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Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the most anticipated movies of the year, thanks to the massive success of the erotic novel written by E.L. James and America's secret thirst for bondage and sexual escapism. The film's box office stats are on a trajectory to match the novel's sales, with pre-sale tickets already tracking for a record-breaking February opening. I guess you could say Fifty Shades of Grey mania has the game tied up.
The only factor that could have possibly derailed the film from prospering was an NC-17 rating, which is toxic for mainstream access, just ask Crash (the other, better one) and Showgirls (word to Jessie Spano). And with the novel's abundance of gratuitous, graphic sexual acts, the Fifty Shades film had to do some editing gymnastics in order to stick a clean landing into R-rated territory.
Here's the MPAA's (Motion Picture Association of America) rather silly (and double standards laden) guidelines for what determines NC-17 material, as detailed by The Hollywood Reporter:
Minimize the Thrusting
The difference between an R rating and an NC-17 often hinges on the amount of in-and-out action, according to those familiar with the ratings process. “Three or four seconds you can get away with,” says one source. “Linger on it for 30 or 40 seconds, and you’re in NC-17 territory.” And if a couple is completely naked, forget about it (think of all those half-clad lovers you’ve seen on the big screen).
Think Twice About Oral
As with copulation, it’s all about how long the scene lasts and how much is obscured. Harvey Weinstein successfully appealed the NC-17 given to Blue Valentine because of a scene in which Ryan Gosling’s character performs oral sex on Michelle Williams’. A very vocal Gosling accused the MPAA of misogyny, saying there are countless R-rated movies in which a male character receives oral sex.
Forgo Full Frontal (Male or Female)
Showing genitalia full-on (his or hers) almost guarantees an NC-17, unless it’s a fleeting glimpse — as with Sharon Stone’s crotch shot in Basic Instinct or Ben Affleck’s shower-entry scene inGone Girl (both films are rated R). Female breasts are R-friendly, of course, one recent example being Oscar-nominated Reese Witherspoon in Wild.
Random sex acts are judged more harshly by the MPAA, according to insiders who have been through the process. In other words, the ratings board looks more kindly on a sex scene when the characters are in a marriage or serious relationship. (Same-sex interactions also get more scrutiny than heterosexual encounters.)
Well there you have it. Enjoy the wholesome nature of 50 Shades of Grey in theaters this weekend for Valentines Day!