Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, November 04, 2007


It is old news that the MPAA ratings board restricts sex more than violence. Like many fans, I was displeased that Ang Lee's outstanding new film Lust, Caution was rated NC-17. Until this past weekend, however, I had believed the best way to right the imbalance was to lower the rating of films whose sole "offense" was sex and nudity.

Then I watched Saw IV.

I had a visceral reaction to the film--I could barely watch the screen. I should have walked out, but I was with friends who were not similarly affected, and I did not recognize that the film would continue to affect me long after I left the theater. For the first time in my life, I was actually nauseated by sounds and images I could not get out of my head... When I finally got home, I cried and vomited. Really.

It astonishes me that a movie could distress me so much. But now I believe there are sound psychological and medical reasons why certain films should carry warnings. I see now why children should be protected from certain content--if only to err on the side of caution--because unlike adults, children might not think to walk out.

My experience this weekend changed my perceptions, and now I feel the best way to right the imbalance is to raise the ratings of certain films. Because some content is capable of hurting the viewer. And Saw IV damn well should have been rated NC-17.


Dr. Strangelove said...

For those who enjoy horror movies, let me add that the Saw series is actually quite well done. The plot is interesting, the traps are clever. I've seen I and IV. The first movie obviously did not affect me this badly, in part because I did not see it in the theater. It was gross and scary but no more than I expected. This movie went a step beyond. So if you really like that kind of stuff, you will love this movie. But if you find it goes to far, then I recommend you learn from my mistake and step outside. It's only 95 minutes long, so you won't have to wait long for it to end.

Anonymous said...

I find it galling that a movie can be chock-full of the most horrifying, gratuitous violence and get an R, while a movie with a few naked consenting adults (especially male and/or gay adults) gets an NC-17.

While I'm not an expert on horror films, I'm quite familiar with the genre of I what like to call "racy foreign cinema." While seeing "Indochine" at 16 with my father was probably not the most psychologically sound move either of us ever made, I think I can say with a straight face that movies like "Lust, Caution," "Belle du Jour" and "The Lover" contain more redeeming material than any installment of the "Hostel" series. But somehow, the MPAA, as guardians of our moral virtue, believe it is better for American kids to see someone dismembered by a chainsaw than see anybody without clothes on.

If I ran the MPAA, I'd scrap the current rating system altogether and switch to something similar to the current TV ratings. While the TV ratings do exhibit many of the same problems, at least there is some specificity as to the objectionable material.

While raising the ratings for some movies might be a good idea, I think the rating system is far too flawed to provide any help to the moviegoing public.

-Seventh Sister

Bob said...

I don't see any conflict with having your sexy cake and eating it too.

I'm ALL for raising the bar on violence (particularly gross, psychological shock type violence) and simultaneously lowering the bar on sexual content.

What's the argument for protecting our children from sexuality, regardless of their parents' opinion, that doesn't carry more weight in regard to violence?

It seems to me that _some_ of the populace thinks we shouldn't all be running around screwing each other. Surely far _more_ of the country thinks we shouldn't all be running around torturing each other. Doesn't that make those images more offensive?

Pombat said...

I don't watch horror films. I just can't stand them, and I know they'd stay with me in just the way you're talking about Dr S. Reading the plot of Saw I was enough to make me put it firmly on the 'never watch' list, and I have no doubt that they've gotten even worse. I also read the plot of Wolf Creek (all courtesy of, and reacted badly enough to just the written words to avoid it like the plague.

Seven I did watch, must admit I 'enjoyed' (not the right word, obviously, but it was a well-made film that I didn't regret seeing), but even now, about a decade later, I can perfectly visualise certain horrible scenes (the Lust death in particular), and recall the psychological impact of the film.

In contrast, I believe any film that contains realistic sex/love scenes should be encouraged - they're so often beautifully artistic, capturing the love that's being portrayed, and in my view entirely inoffensive - something everyone should be watching and appreciating in fact. Especially when compared to vicious, unjustifiable, sadistic torture.

Sexuality is an intrinsic part of human nature, one that we should all be able to embrace and be happy with, and especially one which we should make sure our children are aware of, and grow up comfortable with. I guess all we can do for the people who are against it is pity them, which is such a horrible shame.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Violent acts per se do not disturb me alll that much (e.g., firing a machine gun into a crowd on TV). What I abhor above all is cruelty. Those who have had this discussion with me realize that the primary reason I support the death penalty in limited cases is because I believe that some crimes of cruelty and torture are so extreme that civilized society must respond with the ultimate sanction. I disapprove of the 'eye-for-an-eye' approach that would give the death penalty to any murder. I think the Hannibal Lecter movies are advertisements for the death penalty - repeated murder and unspeakable cruelty. This is why I could not stand the movie Seven. It gave me nightmares for weeks, and only over the past couple years have I begun to be able to think about the movie without shuddering. I think its cheapening of extreme cruelty and torture is sick. I also could not stand "like water for chocolate" for the same reason - it ws a movie, to me, about psychological torture.

This, of course, influences my belief that the current administration's belief that it can exercise cruelty (whether they call it torture) to extract information is a sick war crime.

I also believe that the sex acts displayed in Lust, Caution (that I just saw) are justifiably withheld from anyone under the age of 14 or so. The violence/sex thing is not "either or." I firmly agree, though, that we go overboard on censoring sex and seem to do nothing whatever to censor cruelty and torture.