The MPAA's 'ludicrous' rating system

The contested NC-17 rating for "Blue Valentine" is just the latest sign that film ratings are in desperate need of reform, says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon

Is "Blue Valentine" unusually explicit or just a random casualty of the movie ratings system?
(Image credit: Davi Russo/ The Weinstein Company)

It's a big day for Blue Valentine, a once-obscure indie movie about a turbulent marriage starring Oscar-nominated actors Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. Last month, the movie received an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), a controversial ruling that's been called "misogynistic" and "hypocritical." Harvey Weinstein, the head of the company releasing the film, has made a highly publicized, "bleeding heart" plea that the MPAA reconsider, and they're expected to rule on the matter today. But, Blue Valentine is far from alone in its MPAA troubles. It's simply the "latest drama to face an MPAA death sentence," says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon. Although the film rating system has somehow endured for 20 years, it's "ludicrous" and "worthless." Here an excerpt:

The NC-17 — or really, threat of it — exists mainly to spook filmmakers into trimming a blurred glimpse of penis so that the studios won't lose those lucrative teen dollars and shut themselves out of contention for major awards. Its latest hapless would-be victim is Blue Valentine, the Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams romantic drama that's been generating breathless buzz since it debuted at Sundance last winter. Two Oscar-nominated stars, promising young writer director Derek Cianfrance, an angsty-sexy tale of marital discord — it all seemed like art-house money in the bank. Then the MPAA slapped it with its scarlet letters, supposedly based on a few moments of Gosling's character performing some anguished cunnilingus on his wife, a scene that doesn't even depict nudity. Unclean!

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us