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"Shame," "Torture Porn" & The MPAA's System Of Rating Movies

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act October 26, 2011 at 5:32AM

Some further thoughts on the heels of yesterday's expected announcement that Steve McQueen's sex addiction drama Shame would be released with an NC-17 rating; a move by the MPAA that, as I argued in my review of the film, reeks of hypocrisy for a number of reasons...
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Some further thoughts on the heels of yesterday's expected announcement that Steve McQueen's sex addiction drama Shame would be released with an NC-17 rating; a move by the MPAA that, as I argued in my review of the film, reeks of hypocrisy for a number of reasons...

Riddle me this folks... consider films like Hostel I and Hostel II (image above), their MPAA ratings (both were rated R), and the pleasure to be derived from watching these so-called "torture porn" flicks, as they've collectively come to be labeled.

Yes, I've seen both - though more because I wanted to be able to say that I'd at least watched what I would eventually critique. I found both unappealing, and was sufficiently turned off; the second installment being the more vile and disgusting of the 2.

I believe there was a part 3 that went straight to DVD.

I don't understand how the near equivalent of what I'd consider *snuff films* actually navigated their way through the ranks of the studio system, ending up on thousands of theatre screens nationwide, for audiences, young and old to, um, "enjoy."

These are 2 rather depraved, cruel and barbaric excuses for films; unconscionably misogynistic and downright sadistic, and I'm genuinely concerned for what impact each has/will have on the impressionable minds of those who have/will see them, and who lack the psychological faculties necessary to process this garbage.

Yet both were rated R? And Shame is being "punished" for its so-called "graphic" depictions of sexuality with an NC-17? Depictions that I dismissed in my review of the film as unfounded.

Having seen both Shame and the Hostel movies, it's all very perplexing to me. I'd argue that the latter films are far more disturbing (and gratuitously so) and deserving of an NC-17 than the former.

With all the talk about Shame's release limitations as an NC-17-rated drama, Hostel 2 was actually banned in come countries - in parts of Europe for example, even though they are supposedly much more liberal about these things than we are here in the USA; some calling it "extreme pornography," others saying it's "obscene," "an hour and a half of brutality," and other countries making it illegal for anyone to peddle the original cut of the film (it was released in a few territories with its most vile scenes gutted).

But it and its predecessor received R ratings here in the US.

Of course, my argument here certainly isn't breaking any new ground; the MPAA's system of rating movies has elicited similar questions since the voluntary MPAA film rating system took effect in 1968.

I'm certainly no prude, and I've been entertained by many "violent" flicks in the past, so it's not a question of me being averse to violence on screen; far from it! But some of these "torture porn" movies seem to go out of their way to be beyond perverse... for entertainment. Yet the MPAA obviously thinks a film like Shame should instead be handled with gloves.

I can only wonder what a Hostel movie is going to look like in another 15 years, compared to what a similarly branded movie looked like 15 years ago...

Now, I'm not saying that "torture porn" movies shouldn't exist. That's not the argument here. Clearly there's an audience for them. Rather, I'm questioning the MPAA's *quadruple* standards and motivations when it comes to assigning ratings to films.

Your thoughts?

This article is related to: Things That Make You Go Hmm...


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