The MPAA’s ‘Black Swan’-’Blue Valentine’ double standard?


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If a film scene lasting a little more than a minute depicts oral sex performed on a woman without showing nudity, does the movie in which the scene appears merit an R rating or an NC-17?

Both, apparently.

In ‘Black Swan,’ Mila Kunis’ character performs oral sex on Natalie Portman’s character after a night of partying. In ‘Blue Valentine,’ Ryan Gosling’s character does the same to Michelle Williams’ character after a date. There’s not much difference between the scenes, save maybe for the fact that ‘Black Swan’ is put together with action and reaction shots and ‘Blue Valentine’ is filmed in one take.


Yet as we explore in a piece in Saturday’s Times, the MPAA has given an R rating to ‘Swan’ but an NC-17 to ‘Blue Valentine’ for what is reportedly that scene.

Some have a theory about the disparity, but none are really convincing, and no one is really convinced.

‘I’ve heard the ‘Blue Valentine’ scene is more emotionally authentic,’ said Darren Aronofsky, who directed ‘Black Swan’ (but still has harsh words for the MPPA on its double standard between sex and violence).

‘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?

Either way, it looks for all the world that ‘Valentine’ will get hit with the NC-17 when the MPAA appeal comes down next week -- the Weinstein Co. and Cianfrance say they aren’t changing the scene, and there’s almost no precedent for a rating changed on appeal without a change in the movie.


Which means, given many theaters’ resistance to showing anything with an NC-17, a lot fewer people will see ‘Blue Valentine.’ And which means the cries against the MPAA will go up. Again.

--Steven Zeitchik


Blue Valentine ratings war (of words) continues

Photos: Sex, movies and the MPAA

Harvey Weinstein on the Blue Valentine controversy

The MPAA’s mystifying call on Blue Valentine