The Interwebs are all abuzz over the NC-17 rating on ‘Blue Valentine,’ the romantic drama starring Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling as a married couple in crisis. The Derek Cianfrance-directed film scored the rating because of an oral sex scene, and Gosling is none too happy about it.

blue-valentine-1 “There’s plenty of oral sex scenes in a lot of movies, where it’s a man receiving it from a woman, and they’re R-rated,” he said in an interview posted on . “Ours is reversed and somehow it’s perceived as pornographic. ‘Black Swan’ has an oral scene between two women and that’s an R rating, but ours is between a husband and his wife and that’s NC-17?”

Well, let’s face it, movie ratings aren’t always logical. Look at all the R-rated films with rampant violence and sexuality, and you wonder where the MPAA folks are coming from sometimes. As Gosling notes, “You start to think, ‘How is it possible that these movies that torture women in a sexual context can have an R rating but a husband and wife making love is inappropriate?”

An NC-17 rating may not seem like a big deal, but in the big picture, it could have negative consequences for the film in terms of both advertising and distribution. “It stigmatizes the movie in a big way,” says Gosling. “What we’re really saying is not that our kids can’t see this movie, but nobody can see this movie unless you live in a big city and there’s an art house theater.”

Ok, so here’s my take on it. I think Cianfrance should have changed the scene to drop it into what the MPAA peeps deem as an R rating. As Alfred Hitchcock is so famous for saying, what goes on in a moviegoer’s head is way more frightening or intense or imaginative than what they see on the big screen. So do we need a sex scene to be completely graphic to get what’s going on? I say no. Change the scene.

What say you, fair readers?


  1. Jane, I love your writing and your insights, but in this case I have to disagree. The issue isn’t whether or not we need to see the sex act to know what’s going on. It’s the double-standards surrounding movie ratings. That needs to end, and the only way it’s going to happen is if filmmakers refuse to cave to sexist demands like this. Gosling is absolutely right about the number of oral sex scenes in R rated movies, as well as the violence–including sexual violence–against women in R rated movies. If that oral scene is really the reason Blue Valentine got the NC17, I say more power to the filmmaker! I hope there’s some kind of legal recourse he can take.

  2. Wow, they heard you, Debbie! I wonder how often the ratings get changed on a movie… off to research…

    Thanks for the note, Rox. However this one played out, I’m still more of a “leave it to the imagination” kind of girl.

  3. I’m with you Jane. Alfred Hitchcock was a master at letting viewers create their own images and not showing everything. NC-17 or R I won’t be seeing this one anyway. I stick to PG-13/PG movies.

  4. I agree with you, too, Jane. Graphic scenes are often not nearly as sexy as scenes that withhold. What was the movie based on an Edith Wharton novel where the couple sits in a carriage and he removes her glove? It was incredibly erotic. You can find foreplay in all sorts of places when you’re primed for it.

  5. Like Jennifer, I hadn’t heard about this debate – or the movie before reading this. I imagine the whole switch in rating will be good for business.

  6. So let me get this straight, there’s a sexist rating system? Pleasurable for men, okay; pleasurable for women, purient? That sucks, to coin a phrase.

    However, I’m old and cranky enough that I think you can get people all hot and bothered with suggestion–and can bore them to tears with literal presentation. So I’m glad the rating changed so I don’t have to take both sides in this discussion.

  7. I think all of the hubbub over these sex scenes is ridiculous with the amount of violence that passes for everyday viewing material. Seriously, even without the context, the decision is baffling.

    But an NC-17 film with Ryan Gosling? This one just got bumped to the top of my short list.

  8. Wow, they heard you, Debbie! I wonder how often the ratings get changed on a movie… off to research… Thanks for the note, Rox. However this one played out, I’m still more of a “leave it to the imagination” kind of girl.


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