a remarkably reasonable statement on ‘Shame’s NC-17 rating

Shame poster

You’ve probably heard by now that the Steve McQueen film Shame, in which Michael Fassbender plays a sex addict, has received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA. The film has received a UK rating 18 by the BBFC, which is the functional equivalent of NC-17 yet has managed to escape the ridiculous stigma attached to the U.S. rating.

But maybe the stigma is starting to disappear. I was heartened to read this recently, via Reuters:

The film was rated NC-17 by the Motion Picture Assn. of America, just as distributor Fox Searchlight knew it would be when they picked it up this fall. But the studio is launching a full awards campaign and hoping to give the essentially moribund rating a shot of life — something that needs to be done, National Assn. of Theater Owners president John Fithian told TheWrap after the AFI screening.

“It would have destroyed this film to cut it down to an R rating,” said Fithian. “Too many filmmakers and too many studios do that, and I applaud Steve McQueen and Fox Searchlight for sticking to their guns.

“This is the kind of film that the NC-17 is designed for, and I think we need more bold filmmakers and distributors to make content appropriate for the rating and release it that way.”


Fithian goes on to note some myths about the NC-17 rating:

The first myth, he said, is that theaters will not play movies with the rating.

“That’s just not true,” he said. “We’ve surveyed 100 of our members, and three of them said they would never play NC17s, just as a personal choice. So that myth is 97 percent false.

“And the other myth is that you can’t advertise movies that are rated NC-17. That’s wrong, too. Fox Searchlight released a Bertolucci picture a while back called ‘The Dreamers,’ and Steve Gilula says they got it played where they wanted to get it played. In terms of advertising, one newspaper in Utah wouldn’t take advertising for NC-17, and that was about it.”

I certainly believed these to be true. Perhaps they were once but no longer hold.

Baby steps…

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