You better lawyer up, MPAA, because Harvey Weinstein is coming back for everything. Following the twin egregious decisions by the ratings board to slap its properties “Blue Valentine” and “The King’s Speech” with NC-17 and R ratings, respectively, The Weinstein Company has apparently assembled a huge legal team to appeal on the constitutional right of free speech. This is getting serious, folks. What started out as a tough break for a indie awards contender is suddenly looking like the full-fledged legal showdown with the MPAA that has been a long time coming.
Weinstein has played this entire situation brilliantly -at most, a victory in this situation could send shovckwaves through the industry and change the entire ratings system. Meanwhile, in the short term, “Blue Valentine” has been subtly linked to “The King’s Speech,” equating the little indie as a major contender. The free publicity his fight with the MPAA will receive will probably strongly augment the film’s box office no matter what the outcome, making any legal fees more than worth the cost. If TWC wins and the films get bumped down to R and PG-13 ratings, their intake could skyrocket, and as a sudden cause célebre their awards chances get a significant bump.
And here’s the thing: the MPAA can’t win. If they overturn the decision and lower the ratings, they look like pushovers whose decisions can be overturned by any studio with the proper resources. If they still uphold the NC-17 and R ratings in the end, you can bet the media will cry foul, and getting rid of such an out-of-touch, obsolete organization will become priority #1 in Hollywood. They’ve lost the moral high ground. And thanks to their counterparts across the pond, the MPAA is already on shaky ground: the British Board of Film Classification recently reduced “The King’s Speech” to its equivalent of a PG-13 rating, striking a major blow for more proportionate responses to context-appropriate swearing (“The King’s Speech” apparently features a scene in which Colin Firth drops about 30 obscenities in a row as part of his speech therapy, hence the head-scratching high ratings for such an inspirational prestige biopic).
As for my opinion on the “Blue Valentine” kerfuffle, I couldn’t agree more with Ryan Gosling, quoted in The Weinstein’s Company press release on the legal team:
You have to question a cinematic culture which preaches artistic expression, and yet would support a decision that is clearly a product of a patriarchy-dominant society, which tries to control how women are depicted on screen. The MPAA is okay supporting scenes that portray women in scenarios of sexual torture and violence for entertainment purposes, but they are trying to force us to look away from a scene that shows a woman in a sexual scenario, which is both complicit and complex. It’s misogynistic in nature to try and control a woman’s sexual presentation of self. I consider this an issue that is bigger than this film.
The fact that the MPAA routinely gives lower ratings to incredible violence and degrading portrayals of sex than to more honest, appropriate depictions of life is common knowledge by now. It’s time someone did something about it. It’s time for the era of hypocritical ultra-conservatism on the ratings board to end. So fight on, Harvey – my $7.50 will be behind you whenever the film finally makes its way to theaters late next month.