Why is Netflix’s Marilyn Monroe biopic ‘Blonde’ rated NC-17 instead of TV-MA?

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(THE TALK) Historically, the NC-17 rating has been a bad-for-business movie certification due to its adult-only label and pornographic stigma.

However, Netflix’s Marilyn Monroe biopic “Blonde” will carry the rating, a first for the company. On September 28, 2022, it will debut on its streaming platform, following a premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 book and starring Ana de Armas, the film includes a graphic rape scene and a vaginal shot in its treatment of the life and career of the Hollywood icon.

I study the rating system and am the author of “The Naked Truth: Why Hollywood Doesn’t Make X-Rated Movies.”

Films rated NC-17 were often difficult to screen and promote, as they were barred from some theater chains and traditional advertising. The sexually graphic and critically acclaimed film “Blue is the Warmest Color” in 2013 was the last serious film released with the rating. Despite earning over $2.2 million from 142 screens, its relative success as an NC-17 feature film did not prompt the production of more films like it.

So why would Netflix resurrect an underused, contentious and restrictive NC-17 for “Blonde”? The 2020 Netflix movie “Cuties,” which sparked a public relations crisis over the perceived hypersexualization of girls, now has a “TV-MA” rating on the streaming service. Why wouldn’t the company just use the same rating for “Blonde”?

From ‘X’ to ‘NC-17’

NC-17 is one of five ratings (the others are G, PG, PG-13, and R) that the Classification and Rating Administration, a division of the Motion Picture Association, assigns to films submitted for certification.

NC-17 stands for “No one under the age of 17 admitted.” This classification prevents children from buying a ticket or entering a theater, even if accompanied by an adult. It replaced the X rating in 1990, which had been the adults-only marker since Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti created the rating system in 1968.

However, Valenti’s failure to obtain the copyright to the X made it possible for any film to be rated Adults Only without its distributor having to officially pay the Ratings and Ratings Administration for certification. This allowed filmmakers to include him in porn movies like “Deep Throat” to attract viewers and gain access to the legitimate market.

While the X rating could also be assigned to depictions of nudity, violence, language, drug use, or general “tone”, this association with intense sexual content stigmatized the category’s use by serious filmmakers for years.

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Valenti hoped that renaming the X-rating as NC-17 would spur the film industry’s use of the Adults-Only rating. For the most part, it didn’t, with a few notable exceptions like “Showgirls” (1995), “Bad Education” (2004), and “Shame” (2011).

Instead, virtually all distributors whose films initially received an NC-17 from the Classification and Ratings Administration chose one of three options: re-edit their films to an R rating, release an R-rated version, and release an unrated version for home videos. or DVD, or simply forego the rating altogether and release the film theatrically without one.

It was commonly believed that an unrated film would encounter fewer barriers to release in the US market than an NC-17.

A look at awards season

However, Netflix is ​​not a movie theater. It is a streaming service that does not require admission in the traditional sense, does not have employees monitoring its showings for underage viewers, and transfers the responsibility for denying access to its content to subscribers themselves. Netflix offers parental controls so users can restrict access to certain content for each profile on their accounts.

Significantly, many Netflix movies with mature content have a “TV-MA” rating. The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board developed the designation, which stands for “For mature audiences. May not be suitable for children under the age of 17. It’s recognizable to viewers of TV shows like AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” FX’s “American Horror Story” or even Netflix’s “Ozark.”

So why wouldn’t Netflix apply a TV maturity rating to “Blonde”?

The answer is simple: Netflix is ​​likely to see the film as an Oscar contender.

Under the rules of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to qualify for the Academy Awards, “Blonde” must have a theatrical run, even if that run is extremely short. In 2019, Netflix joined the Motion Picture Association, the first and only streaming service to do so. So if you decide to release your movies theatrically, Netflix must do so with a rating, as do the legacy member companies: Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros.

With “Ibiza: Love Drunk,” “Cuties” and “365 Days” rated by TV-MA, Netflix never earned a rating from the Motion Picture Association because these films bypassed theatrical release in the United States.

Doing the media rounds

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Netflix is ​​also undoubtedly using the NC-17 for “Blonde” as a marketing ploy, what film scholar Justin Wyatt has called “controversy marketing,” a technique used in the past to sell movies that received an X or NC-17.

Netflix has remained silent on the matter. Instead, “Blonde” director Andrew Dominik and the Guns star have hinted to the media about the film’s provocative and sensational aspects, while at the same time expressing disbelief at the film’s NC-17 rating. movie.

“I was surprised,” Dominik told the Vulture. “I thought we had colored inside the lines.” De Armas said much the same thing in an interview for the French fashion magazine L’Officiel. “I didn’t understand why [the rating] happened.”

Almost in the same proverbial breath, both director and star have also poked fun at the lewdness of the subject matter.

“It’s an NC-17 movie about Marilyn Monroe, that’s pretty much what you want, right?” Dominik told Screen Daily. “I want to go see the NC-17 version of the Marilyn Monroe story.”

Meanwhile, de Armas supports Dominik’s unfiltered look at Monroe’s life, declaring it “the most daring, unapologetic, feminist version of her story I’ve ever seen.”

‘A little steam to keep the flow going’

I wonder though: Is NC-17 from “Blonde” really a selling point, given what viewers are regularly exposed to in their living rooms?

In a broadcast landscape littered with sexually explicit TV-MA television series like HBO’s “Euphoria” and “House of the Dragon,” Hulu’s “Minx” and “Pam & Tommy,” and even “Sex/Life” and Netflix’s “How To”. Build a sex room”, it shouldn’t be.

Dominik indirectly, but perhaps correctly, undermined the creepiness of his own film, telling Screen Daily, “If I watch an episode of ‘Euphoria,’ it’s much more graphic than anything that happens in ‘Blonde.'” De Armas echoed the same talking points. later in his interview with L’Officiel: “I can tell you about a number of shows or movies that are much more explicit and have much more sexual content than ‘Blonde’.”

This new wave of progressive, sexually candid series, according to Variety TV writer Joe Otterson, may be a strategy streaming companies are using to keep subscribers engaged in an increasingly competitive market. “It may take a little bit of power to keep the current going,” Otterson writes.

“Blonde” – NC-17, TV-MA or Unrated – is just another provocative addition to this pot.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here: https://theconversation.com/why-is-blonde-netflixs-marilyn-monroe-biopic-rated-nc-17-instead-of-tv-ma-185359.

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