It was only a matter of time before the Parents Television Council, a non-partisan educational organization that advocates for "responsible entertainment," addressed New York's IFC Center's decision to admit teens to the NC-17 rated Palme d'Or winner "Blue is the Warmest Color." (This is the same organization that publicly criticized the MPAA's decision to downgrade the rating for "Blue Valentine" from an NC-17 to an R.) None too surprisingly, Tim Winter, the president of the Council, has come out with guns blazing, demanding that the theater "immediately reconsider this self-serving and undermining business decision, and instead do what is in the right and best interests of parents, families and children," in a scathing open letter.
"The IFC Center’s decision to usurp parental and family authority by allowing unfettered access to children of adult-rated, explicit sexual content is a direct assault on parents and families across the country," he writes. "Your selective unenforcement of the MPAA guidelines in this instances approaches industrial fraud, in that the system is intended specifically for the purpose of parental reliance, and that reliance has been obviated."
Winter ends his letter threatening that the Council "will bring its full weight and credit to bear to make a national issue" of the Center's decision, "via every available means, until it is reversed."
Given the NC-17 slap, like every rating granted by the Motion Picture Association of America, merely serves as a recommendation to theater managers -- the MPAA is a trade association representing the major studios, not a government agency -- the threat is a weak one. That said, the ongoing controversy surrounding the film's release should no doubt help boost its box-office prospects. The film opened to big numbers this past weekend, and expands to ten markets on Friday.
Read Winter's full letter below:
PTC Calls on NYC Theater to Enforce NC-17 Movie Rating for Sexually Explicit Film
Release Date: 10/30/2013
LOS ANGELES (October 30, 2013) – The Parents Television Council issued a stern warning to the IFC Center in New York City requesting that the theater not allow the admittance of children to the NC-17-rated film, Blue Is The Warmest Color, as the theater has presumably been doing.
In a letter to John Vanco, senior vice president and general manager of the IFC Center, PTC President Tim Winter wrote:
“On behalf of the 1.3 million members of the Parents Television Council, whose mission it is to protect children from sex, violence and profanity in entertainment, I am deeply distressed to learn of your decision not to abide by the MPAA guidelines for the motion picture rating NC-17 by allowing minor children admittance to the film Blue Is The Warmest Color.
“Media accounts regarding the film’s content indicate that it features, among other graphic sexual content, a 15-minute long explicit sex scene. In a recent interview, actress Lea Seydoux, who plays Emma in the film, said that during the filming of this centerpiece scene that she felt ‘like a prostitute.’ Consequently, the MPAA’s assigned rating of NC-17 for ‘explicit sexual content is not in dispute.
“The MPAA ratings exist for one reason alone: to give parents information about the content of motion pictures. In your statement regarding this issue, you claimed ‘this is not a movie for young children, but it is our judgment that it is not inappropriate for mature, inquiring teenagers who are looking ahead to the emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds.’ By what measure will the IFC Center be ascertaining the maturity of the children to whom you will sell tickets? At what age, or what unascertained maturity level, will a child be denied entry? And if, in your sole determination, this film is so vitally important for some children to see, then why would you charge them for admission – unless of course this is nothing but a publicity stunt for a film that is D.O.A at the US box office? These are questions left unanswered because there is no reasonable answer you could possibly give that preserves parental input and authority over the media consumption of their children.
“Simply put, you and the IFC Center are in no position to determine which children are ‘mature’ enough to view explicit sexual content without the presence of a parent or guardian. Whether a child should view explicit sexual content is a decision best left to parents and families, and we strongly object to your theaters’ usurping of their appropriate role.
“Therefore, we call on the IFC Center to immediately begin enforcing the reasonable MPAA guidelines for the NC-17 rating and not allow the admittance of children. This will in no way inhibit those adults who wish to view the film every ability to do so; but it will ensure that parents have the information they need and the industry backing they’ve been promised for more than 50 years.
“The IFC Center’s decision to usurp parental and family authority by allowing unfettered access to children of adult-rated, explicit sexual content is a direct assault on parents and families across the country. Your selective unenforcement of the MPAA guidelines in this instances approaches industrial fraud, in that the system is intended specifically for the purpose of parental reliance, and that reliance has been obviated. Parents must be assured that content ratings are accurate, consistent and transparent, and they must be confident that exhibitors will enforce them appropriately at the theater; otherwise the system is utterly worthless.
“We ask that you immediately reconsider this self-serving and undermining business decision, and instead do what is in the right and best interests of parents, families and children. The Parents Television Council will bring its full weight and credit to bear to make a national issue of your decision, via every available means, until it is reversed.”