Monday, December 11, 2006
Mel, sex, and violence
Hearts ripped out of chests and held aloft in all their pulsating, graphic glory as thousands of people cheer in delirious approval. Heads decapitated and tossed as gifts to the crowd, people rushing to catch them with the same fervor and delight as a child catching a foul ball in their mitt at a baseball game.

Just two of many such violent, over-the-top, gut-wrenching, stomach-turning scenes in Mel Gibson's masterful piece of moviemaking, the R-rated "Apocalypto," which opened at No. 1 at the box office.

Now imagine a movie featuring a man and a woman madly in love -- so much in love they can't keep their hands off each other. In this movie, which tells a compelling story that is also masterful, they repeatedly make love to each other and we see them naked (as we see the Mayan tribesmen and women in "Apocalypto"). The scenes are as sexually explicit as "Apocalypto" is violently explicit and nothing is left to the imagination.

How would that movie be rated? R or NC-17?

Go see another movie to find out the likely answer. "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" is a devastating indictment of the mysterious MPAA ratings board -- a group whose methods can seem like madness, fraught with illogic and hypocrisy.

"This Film" blows the proverbial lid off the secretive MPAA, revealing its until-now shadowy members. It unpeels, layer by layer, the thick skin encasing the MPAA to reveal a thin-skinned group whose actions have tremendous financial and moral implications.

So as we struggle with morals and values -- which by their very nature are subjective -- how do we explain the following: The moral and not-so-moral majority seem willing to accept that we, as a society, have little problem with graphic violence on the scale seen in "Apocalypto." Adults feel comfortable watching it with their kids by their side, just another family entertainment outing of gorging on popcorn, pretzel bites, hot dog and Twizzlers while consuming buckets of on-screen violence.

But if you were to substitute sex for the violence, there would be apoplexy and outrage, a rush to shield the eyes. If those same parents watched with their kids as lovemaking ensued on screen, the uncomfortable seat-shifting would surely be intense enough to loosen the floor bolts that hold the chairs in place.

The double standard we allow with violence -- whether it be at the movies, on TV shows or in videogames -- can not be explained rationally. As someone once said, "Don't confuse me with logic."
I think the violence shown isn't 'real', and the family knows it. The graphic sex scenes are real, and that is the tough part. Explaining to children all the blood is fake, though your stomach might turn, is easy. Explaining the sex isn't as easy.

Good or bad, I think that is a major issue.
I gather in America if you touch a breast it is far worse thasn cutting one off in a movie.

Strange country you have
To a certain degree, I agree with the author's comments. Many movies have become violent to an extreme, and parents' guards have been lowered as all are desensitized after repeated viewings. Some films, like Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List, should be violent, to show the horror and disgusting reality of war and murder. While I have not yet seen Apocalypto, I believe the violence Mr. Gibson showed in Braveheart and The Passion of the Christ were used to make a point about the brutal reality or violence.
I find it difficult to see the appropriate comparison between violence and sex. While many movies go overboard with violence, some, as has been mentioned, use it for educational purposes. War equals violence, but love does not equal sex. One does not need to see explicit sexual encounters for two hours to believe the two involved our in love. Since films began, screenwriters have usually been talented enough to convince the audience of this without the characters getting naked. The best romantic comedies (those of the Golden Age era, and some modern such as Sleepless in Seattle or While You Were Sleeping) do not involve sex at all.
Perhaps this was the point the author was making. Younger children do not really need to be subjected to extreme violence or to extreme sexual scenes. Both could influence activity which would not create healthy lifestyles. Parents would do better to see such movies by themselves. Surely there are good enough films around somewhere for children without blood shooting out everywhere.
I think that it is very interesting that our society censores sex, but not violence. I would believe that it goes back to the christ roots of America. Violience has never been censored in the bible, but any act of sexual behavoir has been. I don't find it very hard to believe that we have take hold of one to be okay and not the other. But regardless both of them are very real and both happen every day. It is just easier to blind society from one and not the other.
We are a society in decline as is evidenced by the escalating depravity of our "entertainment". I agree whole-heartedly (and mine is still in my chest) with Dave Levine. Everything we ever see is burned into our retinas and memories forever. I for one, would rather subject children to visuals of love making (how they are conceived) than killing one another. Bob from Flint, you have got to be kidding. I feel sorry for your kids.
Seriously, after seeing "Apocalypto" this weekend, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. I didn't see anything that was terribly over the top - and I don't think that's because I've been "jaded" by media or whatever. All I saw was a realistic deptiction of the story told, and honestly, it could have been SO much worse. Why is this movie getting so much buzz over this? Oh, yeah... everyone is way more obsessed with the director than the actual film. Honestly, get over it people.
War equals violence, but love does not equal sex. One does not need to see explicit sexual encounters for two hours to believe the two involved our in love.- J McRay (comment above)

An interesting statement if only because it seems to try to validate 2 hours of violence. We ALL know people die or are severely injured during war, so why show it to us over and over? Because we like it. It's the same reason there is a multi billion dollar porn industry. People like to see it.
There is most definitely an odd culture in the USA where violence is shrugged off like its no big deal, yet sex is taboo. People say violence in movies or on TV is fake and everyone knows it. Well, unless you're watching hardcore porn the sex is fake too. I dont see why someone can be told the violence is fake but not that the sex is fake. Its an idiotic moral position, where once again, those with a fear (usually brought on by religious beliefs)try to make everyone be the same as them.
I will never understand why so many americans would rather be able to shoot something or watch death on TV than have sex. If you enjoy death more than sex you either have a deeply disturbing mental health issue or have been completely missing out in the sex department.

But then again, there are numerous areas in this country where adults have voted and/or protested that their children not be taught sex ed because of moral issues. These (unsurprisingly) are some of the same areas with the highest rates of teen pregnancy. Seems like the sex haters are doing a really good job with morals! Maybe your new grandchild who will grow up while you're in your 40s can clue you in before you retire.

I love this country, but sometimes i think it should be split in 2. on one side, religious nutballs that want everyone to agree with them. On the other side, the rest of us that just want people to be happy.
I submit that the same parents that would "feel comfortable watching it with their kids by their side, just another family entertainment outing of gorging on popcorn, pretzel bites, hot dog and Twizzlers" are the same people who would be lax about their kids watching sex scenes. Either one is highly inappropriate for children and would be irresponsible to expose them to.

I don't know anyone who would take their kids to see Apocolypto, although sadly I know there are many out there.
If you don't want your children exposed to history being portrayed the way it really was, then don't take them to see the movie. Shelter them a little more so that they can then learn everything from the kids on the playground instead of (their Parents) explaining the history to them. Just another copout by all of our "let's blame them" society.
The comment by Ian Farkin above was great, I could not agree more!
Sex offenders are put in a public database, gun offenders aren't. I would like to know if I am living beside a repeated gun offender!
Every day people (incl. teenagers) are killing each other in this country and no one even questions the easy accessibility of guns, like it is nature given to own one. If there are as many rapes and sexual assaults, I bet with you these laws would be toughened.
Apocalypto is an extraordinary movie, one that anyone who can handle graphic violence should see, in my opinion.

That being said, to me violence is fundamentally ugly, and sex between consenting adults, married or not, gay or straight, is beautiful. The fact that we are so squeamish about sex in films, and so accpeting of violence in films, to me reveals that American cuture views sex as uglier than violence.

How sad.
Did I miss the graphic sex part of the movie? I watched this yesterday and I must have missed when this happened. Unless the movie I watched had it edited out before hand.
Scenes of violence disgusts yu(at least normal people) while sex arouses you. When you see violence on screen people don't think of repeating the acts. While sex depicted on the screen may encourage youngsters to emulate what they see on screen. Violence turns off, while sex turns on.
Mr. Dave Levine's comments are totally out of context. The comparison is unappropriate and non-sense. It really seems that the media keeps trying too hard to put down everything Mr. Gibson does. It was known before the movie was released that the movie was about action and blood. The hearts, yeah, that was part of the Mayan civilization. Anyway,
the difference between violence and sex is that the violence shown in "apocalypto" is inherently bad - its shown to make you believe its bad - so there's no issue. parents don't want their kids watching sex and then believing its great anytime, anywhere. its not the content, but what you learn from the content. that's why the sex in "requiem for a dream" shouldn't have earned it an "nc-17", no one in their right mind would view it in a positive light.
No one is suggesting parents take their kids to watch Apocalypto or any other movie with such violence. The R rating given to this movie only permits children under the age of 17 if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. So, really, it isn't the violence endorsing, falling-asleep-at-the-wheel MPAA that's the problem, is it? Perhaps those parents that take their young children along are to blame.

And really, this movie was so poorly filmed, you can't see most of the violence through the shaky camera anyway.
Apocalypto was anything short of a great movie! The movie is based on the fall of the Mayan civilization. With that being said the graphic and gory scenes everyone is whining about are anything short of what could and did historically take place during that time period in history. Tribes waged war on each other, and it was violent. If someone has the notion that war is peacful and simple, than I would suggest to hit the history books. They sacrificed humans,in the belief that it would bring a harvest to the people. Everyone has beliefs, and that was there's. The movie was in your face, and showed us what I think is just a glimpse of what happened to the Mayan civilization. I give Mel Gibson kudos!
Finally. An article that talks about Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" without referencing his DUI arrest. Oh, and by the way, Dave, i think that the impact of graphic violence in "Apocalypto" makes the idea of violence in a movie less acceptable, not more acceptable. The graphic nature of, say, "Pulp Fiction" makes the idea of violence funny, positive and uplifting. The impact of the violence "Apocalypto" releases makes you look away, makes you queasy, and leaves a sick taste in the back of your mouth, and makes it clear that this one was not meant for the kids.
And sexually explicit material of a more graphic nature makes it to the screen all the time(watch any MTV show or 'music video'). Did "Brokeback Mountain" leave anything to the imagination? No. And did anyone kick up dust over the sexually based storyline? No. Reviewers worshipped it because of the sexual story. "Apocalypto" is being unfairly interpretted because of a couple of reasons. Mel Gibson's image has been tarnished, not only because of his arrest but because he isn't a liberal democrat, which, in the Hollywood Machine is worse than being a Christian; another trait the media is using to damage him.
"Apocalypto" is also one of the few Hollywood movies that has ever been made that doesn't portray a Native American culture being destroyed, oppressed, and enslaved by white men. This deviation from the norm is always viewed as the student in the back of the History class asking who wrote history, and every one is trying to give Mel detention for his insubordination. By the way, the Spanish Conquistadors only brought technology, medical advancements, riches, and knowledge of the rest of the world to a society that had just begun to raise itself out of the stone age.
When compared to "Pulp Fiction," "Hostel," or "Brokeback Mountain," "Apocalypto" stands up as not only a better movie, but a movie that, while it still has plenty of it, doesn't glorify violence or display open sex as shock material. "Apocalypto" uses violence and sex as tools, not as subjects.
"parents don't want their kids watching sex and then believing its great anytime, anywhere."

Why not?

More proof that Americans think sex is ugly.
This is stupid buzz... It is all entertainment, don't worry about it and don't watch it, or have fun and watch it... or whatever, but don't waist your time worrying about industry created hype. This is like Bill Hicks rant on "Basic Intinct", in the end it's just a peice of crap. Wait! we all defecate, should our children see it or not? I don't know! What if some child reads the word crap there, we'll have to explain that it's not real crap, no it's metephorical crap and that makes it ok.
I think the biggest point the author was making was the gross difference in views between sex and violence.

Please - I don't think anyone who is NOT an adult should see the kind of violence that is regularly displayed in today's movies. I've seen some films that should have received an NC-17 rating for violence and were rated R. The MPAA doesn't look at violence as something only adults should see, and THAT more than anything else is the scariest part of our society.

Hopefully we'll see a change in this attitude in the future - hopefully.
Though we in the US have a seemingly unquenchable thirst for tawdry images and scenarios...think Britney Spears and her missing underwear...think Girls Gone Wild...when it comes down to it, we have a very puritanical outlook when it comes to expressions of sexuality. We Americans are made very uncomfortable by depictions of everyday sexuality expressed between consenting partners, but less so by depictions of women as little more than sexual objects and depictions of sex as a "dirty" or titillating act. It's always puzzled me that though we shy away from frank images of nudity and depictions of sexuality, we find violence so palatable. That we find routine scenes of ultraviolence and cheap (implied) sex acceptable for mass consumption, but turn our heads and say, "Oh, my!" when it comes to honest depictions of nudity and sexuality makes no sense to me.
I cannot separate a man and his movie. My question has to be why Mel Gibson feels the need to only pick history that is extremely violent to make a movie around. For that reason alone, I don't choose to fund his odd preoccupation with blood, gore, and cruelty---whether the events are true or not.

And we all know the Mayan civilization was fraught with sacrifices, wars, etc. Do we need to re-live it in 2006 on the big screen, and told by Mr. Gibson?

For those who love violence and cruelty (you know who you are--get some therapy), Mr. Gibson will spoon-fed you for years to come, I do believe.
Along the same lines, mentioning homosexuality in a movie automatically raises its rating one grade. For an example, a movie that would be PG without a homosexual character becomes PG-13 or R if a character happens to be gay, even if no sex ever occurs.
YES! Finally it is put into print. This has been my feeling about movies for years. I have long held the unpopular view that I would rather my kids see sex than violence in the movies any day (mind you, I am not saying that I advocate them seeing graphic sex scenes). But yes, I am saying I have always felt more comfortable with them witnessing some passionate sex than someone getting their chest blown open or whatever other type of graphic violence that is so mainstream. It only stands to reason. It seems like an obvious common sense type thing. Yes, the ratings...the 'morale majority'. what a shakey soapbox they stand on. Go figure!!
According to some of the comments, some feel that all you have to do is "explain" to children that blood spurting from a slit throat is "fake" and then they're OK with it--they won't have nightmares and be permanently scared by it. Oh please read up on child development! You may be justifying why you took YOUR kids to see it.

Adults who like a steady diet of Gibson-like movies are affected as well--they become hardened to human and animal suffering.

So you tell me how those movies have any worth at all?
Dave, I imagein parents knwo there children (to some extent anywasy) will know that the violence is bad and extrems and not something they want to do. Whereas sex is good and fun and very much something they may d. Youa re comparing apples to oranges.
Those that say "They understand violence is bad and won't do it, but they'll think sex is fun and will want to" are missing an important point. It's your job as a parent to make them realize the consequences of irresponsible sexual activity, just as it's your responsibility to warn them of the consequences of irresponsible violent behavior. If you've done one and not the other, you are failing your child. Just saying "Don't do it" is not only not enough, it's likely to spur their curiousity all the more. I have three teenagers, and I don't mind them seeing sexual images. We've had frank conversations about sex, and they understand the ramifications.
This blog and all of the comments bring many things to mind: 1)I know several historians and Mel Gibson does not have a good track record of being historically accurate when he makes films. I don't know much about the Mayan civilization, but I wouldn't trust Mel Gibson to teach me anything about them that I can trust. 2) Just because it is history does not justify violence in a movie. In ancient Greece, violence was never portrayed onstage and some of those methods could be used to create an historically accurate movie. For example, to show someone coming back from a battle covered in blood and bandaged certainly conveys the point that war is violent without actually showing someone getting their head chopped off or getting shot. The diaologue of the movie could then fill in what is missing from that picture. It can be done and has been done in modern movies very effectively. 3) I think it is definitely true that there Americans have a double standard when it comes to sex and violence. I think the second comment posted is a very telling one. It does seem that watching someone caress a woman's breast tenderly is considered scandalous, but watching a woman getting her breat chopped off could be included in a movie without any real comment. That isn't just strange it is sad.
I am always interested to read reviews on "Apocolypto" because everyone is so hung up on how graphic and violent it is. It seems to me that these people have never opened a history book. The Mayan civilization was one of the most violent civilizations to ever live on the Earth. For Mel Gibson to portray them watered down to appease viewers would be a discredit to the Mayan civilization. There is a reason that students remember the Mayans and that is because when we read about them in school it was one of the most fascinating pieces of history due to the completely violent nature of the things they did in their rituals and such.
People, please. Violence and sex have always gone hand in hand in ANY society. America (and humans everwhere) can't get enough. People will cause traffic jams to watch a car accident OR gaze at a strip club billboard. The real issue is not my (or your, or the movie rating's) opinion of either vice - it's our deep seeded need for gratification, for action, for things we don't have. I am no angel and I love to watch "Braveheartish" movies, as a well as a good steamy romance. But introspection is the key here. Why do I want to watch? What is my heart yearning for? Well - that's easy - I want to have something I'm not. Braveheart reminds me I don't want to sit in this stupid cubicle anymore, while a steamy romance makes me run home to my wife with flowers. But I chose the movies that I want to see based on how I percieve the director's motivation in making the movie. For instance, I won't go see "get rich or die trying" because I feel the director's goal was to create a movie that would sell soley on the controversy that it's too violent. I also chose not to see Brokeback Mountain AND Basic Instinct because I believe the director created controversy around sex to sell the movie. I hate being manipulated.

Sex is different than violence, and our society has an insatiable appetite for both - as have all societies everywhere throughout all of history. What chaps my hide is that I am told I have to respect a director's opinion as my own. Or that I'm somehow shallow because I think a movie's too violent, or I object that hollywood uses controversial sex (gay or straight) sell a movie.

I will never take my daughters to a violent or sexually explicit movie and I will punish them if they see any movie above a G rating without my permission. Call me old school, but adults can choose to not let a movie effect them, but a child cannot. I will shelter them from the stupidity of hollywood as long as I possibly can. But - I will feed them the turthful and correct version of morality because it's my God-given right as a parent, I will spend time with them, encourage them, love them with all my heart, and I will train them to make good choices, so when they are an adult, a violent or sexual movie will effect them for the better - no matter what the rating. Or even, heaven forbid, not see they will chose to avoid a movie they find objectionable.
I believe Mr. Farkin misinterpreted what I said, and I apoligize for being unclear. I do not watch a violent movie because it is violent. And I do not think that just by explaining that the violence is fake makes it okay. I don't believe that was implied in what I said. There are many movies I choose not to see because of the their overly violent nature. I don't need to subject myself to that kind of craziness. I also do not need to subject myself to blatant sexuality. Even at my age I, to a certain degree, monitor what I allow myself to see.
I do not want to come across as a "religious nutball that want(s) everyone to agree with them." Obviously people disagree, which is fine. It is not my job nor my agenda to make everyone agree with me. I am sorry if my words were taken in this way.
I think that the double standard is very sad and says a lot of negative things about society as a whole. Sex, first off, is natural, and something that hopefully every person will have a chance to do because it is a beautiful act. Nudity is not shameful. The context one puts either in doesn't matter so long as the parents letting the kids watch explain the "right" and "wrong" of each. I am far more offended by a decapitation than I am a steamy sex scene. I also have the choice of watching or not watching either.
You're not worried about your kid ripping out someone's heart. You are worried about your kid seeing too much sex and deciding to try it before he or she is ready. To blanketly say 'anyone who disagrees with me is illogical' is pathetic.
Also, last I checked, 'R' rated movies aren't meant for children. So everyone trying to make a point that sex is better to show to young children than violence should ask why parents are showing an 'R' rated movie to young children in the first place.
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