Appeals for film ratings are not uncommon. Filmmakers frequently protest when the MPAA dishes out a verdict they feel is undeserved. So when Blue Valentine was rated NC-17, it wasn’t surprising when the producers filed for an appeal. (An NC-17 rated film won’t be carried at most major theater chains, can not be attended by anyone 17 and under, and television networks and newspapers won’t run ads.)
As part of the appeal, the films stars, Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams each composed letters defending the film, which ended up receiving a lot of press on a variety of blogs. In his letter, Gosling stated:
“You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film.”
He also stated in an interview with E!
“The MPAA really needs to…There is something very distorted about this reality that they’ve created, which is that it is OK to torture women on screen…Any kind of violence towards women in a sexual scenario is fine. But give a woman pleasure, no way. Not a chance. That’s pornography.”
It’s surprising to hear anyone in Hollywood discussing the patriarchy and repression of women, even more so to hear a male movie star do so. The Notebook may be bad for you, but Ryan Gosling is good for feminism. The filmmakers won their appeal, and Blue Valentine was issued an R-rating. The film will open in limited release in the U.S. on December 31st, 2010.