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'Shame' Banned to Most Teenagers in the US, UK - But Not in France

Michael Fassbender, sex addiction, Shame
Michael Fassbender, Shame

Steve McQueen's Shame, a look at a man suffering from what some refer to as “sex addiction,” has been screwed with an NC-17 rating by the censors at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). That means no one under 17 is allowed to watch Shame at a movie theater in the United States. Shame is thus joining an illustrious – and at times not all that illustrious – list of NC-17 movies, including Ang Lee's Lust, Caution; Phillip Kaufman's Henry & June; Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education (gay sex is always a big no-no for teens); and, er, Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls. [NC-17 Movies and the Oscars.]

As a result of the MPAA's decision, which can seriously dampen a film's box office performance, outrage has poured out on Twitter and other social media. But really, wasn't the MPAA's NC-17 rating exactly what everyone had been expecting from those torture-porn aficionados who freak out at the sight of a dangling penis?

Fox Searchlight, which is distributing Shame in the U.S., plans to open the movie, which stars Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, without any cuts on December 2. Fox Searchlight president Stephen Gilula told The Hollywood Reporter the following about the NC-17 rating:

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.

Now, to say that an NC-17 rating is a “badge of honor” is going a little too far. Just because the MPAA censors don't want teenagers watching a movie featuring a man's dick or x-number of thrusts during sex scenes – or both – doesn't make said movie a quality effort. All a movie needs for the NC-17 stamp are the penis and the thrusts, or possibly an orgy or two thrown in as well. A film's intrinsic qualities or lack thereof aren't issues.

Ignoring the fact that a bunch of unelected, anonymous or semi-anonymous people decide what American teenagers can or cannot watch – hardly my idea of the democratic process even if we knew those people's names and favorite sex fetishes – what I find scariest about the MPAA censors and their ludicrous rulings is that there may well be American parents and “guardians” who really pay attention to them. Now, that is a frightening thought.

Ah, before anyone says that this sort of idiocy could only happen in the puritanical United States: Shame earned an “18” rating from the British Board of Film Classification – the United Kingdom's censors. In other words, “no-one younger than 18 may see an '18' film in a cinema. No-one younger than 18 may rent or buy an '18' rated video work.” In France, Shame is expected to get a “forbidden to those under 16” rating, though a “forbidden to those under 18” rating is a possibility. (Update: As it turned out, Shame was “forbidden to those under 12” in France.)

Shame picture: Abbot Genser / Fox Searchlight Pictures

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1 Comment to 'Shame' Banned to Most Teenagers in the US, UK - But Not in France

  1. I am glad they didn't fold and cut the film for an R rating. I'm so sick of the dumbing down of film to please the masses.