Posts Tagged With: film

Blue Valentine

So this post is very late on the band wagon but I finally got around to watching this movie. I wasn’t feeling the story-line too much but honestly, I watched it so I could examine it’s “controversial” scene and understand why exactly the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) wanted to stick it with a NC-17 rating. By the way, this scene is a single scene depicting a woman receiving oral sex. And watch it I did…. and I have to say I’m flabbergasted. There was absolutely nothing “extreme” about it. You don’t see anything of anything. All you really see is a couple enjoying thoroughly enjoying themselves while fully clothed. Now what is so wrong with that?

It’s stuff like this that’s really hypocritical. There’s movies upon movies of men receiving oral sex from women, and they just get an R rating and sometimes even a PG-13, but the few times it’s the other way around, oral sex on women is seen as pornographic in nature. Double standard much?

If you don’t understand why ratings are important, Ryan Gosling explains it perfectly: “A lot of people think, ‘What’s the big deal if it’s NC-17, the kids under 17 can’t see it,’ but that’s not true. What it really means is it can’t play in a major theatre chain and you can’t have ads for the film on television. It stigmatizes the movie in a big way. What we’re really saying is not that our kids can’t see this movie but nobody can see this movie unless you live in a big city and there’s an arthouse theatre.” Anyway, Harvey Weinstein’s fought against the MPAA and was able to reduce the rating to R so all was made well again. Right?

Wrong. Keep your eyes open the next time you watch a flick involving violence. It can be anything – action, horror, thriller, comedy etc and almost always, you will notice that a movie that has gratuitous violence can easily skip past high MPAA ratings but a movie depicting sex get’s slapped with a NC-17 rating. Saw 3D has a woman bisected by a buzzsaw. Blue Valentine has a woman orgasm by oral sex. Which movie do you think teens were allowed to see?

We live in a culture in which violence, and especially violence towards women, is tolerated to the point that it becomes white noise. Meanwhile, sex remains a taboo topic. What it comes down to is this: media’s representation of people enjoying sex is so skewed towards men that it’s immediately considered problematic when women are portrayed as sexual beings. A woman’s naked body gives a film an R-rating, but a woman (even clothed) enjoying sex can land a film in the no man’s land that is NC-17. How messed up is that? It’s high time our media reflects reality, and allows women to be fully-fleshed, sexual beings instead of the sexualized object the MPAA clearly prefers.

“For the last three decades many Americans have puzzled over a system that gives an R to a movie in which a women is carved up by a chainsaw and an NC-17 to one that shows a woman sexually pleasured. From such ratings one might conclude that sexual violence against women is OK for American teenagers to see, but that they must be 18 to see consensual sex. What message does this send to the kids the MPAA presumably means to protect?”

– Carrie Rickey

“You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film.”

-Ryan Gosling on the controversy around the rating of his film ‘Blue Valentine’

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India Responds

I’m an avid watcher of NDTV’s “We The People“. Barkha Dutt, the host of the debate show, talks about current affairs with six to eight panellists who are invited for every discussion. The panel usually consists of politicians, social scientists, academicians, social workers and celebrities, depending on the topic of discussion. There is also an audience which often poses questions directly to the panellists.

Of course, the issue of rape in India was a hot topic which lead to several episodes surrounding it from capital punishment to the portrayal of women in Indian cinema. The topic of Bollywood item songs came into the picture because people were linking the objectification of sexually attractive Indian women in racy songs that have little or nothing to with the Indian film to the rise of rape across the country.

I don’t know how I feel about that statement. To say that there is a direct correlation between the portrayal of women in India movies/item songs and rape is too simplistic. But there is no denying the fact that the hypersexualization of women in media contributes to gender violence among other factors like rape culture, patriarchy, sexism etc. It’s all those things working together that accounts for India’s ridiculously high rape rates.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman being sexual on screen, but the manner in which it is conveyed is important to note. Shabana Azmi speaks to this perfectly: “But when we talk about item numbers, there are item numbers and then there are item numbers, and it would be wrong to make sweeping generalizations that all of them are bad. When you have an item number like Beedi Jalaile, for instance, which is based in our folk tradition and is robust and really celebrating women’s sensuality, that’s welcome and completely different from some of the item numbers today that are downright debasing. It is in the intention of the filmmaker. It is perfectly possible to be completely vulgar with a woman fully dressed, and it is perfectly possible to be artistic if the woman is completely naked. Voyeuristic camera angles and vulgar lyrics do not empower a woman.

Also noteworthy:

Watch the debate here: Shabana Azmi FTW!

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