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Feminist Filmmaking Means NC-17 Rating from MPAA

Feminist Filmmaking Means NC-17 Rating from MPAA

Director Jill Soloway gave a wonderfully insightful interview to Flavorwire yesterday about the crude double standards at work at the MPAA

Soloway directed this year’s Afternoon Delight, a story about a housewife, played by Kathryn Hahn, who discovers she likes to get it on far more and in different ways than she’d previously thought. In a discussion of her film, Soloway reveals that to get the film the R she promised to her distributors she had to cut the scenes depicting women enjoying having sex

Asked which aspects of the film the MPAA deemed were “only for adults” as opposed to “with adult supervision,” Soloway answered,

I think it’s about the sexual agency of female characters. The scene portrays two women in a sexual situation connecting emotionally with one another. That might be what was “uncomfortable” for the MPAA. It’s infuriating, to encounter this editing-down after pushing through the many doors to get this movie made. I even won the Directing Award at Sundance, but that kind of lauding didn’t protect me from this organization’s opinion that sex from a woman’s perspective is somehow too dangerous. Did you see that thing about Evan Rachel Wood complaining that a scene where her character received oral sex was cut for the theatrical version of the movie? 

[Flavorwire:] Yeah. I mean, I think your film is a better example because now that I’ve seen Charlie Countryman, but reports do not suggest the frame of the movie is self-consciously feminist, whereas yours is. 

But it doesn’t matter, really, whether the film is feminist or not, it matters that what they cut is the one sex scene where she’s getting the oral sex! It’s about female pleasure making people uncomfortable, it’s insane. Particularly when you think about how much misogyny makes it through in other movies, how much violence, too. Is it weird that I even want affirmative action or reparations that reward women filmmakers for taking the risks of expressing authentic sexuality? I’m so mad that I was raised on the highly commercial, misogynistic characterizations of sexual women as disposable sluts or props for a man’s storyline, yet if I try to disrupt that portrayal, I have to minimize the parts that are “uncomfortable.” Uncomfortable for whom?

Afternoon Delight and Charlie Countryman aren’t alone. As you may remember, a high-profile fight over ratings occurred over another cunnilingus scene, the one in 2010’s Blue Valentine. With the Michelle Williams-Ryan Gosling romance, though, Harvey Weinstein did the heavy lifting in convincing the MPAA to recognize the error of their ways, just as he did for November’s Philomena

As for the “highly commercial, misogynistic characterizations of sexual women as disposable sluts or props for a man’s storyline” that Soloway railed against, one of them might be Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall StreetDeadline ran an interesting piece earlier this week that asked why and how the film got away with just a R rating: 

The film begins with an assault of coarse language — c*cksucker, f*cking, and lines like, “Who’s ever sucked a dog’s c*ck out of loneliness,” and “f*ck this, sh*t that, c*ck, c*nt, a**hole” — and within the first hour and 15 minutes, audiences will see two orgies; heavy drug use (smoking crack, snorting loads of cocaine); a father and son offhandedly discussing (at length) what’s au courant in wome’s “bushes”; a woman performing oral sex on one man while getting rammed from behind from another; full frontal nudity of women; and lots of misogyny. There is also a scene later of a prostitute pulling a candle out of the rectum of a married Jordan Belfort (played by DiCaprio) who then drops hot wax up and down his back.

Scorsese also had on hand a ratings “consigliere” former Academy head Tom Sherak who acted as a go-between between the director and the MPAA. 

To be fair, The Wolf of Wall Street is as much a condemnation of sexual and misogynistic excess as it is a celebration of it, but Soloway’s point remains. The MPAA is happy to give a pass to “boys being boys,” but any picture that portrays a woman taking pleasure in sex on her terms should be treated like obscene material. 

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