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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

don’t even ask what “paternal nudity” might be…

Crazy MPAA ratings are so much fun! Have you seen the warnings regarding Babies? It’s rated PG

for cultural and maternal nudity throughout

Trying to parse this is a blast. I suppose it means that all the naked boobs are not meant to titillate but merely to provide nourishment to all the babies, but that if you’re so demure that you blush even at the mention of chicken breast on a restaurant menu, you need to be aware that this movie will force you to look at women’s bodies that aren’t covered up to the degree you would like. Which means, of course, that the rating is designed to acknowledge that some people cannot see women as anything other than sexual objects.

The babies are naked through much of the movie, too. Shouldn’t we get a warning about that? Or does that come under “cultural” nudity?

This has been your WTF Thought for the Day.



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  • You don’t think this might be informational for parents who want to take kids to see it?

  • MaryAnn

    You think children shouldn’t see naked human bodies?

  • LaSargenta

    My kid sees my naked body a whole lot. And, pretty much the first thing he saw was my naked tit as babies come out primed to suckle and feed. He was (as I recall) pretty happy to latch on. I mean, my amniotic fluid must have been delicious, but I can imagine him thinking towards the end “Man, I could really use a meal!”

  • MaryAnn (Mon May 10 10, 3:31PM):

    You think children shouldn’t see naked human bodies?

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, MaryAnn… should they have just said “nudity” and not “cultural and maternal”? Would that have upset you more or less? Should the film be rated “G”?

    We all know the ratings system sucks; it’s lame, irrelevant, and it makes no sense. Are you just noticing this now? And, listen: indeed there are retards out there who blush at a little nip slip, let alone fully exposed boobage. Why else do mothers have to cover themselves while breastfeeding outside Sound Warehouse near the food court?

    I say bring on the nudity!

    But I’m not sure what you’re saying. Down with the MPAA’s voluntary informational ratings system? Up with public exposure?

    PS: Should I have called it boobage up there? I’m not sure!

  • LaSargenta

    You don’t think this might be informational for parents who want to take kids to see it?

    Informational, sure. But, these Parental Guildline things with the MPAA are really intended — no matter what nice phraseology they use — as warnings. So, the implication is that what is being warned about is ‘bad’ for some value of ‘bad’.

    I’m pretty offended as a general rule that so-called maternal nudity and breastfeeding is ‘bad’ in anyone’s worldview. Babies generally come out through the vagina and feed from the breasts. Anything else is not ordinary. Not that there might not be good reasons for a baby to be born/feed by the unusual method(s), but there shouldn’t be any pejorative pall cast over the Normal.

  • LaSargenta

    Should the film be rated “G”?

    Absolutely.

  • Oh come on! When I go to a movie, I like to be warned what to expect. In my case, I especially appreciate a heads-up about graphic violence. That’s partly how I decide to attend. In this case, may I suggest that the sub-text of the warning is not “OMG! OMG! OMG! Naked mothers! Cultures that are okay with this!”, but, “Okay, there’s nudity but we’re looking at births, breast-feeding and cultures where nudity is the norm.” If they’d just said “nudity”, some idjits might go expecting to see babes (the grown-up variety), and some well-meaning but perhaps not swift people might also stay away for the same reason. I think you’re being way too hard on the poor slobs who have to do this thankless job. Imagine the nonsense they have to deal with on a daily basis from offended and outraged people.

  • I always look away when a woman is breast feeding. It’s not my place to look. I don’t disapprove of it, I know people have medical reasoning behind it, but it’s not something I should be looking at. It’s a violation of her privacy.

    So then there is showing it in a movie theater. Logically I know that if a woman is breast feeding in a movie, she is fully aware of, and paid for, people watching, but I’ve already trained myself to not look. Quandry, quandry, and thanks for the low down.

  • MaryAnn

    And, listen: indeed there are retards out there who blush at a little nip slip, let alone fully exposed boobage.

    And we should smack those people — figuratively, of course — not indulge their childishness.

    But I’m not sure what you’re saying. Down with the MPAA’s voluntary informational ratings system? Up with public exposure?

    I’m saying down with people who think that “maternal nudity” is something we have to be “warned” about.

    And no, I’m not just discovering this. I’ve been bitiching about the MPAA — and about the bizarre attitudes of our culture toward cinematic sex and violence — since I’ve been writing about film.

  • Lynn

    All this just shows how MPAA ratings mix up nudity and sex. Sex is a pretty easily identifiable activity, with lots of well-known sub-categories, that syncs up logically with “R” and above. Nudity is just a state of being that clearly can happily coexist with a “G” rating.

  • Anne-Kari

    I always look away when a woman is breast feeding. It’s not my place to look. I don’t disapprove of it, I know people have medical reasoning behind it, but it’s not something I should be looking at. It’s a violation of her privacy.

    Huh. OK, I do appreciate that you wouldn’t openly stare at my boobies while I was nursing. But I think I speak for many women when I say that if I’m nursing in public, I’m not going to feel like my privacy is being violated by someone seeing part of my breast. Were I in fact nursing in private and someone tried to sneak a look, that might feel like a violation.

    I guess this is my long-winded way of saying that it’s really my call whether or not my privacy is being violated, but that if looking at a nursing mom makes you feel uncomfortable, then by all means avert your eyes.

    You think children shouldn’t see naked human bodies?

    MAJ, you’d be amazed how many people think just that. In fact, you’d be amazed at how many people also think that adults should not be subjected to the sight of a naked BABY.

    When my son was a little over a year, I got yelled at by another mom for allowing to play in the sprinkler nekkid on a hot August day. One year old naked baby! Heavens, the immorality of it!

  • or cultural and maternal nudity throughout

    This is obviously one of those instances in which most intelligent people realize what the MPAA meant to say but can’t help wishing they had expressed it better. After all, had the filmmaker chosen to make a documentary about a group of single mothers who worked as strippers, wouldn’t that, too, count as “maternal nudity”? And wouldn’t that also describe Demi Moore’s famous/infamous Vanity Fair cover as well?

    And yes, Paul, one would think that staring at a nursing mother would be right up with staring at a partially clad accident victim as one of the great no-nos that any self-respecting lady or gentleman just doesn’t do. Anyone who needs to have this explained to him or her had better be either very young or else mentally disabled because otherwise, they just won’t get much sympathy from me.

  • LaSargenta

    STARING…as one of the great no-nos that any self-respecting lady or gentleman just doesn’t do.

    I’d like to point out that from my education (and it was filled with Emily Post!) it is the staring that really is the problem. The state of the individual being stared at is irrelevant.

  • I meant exactly what I said. That it was informational. And just because the MPAA labels it in the rating doesn’t mean they find it objectionable, necessarily — they did, after all, give it a family-friendly PG rating.

    There are people who would find it objectionable for many reasons. Some reasons are more legit than others. Some people don’t even necessarily find anything they read in the ratings box objectionable, and just want to know what they might see beforehand (like, say, a teacher in the future considering showing this documentary to their students). In any case, I think, at the absolute most, labeling “maternal nudity” in the description of a PG-rated documentary, would have to qualify as the least-relevant “support” of anyone’s agenda ever.

  • MaryAnn

    There are people who would find it objectionable for many reasons. Some reasons are more legit than others. Some people don’t even necessarily find anything they read in the ratings box objectionable, and just want to know what they might see beforehand

    But that’s totally disingenuous, because what the MPAA chooses to call out absolutely reflects an attitude that some things are more acceptable for children to see on film than others. If I had a child and wanted to know whether a film depicted casual rampant misogyny, which I would prefer any child of mine not be exposed to at an impressionable age, I could not learn that from MPAA ratings. If I think nonsexual nudity is more acceptable than cartoon violence, I will not find that reflected in the MPAA’s ratings.

    If I think that *Babies* should be rated G, clearly I will not find that reflected in the MPAA’s ratings. If that’s an “agenda,” then why isn’t the MPAA’s apparent belief that violence is more suitable for children than even nonsexual nudity — never mind consensual sex! — an “agenda,” too?

  • MaryAnn

    I think you’re being way too hard on the poor slobs who have to do this thankless job.

    The MPAA operates in almost total secrecy. We have no idea if the people who rate movies are “poor slobs” — I doubt they are — and if they’d like to be thanked, they only have to identify themselves publicly.

  • Well, Mary Ann, all I have to go on is the Canadian rating system (yes, we have a different one from the States) and not too long ago, there was a news documentary on one of the raters, a soft-spoken, articulate woman who found that the worst part of her job was being forced to watch graphically sexual and/or really violent movies. She didn’t whine about this and she wasn’t a prude by anyone’s standards; she saw her job as challenging and necessary. Perhaps in the States, movie-raters need anonymity for their own protection?

    I think Tyler’s latest comment is right on the money. In this case, the raters are trying to deliver information — and they have to do this in as few words as possible. Ideally, we all should check a few reviews first, but not all people do that, and some may be making their mind up in front of the marquee.

  • After thinking a bit, I looked up Babies at the Ontario Film Review Board. (Film rating is a provincial responsibility up here.) Rating: G
    – Non-sexual nudity with no close-ups
    – Restrained portrayals of limited violence

    I guess we get more details…

  • bronxbee

    Restrained portrayals of limited violence

    i ask merely out of curiosity… what kind of violence would that be referring to? do they mean the violence of birth? or sibling to sibling violence? or the occasional swat on the behind?

  • CB

    i ask merely out of curiosity… what kind of violence would that be referring to? do they mean the violence of birth? or sibling to sibling violence? or the occasional swat on the behind?

    Underground baby pit fighting circuit.

    But the movie maintains a restrained, tasteful distance from the actual pit fights, and because they’re babies, the violence is limited.

  • If I had a child and wanted to know whether a film depicted casual rampant misogyny, which I would prefer any child of mine not be exposed to at an impressionable age, I could not learn that from MPAA ratings. If I think nonsexual nudity is more acceptable than cartoon violence, I will not find that reflected in the MPAA’s ratings.

    Unfortunately, what each person considers misogynistic (like, say, romantic comedies) is going to be subjective. As for the second point, even if you don’t agree with the MPAA’s criteria for giving a rating, it still tells you that the reason they rated it is because of “maternal nudity”, which is acceptable to you. As long as the MPAA accurately gives the reasoning they rated a movie a rating, it is still useful whether you disagree with their choices or not.

    In any case, personally, I just see “maternal” as a purely descriptive tag, and I think that’s fine, because again, even if you disagree, some parents might want to know it’s “maternal”, as a documentary about babies could theoretically show or contain more sexual material, no (even if it’s still for an educational reason)? Maybe I’m wrong, but to me, it’s not any more loaded than Shaun of the Dead being rated R for “zombie violence” vs. “violence”.

  • Mimi

    Just wanted to applaud three supremely smart things said by

    AnneKari:

    Huh. OK, I do appreciate that you wouldn’t openly stare at my boobies while I was nursing. But I think I speak for many women when I say that if I’m nursing in public, I’m not going to feel like my privacy is being violated by someone seeing part of my breast.

    and LaSargenta:

    I’d like to point out that from my education (and it was filled with Emily Post!) it is the staring that really is the problem. The state of the individual being stared at is irrelevant.

    and MaryAnn:

    But that’s totally disingenuous, because if I had a child and wanted to know whether a film depicted casual rampant misogyny, which I would prefer any child of mine not be exposed to at an impressionable age, I could not learn that from MPAA ratings. If I think nonsexual nudity is more acceptable than cartoon violence, I will not find that reflected in the MPAA’s ratings.

    All three of those made me go, “Yeah!! Exactly!!” (I keep coming into these conversations and finding everyone’s made my point already. That’s because I’m spending more time breastfeeding my infant these days than catching up on my RSS reader. Feel free to converse with and look at me as you normally would while I’m doing that, by the way — engaging in “maternal nudity.” Slackjawed gaping is discouraged no matter what my breasts are up to…)

  • Owen1120

    In

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