Skip to main content

Don't take your kid to see 'Blue' movie

By Pepper Schwartz, Special to CNN
updated 9:30 PM EST, Fri November 8, 2013
From its title to its promotional posters -- <a href='http://insidemovies.ew.com/2013/10/10/nymphomaniac-posters/' target='_blank'>close-ups of actors such as Shia LaBeouf, left, making passionate grimaces</a> -- "Nymphomaniac" has sold us on its sex appeal. The movie, directed by Lars von Trier, has been split into two parts, with the first half available in select U.S. locations starting March 21. But before von Trier's film titillated audiences, it was these risque scenes that had moviegoers on edge: From its title to its promotional posters -- close-ups of actors such as Shia LaBeouf, left, making passionate grimaces -- "Nymphomaniac" has sold us on its sex appeal. The movie, directed by Lars von Trier, has been split into two parts, with the first half available in select U.S. locations starting March 21. But before von Trier's film titillated audiences, it was these risque scenes that had moviegoers on edge:
HIDE CAPTION
Hollywood's steamiest sex scenes
'Last Tango in Paris' (1972)
'Don't Look Now' (1973)
'Nine 1/2 Weeks' (1986)
'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' (1988)
'Basic Instinct' (1992)
'The Lover' (1992)
'Mulholland Drive' (1996)
'Bound' (1996)
'Love Jones' (1997)
Wild Things (1998)
'Eyes Wide Shut' (1999)
'Cruel Intentions' (1999)
'Monster's Ball' (2001)
'Y Tu Mama Tambien' (2001)
'Secretary' (2002)
'The Brown Bunny' (2003)
'The Notebook' (2004)
'Brokeback Mountain' (2005)
'A History of Violence' (2005)
'Black Snake Moan' (2006)
'Shortbus' (2006)
'The Reader' (2008)
'Blue Valentine' (2010)
'Black Swan' (2010)
'Blue is the Warmest Color' (2013)
'The Wolf of Wall Street' (2013)
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pepper Schwartz: Graphic sex in "Blue Is the Warmest Color" causing controversy
  • She says Times critic said film is relevant for young teens; his 14-year-old saw it
  • She says: You kidding? Most kids very unprepared for film's level of raw sexuality
  • Schwartz: Not advisable for a parent to introduce this kind of sex to a youngster

Editor's note: Pepper Schwartz is professor of sociology at the University of Washington and the author or co-author of 19 books, the latest of which is "The Normal Bar." She is the AARP love and relationship ambassador and writes the Naked Truth column for AARP.org. She is a senior fellow at the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit organization that gathers research on American families, and chairperson of the advisory board for the PhD in Sexual Studies at the Institute for Integral Research.

(CNN) -- The film "Blue Is the Warmest Color," a French import, has kicked up a storm of controversy, mostly because of its extraordinarily long, detailed and explicit lesbian sexual and romantic scenes. So graphic was a roughly six-minute coupling, that the Motion Picture Association of America gave the movie an NC-17 rating, that is, no one under 17 admitted.

But there was additional controversy when a prominent film critic suggested it could be a good movie to introduce one's teenage daughter to. In a blog post on The New York Times website about a theater in New York that chose to flout the MPAA rating, critic A.O. Scott said that "in some ways, because of its tone and subject matter, 'Blue' is a movie that may be best appreciated by viewers under the NC-17 age cutoff." His 14-year-old daughter had seen it twice at the Telluride Film Festival.

Pepper Schwartz
Pepper Schwartz

My take on his comment -- as a sex researcher, a university professor and a mom who has seen the film -- is: "Are you kidding?!" I would not recommend anything so vivid portrayed by a same-sex or opposite sex couple to any young person, particularly one who was not already sexually experienced.

Furthermore, while my family is hardly shy about sharing information and opinions on all kinds of sex, it would be awkward and inappropriate to be the one introducing either my daughter or son to three highly-detailed sex scenes (even simulated, which these are). We may have frank conversations about sex, but they're not fully illustrated, and that makes a difference!

If you have not yet sat down with your kids to look through pictures of sexual positions and intercourse, having them watch this movie would be a strange place to start. "Blue Is the Warmest Color" is not family entertainment. Its athletic, rough and tumble sexuality can look aggressive, even frightening, to an inexperienced young person, and it is hard to explain to many teens why that might also be loving.

In a perfect world, one would want one's child to go through stages of experiencing sex, from kissing to fondling to an intimate connection with a first lover. Perhaps this is idealistic, but at least their exposure to vivid images of sexuality might occur over time, graduated according to what they are ready to see and understand.

In any case, it's certainly not something they'd want to watch with their parents, although it's not clear whether Scott actually accompanied his 14-year-old to the Telluride screenings. I am also mystified that Scott talks about the movie as a realistic depiction of young love that teens will identify with. Huh? This is not a realistic depiction for most teenagers. Approximately 40% to 50% of them will not have had intercourse until they have graduated high school. Very few of them will have had a relationship of this caliber or impact.

Discussion around students and sexting

How sexually explicit films affect kids is debated among health professionals and sex researchers. Some maintain that they can encourage sexual experimentation and a change in values in young people, while others disagree -- but as a parent, why go there? Why consciously risk flipping youngsters ahead of their own experience by introducing information before they are more erotically mature?

One other reservation about taking a teen to this movie? I love a love story; gay, straight, bisexual or undecided. The chilling part of this film is that it's basically the story of an adult woman (she's 5 or 6 years older) poaching on a high-schooler. The issue is glossed over in the movie. But parents should be wary of taking their kids to see a movie that glamorizes sexual relationships between a sexy older person and a teen. Yes, it's only a movie. But it is one that can deliver a message.

Of course, there should be lots of conversations between parent and child on all these topics -- lesbian love affairs, affairs with older lovers, sexual desire when you are young -- before a child is launched into the adult world. But a parent exposing a child to deeply intimate sexuality -- people having oral sex together, slapping and grabbing each others' butts and bringing each other to orgasm -- is neither necessary nor desirable.

We can have, as sex educators call it, "a teachable moment" other ways. If your child does go see this film, by all means, discuss it. But I am pretty sure this kind of field trip would make parent and child feel they'd had an exceptionally squeamish, and highly regrettable, experience.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Pepper Schwartz.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT