The MPAA and The Two Nudities

By  · Published on October 12th, 2010

The MPAA, coming under heavy fire from the media recently that will never amount to anything or change their internal policies, has had a long-standing record of inequality in their ratings. The most graphic example has been doling out or threatening NC-17 ratings for sexuality on screen between same sex couples even if the scene is far tamer than the typical man on woman sex act.

In fact, looking back, it really is sex that has the MPAA’s knickers in a twist. Violence seems to get a pass alongside whatever Adult Situations are, but if someone is enjoying another person (or themselves) carnally, the MPAA picks up its ball and goes home.

Speaking of balls, the MPAA is now discriminating further in their fear of sex. It’s important to give parents a guideline, sure, but it’s overkill for the MPAA to point out whether the nudity in a film is male or female. Fortunately, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

There’s little more to be made of the argument from Brian Patrick Thornton over at Spangle, who did the digging and came up with the statistics that 786 movies have “been flagged for nudity since 2006” and 3 of them, all this year, have gotten the male nudity stamp of disapproval: Grown Ups, Eat Pray Love, and now Jackass 3D.

The MPAA’s response was going on the vague defense – citing that it was an overwhelming response from parents who couldn’t understand the “crude sexual content and graphic nudity” of Borat and needed something even more specific. Thus, they changed their policy. With that as the case, it seems clear that the MPAA still isn’t doing enough and should replace the banal “Male Nudity” message with “Varying sizes of floppy, dirty dicks flopping all over the screen and coming right at your face in floppy 3D.”

Let’s lobby for it immediately.

There’s nothing revolutionary going on here, especially for an organization that doesn’t understand its own job. Plus, ratings have gotten more detailed around the board. However, singling out male nudity as if it has any substantive difference from female nudity is moronic. It’s not harmful, not dangerous. Just moronic. It displays the susceptibility to stupidity, knee-jerk reactions, and rumor as fact that the MPAA has always tucked in their back pocket or waved as a victory flag.

Thornton points out the slippery slope, evoking the phrase “Rated R for male nudity, language and homosexuality,” while pointing out that it hasn’t happened yet. From my point of view, I’d rather see the MPAA print something like this. At least they’d be showing their hands instead of doing backroom deals for films like But I’m a Cheerleader which absolutely, positively don’t deserve the harsh microscope they were put under simply because the love shown on screen was between a same sex couple (or in Cheerleader’s case, because the girl’s unseen masturbation was ostensibly due to a fantasy about, gasp, another girl).* We all know the MPAA is thinking it. They might as well come out and say it so the outrage can truly begin.

This isn’t quite the nightmare scenario or slippery slope that Thornton is concerned about, but at some level, a re-evaluation of the MPAA needs to happen. Housecleaning. A senior official that has the power to should go in and audit the program and cut the fat. The organization’s job is to provide a level-headed guide to what content might not be suitable for children, but more and more it feels like they’re doing far more than that. Anything above and beyond needs to be excised like a cyst.

Oh, and if you were one of the parents who was dumb enough to take your child to Borat despite the words “Crude” “Sexual” “Graphic” and “Nudity” right there in the warning, it’s your own fault, and you should be man or woman enough to shoulder that blame instead of pointing fingers at the MPAA for using words bigger than you can understand.

I’d be more up in arms if this were something truly offensive, but at the end of the day, all it really does is help out hormonal teenagers who, in the past, would have sneaked in to see Forgetting Sarah Marshall because of the nudity only to be disappointed by 1) a shockingly un-naked Kristen Bell and 2) Jason Segal’s penis right there in all its glory. MPAA, you’re making their job to seek out which nudity they want to sneak into too easy.

And that’s the real travesty.

* To further digress down here, that means exactly what you think it means: the MPAA slapped the dreaded NC-17 on a movie for what a character was thinking about and not what the character was doing. This happened in the same year that American Pie earned an R rating for showing a dude shoving his member into a baked good and a topless female student masturbating to female pornography.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.