Evan Rachel Wood Blasts MPAA On Twitter For NC-17 Rating

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Evan Rachel Wood is peeved. Her upcoming film Charlie Countryman, in which she costars with Shia LaBeouf, was recently given an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, allegedly due to a scene that featured a male character performing oral sex on a female character. The director of the film, Fredrik Bond, opted to remove the scene in order to receive an R rating instead. Wood let loose her feelings on Twitter:


This shouldn't come as a surprise. The MPAA, notoriously a black box whose standards for rating sexual and violent content is at best vague and at worst contradictory, has long been accused of forcing directors' hands so that their films aren't doomed to financial ruin by the NC-17 rating, which evolved as the rating between R and the pornographic X.

The MPAA defines an NC-17 film as containing "any...element that most parents would consider too strong and therefore off limits for viewing by their children," including sex and violence. It's true that sex is far more often the culprit than violence, but it does raise the question: Shouldn't explicit sex come with something of a warning?

An NC-17 rating does not necessarily equal censorship. Besides the fact that MPAA ratings are merely guidelines for theaters and not enforceable, the NC-17 rating often separates types of cinema that wouldn't otherwise want to be in the same pool together. "[The] sort of films that end up with NC-17 ratings aren’t exactly seeking the approval of the Transformers audience," wrote Salon's Daniel D'Addario in October, explaining how the highly explicit, Palm D'Or-winning film Blue Is the Warmest Color is only the latest nail in NC-17's coffin. D'Addario notes that 2011's Shame even benefitted from its NC-17 rating. The CEO of Fox Searchlight, the film's distributor, even said, "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."

This is less, as Wood claims, about an organization censoring women's bodies and more about American culture's complex and evolving relationship with sexuality in mainstream media. The MPAA is a relic of a more conservative era, but that doesn't mean its mission is obsolete. That's to say that ratings are indeed helpful, but shouldn't be used to restrict audiences. A film with explicit sex or violence should be rated as such so that audiences are aware of its content and can make informed decisions about whether or not to see it. (Variety)