Certainly not the most surprising news, Steve McQueen’s upcoming film, Shame, has been slapped with an NC-17 rating by the MPAA. Now that I’ve seen Tomas Alfreson’s masterful Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Shame is the upcoming release that makes me the most giddy. I suspect the rating will not hurt the film too much as anybody anticipating the film was probably going to see it regardless. As a result, Fox Searchlight is trying on a new strategy of facing the rating head on as opposed to appealing it like the Weinstein’s did with Blue Valentine last year.
Fox Searchlight president Stephen Gilula issued this statement about the ruling:
“I think NC-17 is a badge of honor, not a scarlet letter. We believe it is time for the rating to become usable in a serious manner. The sheer talent of the actors and the vision of the filmmaker are extraordinary. It’s not a film that everyone will take easily, but it certainly breaks through the clutter and is distinctive and original. It’s a game changer.”
Makes you wonder if in this climate of expected mediocrity, an NC-17 rating could be seen as the marker of an actually progressive and innovative piece of cinema. Frankly, the concept of these ratings makes my blood boil. This is clearly censorship of thought over any type of genuinely offensively material. Films like Saw or Transformers are littered with gratuitous and sexist violence yet their existence is not shielded from the youth. In fact, you could argue we encourage our children to go out and spend dollars on that type of fodder. But the thought of a 16-year-old seeing a penis within the context of an intelligently thought-out film has to be condemned. In a society, where we are working to lower the standard of all consumer products, especially movies, in order to allow companies to output less while raising their profits, this sort of governmentally sanctioned censorship is plain embarrassing.
Realistically, no 16-year-old in this day and age is unaware of sex or sexual relationships. Many have engaged in sex acts themselves. Most will be entirely unaffected by such life choices. Some of the most successful and innovative people who exist on earth were engaging in sexual acts, healthy and consented, by a younger age than will be legally allowed admission to Shame. Do we exist in a further-growing puritanical society? I actually don’t think so. I simply think that censoring thoughtful art is a way to prevent impressionable youth from expecting more out of society. Like communist societies (our supposedly categorical opposite) figured out years ago, the artists hold the keys to important progression and challenges of the status quo. If you remove that art then you remove the thoughts, and if you remove thoughts then you can continue to brainwash the masses for the sake of corporate gain. If you can homogenize it then you can control it.
I hope nothing more than for Shame to become a must-see film. I’d love to watch 16-year-olds sneak into the movie and then tell their friends all about it. Imagine a world where 16-year-olds thought that sex was something best fit within the shell of an inventive story as opposed to one that’s primarily about hacking off other people’s limbs. Chances are Shame will fall by the waste side due to the lack of courage of Americans. It may even garner some backlash from Fox news as being the kind of smut that hurts our free nation. Either way, I’m seeing the film the first second I can. So should you.