Blue Valentine is this winter’s buzzy new film, starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling. It’s been attracting tons of Oscar speculation and it debuted to almost universally positive reviews at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
But those high praises haven’t stopped the Motion Picture Association of America from stamping it with an NC-17 rating, which threatens the film’s wide-release potential (and its shot at the Academy Awards).
Most critics who have seen the film say the offending scene shows Gosling’s character giving his on-screen wife oral sex. The MPAA has a history of censuring movies with female oral sex.
It makes you think—would Blue Valentine face the same rating if the situation was reversed and it was just a little BJ? It seems like the problem isn’t that it’s a graphic orgasm, but that it’s a graphic female orgasm.
When the team for 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry shortened a shot that panned across Chloe Sevigny’s O-face, the MPAA reduced the previously-threatened NC-17 to an R rating. The Cooler’s rating was bumped down when frames showing Maria Bello’s pubic hair were trimmed.
Oddly, the just-released Black Swan, which includes a girl-on-girl oral sex scene, earned an R rating. Reviewers say there’s not much difference between the two scenes, aside from the obvious gender combo.
In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, Steven Zeitchick wrote about the Black Swan–Blue Valentine double standard:
Some have a theory about the disparity, but none are really convincing, and no one is really convinced.
“Maybe it’s a case of selfish love?” Gosling quipped to us, jokingly (?) wondering if a male-dominated group might go easier on a movie with girl-on-girl activity than it would if a man performed the oral sex, thereby reminding them that it’s something they could be called upon to do.
“I don’t have an answer for why that movie would be OK and ours wouldn’t,” Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance told us in what may be the most lucid description of all. (He wonders if it indeed is a matter of the authenticity, but in that case wonders if his film is being punished because its actors are too persuasive?
The Blue Valentine team said it won’t be axing the oral sex scene. Williams says she’s OK with that:
I’m happy for it to stay just like it is. Genuinely, I am. Movies get to have long lives and it’ll be judged and rejudged in 10 or 20 or 30 years, and I’ll be curious to see how it stands. It seems like such a condemnation. It feels like such a slap on the hand, like you’ve been a bad kid or something.
But how could an honest depiction of female pleasure (in a consensual, adult relationship) earn an acclaimed film team the “bad kid” title?
More interestingly, why would a lesbian oral exchange be deemed less naughty than a hetero scene? What are your thoughts?