Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face Earns You An NC-17
Just as the digital ink was drying on my commendations to AMC Theatres for finally saying no to pressures from the thuggee crew of the MPAA, they were pulling Hatchet II from their theaters. They claimed it was because of poor box office reception, even though they were pulling it midweekend. While The Other Guys and other summer dingleberries clung to their theatres, Hatchet II was deemed not worth to earn its keep. Everyone smelled bullshit, including the bull doing the shitting.
Parents groups claimed they would boycott and picket the theaters if AMC didn't pull the Unrated horror film from its screen offerings. The mere existence of a gruesome horror film that didn't agree to jump through the arbitrary hoops set by the MPAA set their collective panties ablaze. Not one with sexually graphic content -- there's one scene of nudity that very well might have earned a PG-13 rating in a lesser film -- and not one with sexually explicit language -- the f-bomb count is less than a quarter Tarantino or maybe a half-Mamet.
I can't understand why a parent's group should care. The film is Unrated, which means that nobody under the age of 17 should be watching it. R-rated films mean that anyone not of voting age should have to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Either way, these films are not intended for a younger viewing audience. And last time I checked, it's not mandatory or compulsory to see any movie, so if a child is somehow watching these films, it means that they actively made the choice to sneak in and find a way to see the film. If these parents are so worried about the safety of their children, then they should watch their stupid fucking children better. But are the same people whose protection against school shootings was to install $12 an hour rent-a-cops and metal detectors instead of shutting down the gun shows where the guns get purchased. We always wait to buy fire extinguishers until the kitchen has already burned to the fucking cabinets.
If a group of middle schoolers started setting fires in the basements of elder care facilities, you don't scream out, "Oh, my God! We need to outlaw matches! Or we need to shut down all of our elder care facilities! Kids could set fires there!" But that's the same reaction. Rather we need to police the children better. Maybe we should set up a committee that decides what activities children can and can't do. Monitor their exact ratio of activities and decide exactly what sports and playground games are viable, and for how long they can play them. I should be on this committee, because I was once a child and I know how most games work. At least the ones normal, decent children play. Actually, I was a summer camp counselor for something like 13 summers, and I was once a day-care provider for a month. Sure, I don't have children of my own, but that limits my bias and prevents me from making provisions that would allow children leeway. I can arbitrarily decide on a child by child basis whether or not certain activities are appropriate and you have to blindly agree with me. So, for example, sunlight can cause cancer in children who can tan, so all white and Asian children have to go indoors an hour early. We're just protecting them.
Doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? And yet, this is how the MPAA operates. It's a collective of ministers and conservative parents -- most of whom have limited if any experience with filmmaking. They can arbitrarily decide what gets what rating. Disney can cut off several heads and even gouge out an eye or two -- in glorious 3D!, and it'll get you a PG rating, but if you happen to have to be a gay couple having consensual sex, then it might earn you a NC-17. I can see Jason Segel's penis, repeatedly for extended periods of time, but since it's a major studio comedy, that's an R. Show a guy masturbating out of frame from listening to dirty talk from a guy, it's NC-17. Have Ben Stiller do the same thing with a newspaper ad and show sperm dangling from his ear, and it's an R. A guy can graphically rape a woman on a pinball machine, and it's an R. But if a guy has consensual sex with another man, NC-17. But if that man's a pie, it's okay, it's back to an R.
But we're not even talking about sex here! We're talking about Hatchet II, which has a couple of gruesome kills. For the purposes of this article I'm going to explain the murders that might very well have earned the extra NC-17 rating. Only, I'm not sure which one it was. As I said one guy gets his face shoved into a propeller and torn open like a orange peel. It can't be this one, because Piranha 3D has a similar kill, only in that flick, a girl's hair gets caught in the propeller which causes her facial skin to rip off. To me, that's much more graphic. Of course, Indiana Jones shoved a dude into a propeller, but because we only see the blood spray, it's PG. They were saving all the rest of that same PG rating for three Nazis faces to physically melt down to blood and eyeballs in a skull. There's a scene where a guy gets his head belt sanded until we see an exposed bit of brain like a yarmulkah, which Victor Crowley then belt sands until it bloodily exploded. That can't be it, because in Hannibal, Ray Liotta gets his head opened up and we see his brain, which Lector then removes a piece of, cooks, and feeds to him. Of course, Lucy Liu gets her brain sliced in Kill Bill as well. And both of those got R ratings, so can't be there. Maybe it's what happens to poor Tony Todd. Tony Todd gets chopped in half with an axe. Victor Crowley then grabs on to his spinal cord as he crawls away, and somehow manages to tear the torso out of the skin, leaving a muscular half-Candyman screaming which he hurls against a tree. This was probably the not-gonna happen. Even though three different characters have similar fatalities in the Mortal Kombat video game series. Which was deemed by the ESRB as MA, the video game version of an R. It might have been the part where Victor Crowley rides through the desert, violently exploding the opposing army and lopping off their heads with a fiery sword. Oh, shit, sorry. That was Glorious Appearing in the Left Behind series and it was Jesus making people explode. My bad. I'm desensitized to that shit.
You don't get to decide what I want to watch because you can't control your kids. You don't get to decide what I want to watch, period. It's absolutely ridiculous to assume that you know what's appropriate for me. Just like I don't get to decide what you think is appropriate for your kids. If you think seeing a naked breast will cause them physical harm, by all means, don't let them see one. If you think a child should watch a man beaten and whipped bloody and tortured for two plus hours because he happens to be Jesus Cavesus, hey, that's your business, and I'll stay out if, provided you stay right the fuck out of mine. If you don't want your children to watch something, then don't let them. If they find a way to, punish them. I won't even flinch if you beat them like a rented fucking mule. Because you decided to breed and can't control your spawn should not effect my movie watching and more importantly my accessibility to movies. Why is it that a theatre should be punished for exhibiting a film that might be dangerous because you can't prevent your children from being exposed to it?
I'm sorry that Hatchet II was the hill we had to make our stand on. It's not a great film to make the point with. But it's not offensive so much as cartoonishly over-the-top, a Looney Tunes cartoon taken to a shockingly violent end. Like that episode of "Family Guy" (which airs on Fox which is a broadcast channel available to everyone for free) that showed Elmer Fudd violently shooting Bugs Bunny repeatedly as he gagged in pain for mercy and then snapping his neck and dragging him away in a pool of blood. The violence is no less cartoonish than anything in most video games, only in those you are an active participant in making that violence happen. A better film to fight for would have been Requiem for a Dream, which was also released Unrated in limited brave theatres. There's a film that I feel should be shown to every ninth grader in America, and then no one anywhere ever will do hard drugs again. Except the stupid, stupid children which would Darwin them out. But I know, I know. Darwin isn't real, like the Tooth Fairy or Social Security for anyone born after 1970.
If you don't like what you watch, look away. Or walk out, and demand your money back. Films get released Unrated all the time in smaller theatres. I Spit On Your Grave is getting a theatrical release today, Unrated in several different theatre chains. And I'm glad it is. I want those filmmakers to have every opportunity to present the film as they see it. And I will absolutely not be going to see it. Not because I find the content morally reprehensible, but because it looks like a terribly unnecessary remake. But at least you have the choice.
The MPAA is not federally mandated. There's no regulation that says all films must be rated by the MPAA. It's a voluntary effort on the parts of major studios in conjunction with the different theatres that screen movies. It's basically a giant monopoly, a bully pulpit created by moralists to prevent indecency. If you don't get your film screened by the MPAA, then it won't get played in any national film chains. And then you won't be able to earn money. And as we see with Hatchet II, even when they do decide, pressure that maybe studios won't allow their films to be screened at AMC or any theatre that doesn't toe the line prevent them from sticking to it. Independent theatre chains don't have that problem. Which is why you should always go to independent movie chains and leave the major theatres to play Transformers 3: A Momentary Lapse of Reason on all twenty-seven of their screens.
If the movie distributors manned the fuck up and told the parents groups and the moral hounds of the MPAA to stick it where the sun don't shine -- but don't show them that on camera because that would earn you an NC-17 rating, unless it's Sandra Bullock's adorable anus -- this wouldn't be an issue. Because movies want to make money. And if the studios said you can't screen our movies, and all the theaters banded together and said, you're damn right we won't screen your movies, then they'd back right the fuck off. And if you honestly think a few angry parents are going to shut down the films, you're insane. First of all, its not like you'll lose money on the fucking R and NC-17 films, because they aren't going to see those anyway. They spend their money on the PG and PG-13 films. And so what are they going to boycott? Guardians of Ga'Hoole? Alpha and Omega? Nobody should watch those anyway. But ultimately, parents are going to take their children to the movies for the same reason they fear Hatchet II being released. Because kids will beg and plead and cajole until they do see the films. Kids are the monsters here. And they'll watch whatever the hell we tell them to watch. Protests never work. People vote silently with their dollar. And if one kids sees a movie and tells their friends, other people will join in. Mostly, you might lose a few churchgoers, who usually only go to see the mega-millions blockbusters anyway. So the studios won't lose a hot red fucking cent.
I don't know what it will take for us to get rid of the MPAA. Because everyone's afraid that if we get rid of the gatekeepers, we're going to see movies about people shitting into each others mouths and people having disgusting sex, and people getting chopped in half while worshipping Satan. We already have those movies. All over the internet. For free. And if one of those should get a major theatrical release? Don't go see it. Vote with your dollar. If you don't think a movie is very good, don't go see it. Personally, I feel that movie theatres should put up ingredients listings like we do with food. This contains: gay sexual relations, violence, rape, incest, sodomy, and the gruesome beating and torture of a young male. But that's basically just the Bible. Well, only the good parts.