An independent cinema distributor has decided to release in the US with an NC-17 rating a sexually explicit film about a lesbian couple's affair. That means, no one under 17 -- even with permission or accompaniament of a parent -- may gain admittance to see the movie.
Here's the distributor's justification:
“The film is first and foremost a film about love, coming of age and passion. We refuse to compromise [the director]’s vision by trimming the film for an R rating. … An NC-17 rating no longer holds the stigma it once did.” (emphasis added)That is one sad commentary. Back when I was less prudent and less aware, I paid to see the first -- or one of the first -- NC-17 films not long after they developed that rating to set it apart from the X rating. (It was hugely controversial. No doubt that drove people to see it, but it kept many others away from it.) NC-17 had heaps of pornography in it, but it was done in the name of "art" and not just trying to titilate.
Of course, who are we kidding? It's Hollywood. The name of the game is to do what it will take to get people into the seats: gin up controversy, titilate, coarsen the culture. Again, whatever it takes.
So NC-17 has at least a story and dramatic development, admittedly lacking from most X-rated films. It has at least passable and sometimes very good acting, definitely setting it apart from any X-rated film.
But it's still pornography. That is, it still is the graphic, nothing left to the imagination depiction of sexual congress between two or more people. It's only purpose, really, is to titilate and arouse. There are plenty of films with violence, frankly, that should pass under the same scrutiny. They titilate and arouse in a far different way, but neither is healthy for the individual person or society. Both are sinful. One glorifies the deconstruction of the holiest thing God has given us, sex. The other glorifies the abject destruction of the holiest thing God has given us, life. (In sex, God gives us the ability to enjoy something of the perfect intimacy found in the Holy Trinity, which in turn has the power to create life. In life, God has given us the ability to imitate the Holy Trinity and its perfect love in all other ways outside of creation.)
In any event, sexual pornography has become so commonplace -- with even as many as 50-75% of church-going men using it -- and has become so mainstream that, “An NC-17 rating no longer holds the stigma it once did.”
Prediction: This film will do miserably at the box office. Movie theatres don't want the potential boycotts that would come with showing it. Families will stay away. (Gee, ya think?) Ordinary, decent folks will recognize the baseness that they're being asked to swallow and will say, "No, thanks." Only young adult males, libertine/social libertarian/liberals will, by and large, make up the ticket buying audience. And they wonder -- as they did early this summer -- why box office receipts are plummeting. It's not rocket science, guys: Put up something people -- all people -- can watch, like 42 or The Butler.
Did the movie I saw or this movie need the graphic sexual content to tell their stories? I mean, let's say you wanted to depict a coming of age tale where someone experiences their sexuality for the first time. Do you have to show it blow-by-blow or, perhaps more appropriately, touch-by-touch? It seems hard to imagine why.
The only justification I could see is, say, for instance, a person has fallen so in love with a person they think is one person, when in the course of a sexual encounter, the real person comes out and reveals themselves to be someone who is quite dark.
However, that is the easy way to do it, isn't it? After all, though it would take much more work and intelligence to depict this, it could come out in subtle revelations of the person's character, little things they do to make someone think, "Hmmmmm. There's something not quite right here." The audience sees it, but the twisted person's lover is to blinded by their love to see it. You lose that by just easily resorting to sex.
So not even then is depiction of the most intimate act that two people can share justifiable. Something that is so intimate, so special ... There are certain things that are so sacrosanct, they should never be depicted in such a taudry fashion. They should never be depicted, period.