TALES FROM TINSELTOWN: MPAA's initiative to censor bare butts needs to take a back seat

There's a little PR stink floating around Hollywood these days that has made the movie-ratings organization MPAA the butt of a few jokes.

There's a little PR stink floating around Hollywood these days that has made the movie-ratings organization MPAA the butt of a few jokes.

The uproar pertains to whether children between 13 and 17 should be protected from the sight of a human being's naked posterior on the movie screen.

The studio says no, the MPAA says yes. In getting to the bottom of all this, two questions must be addressed. First of all, exactly whose butt are we talkin' about here? If it's Nicole Kidman's, that's one thing.

If it's Ernest Borgnine's, well, that's a different matter altogether.

Second question: How big of a screen are we talking about? If it's your typical Cineplex shoebox, what's the big deal? If it's one of those giant Imax monsters, then remember how long it took you to get over the fright of seeing a 50-foot high Keith Richards in that Rolling Stones concert movie. You really wanna take your chances with an derriere that size?

I seriously doubt it.

Bare with me. The naked truths are forthcoming. To wit, the rear in question belongs to George Clooney. The film is Solaris. The antagonists of this ass-inine squabble are the aforementioned MPAA and 20th Century Fox. The studio's position is this: As the photogenic Clooney had round-the-clock access to a Stairmaster during production, and as the film will not be shown in trauma-inducing giant screen format, what's the problem?

It's not like every 14-year-old in America isn't able to see the human anatomy in all its configurations and alterations on the internet.

So what? says the MPAA. We can't control what kids see on computers or the darkened corners of the local skating rink. The only thing we have some control over is what they can see in theaters. After all, if not us keeping kiddies safe from Clooney's bare derriere, then whom?

Studios fighting this sort of battle with the MPAA are often willing to take the squabble public in order to pressure the MPAA from giving "R" ratings to pictures that have the potential to attract the under-17 crowd. Truth is, it's much easier to get gratuitous violence past the censors than nudity or sex. Americans are jaded and conditioned to bloodshed, but apparently we still get a bit squeamish where the human form is concerned.

Butt of a rifle against someone's head, no worries. Butt of movie star against bed sheet, well, no so fast there, mister.

If the MPAA wants to improve its PR credibility, it should scrutinize gore and bloodshed as closely as Clooney's rear end. Meanwhile, I suggest a compromise: Why not post a written warning 10 seconds before the appearance of the offending rear action. That would be useful for audiences of all ages. Because how do we know for certain that George actually used the Stairmaster?

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