something appropriate for this blog. Either way, thanks to Amelia and Katie and the other bloggers for having me back and you'll be hearing from me very soon!