August 22, 2014

The MPPA Gives Another "Instant R" To A Film With Gay Leads

Today my friend and colleague Ira Sach's film LOVE IS STRANGE opens in New York and LA. This festival favorite, which has received some amazing reviews (and awards buzz too!), is about a mature gay couple played by John Lithgow and Alfred Molina. Yet, once again, the MPAA slapped an "instant R" on the film due to the fact that the lead characters are gay. Earlier this year, it happened with another friend of mine's movie G.B.F., which had no explicit sex or nudity but also centered its story on a character who happened to be gay.  

Predictably, there has been yet another outcry over this persistent problem, both on Slate and other entertainment sites. There's also a great essay on where the critic Stephen Whitty sizes Ira's film up against other offerings this weekend that are also rated R, like Frank Miller's SIN CITY sequel and JERSEY SHORE MASSACRE(!). Both feature a lot of nudity and explicit gun violence and somehow they have the exact same rating as a story about a gay couple and their families?! The MPAA is truly getting absurd with this sort of classification that equates the simple fact of homosexuality as shocking as the violent and sexually exploitative material of these two unabashed B-movies. 

With gay marriage becoming more common and now legal in a third of the United States, I think it's safe to say that the general public would not find this sort of story that shocking. Even more ironic is the fact that those under 17, who recent polls and studies show have a greater understanding and acceptance when it comes to LGBT issues, are actually banned from seeing the film due to it's restrictive rating. So the question is when will the ratings board stop this sort of institutional inequality when it comes to films with gay content and characters? Hopefully soon as they seem more and more out of touch with the reality of American audiences today.