Do we even care about MPAA ratings in the age of streaming?
Andrew Dominik's Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde has been long-in-development and is finally ready to come out on Netflix later this year. According to the latest Movie Picture Association rating listing, Blonde has been rated NC-17. However, since this is a hybrid Netflix and theater release, it's debated how much the rating matters to the people who want to watch this biopic from the comfort of their couch.
An NC-17 rating usually means that a film with that rating will be shown in limited theaters to a limited audience. Cinemas associated with the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) often look at the rating of a film, and they typically won't show a film over an R-rating because of how limited the target audience will be.
It's rare for movies to stick with an NC-17 rating. Most films like Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Vol I and Midsommar had to cut down the excess violence and sexual content to get the R-rating needed for the film to be shown in all theaters. Some films like Blue is the Warmest Color refused to edit out the sequences that made their film NC-17 because those moments mattered to the film's narrative.
Unfortunately, the MPAA's biases show when it comes to who is experiencing pleasure on screen.
Although Blue is the Warmest Color was shown in limited theaters like IFC Center in Greenwich Village, the MPAA couldn't restrict people under the age of 17 from viewing the film once it was out on streaming platforms like Netflix.
The takeover of the streaming platforms has been well on its way with the pandemic allowing platforms to debut new films to an audience that couldn't leave their homes. Most audiences watching at home often don't check the rating of a film because it doesn't really matter. When you don't have to pay to watch a film, or feel like you have to pick a family-friendly choice, people will watch anything that piques their interest.
The landscape of film ratings is changing as more and more films are released on streaming services, and this isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Filmmakers now have the choice to keep their vision alive and unedited by distributing their films on platforms like Netflix, HBO Max, or Hulu. While the platforms might push back on the idea of an NC-17 film, Blonde could be the film that pushes the boundaries further and highlights the potential that movies for adults could have. If theaters won't show it, why not give these films another designated home?
The beauty of streaming services is that parents and guardians can regulate what their child watches by using parental controls and eliminating access to films that are above any rating of their choice. If guardians feel like their child is mature enough to watch an NC-17 film before reaching the MPAA's desired age of viewing, then that's a decision they can make for themselves.
Unfortunately, the MPAA fails to realize that in the age of the internet and streaming services, people under 17 years old are more likely to be exposed to mature content anyway. While kids used to sneak into theaters to watch R-rated movies without a guardian’s supervision, those same kids can now log onto Netflix and watch anything despite the film’s rating.
I think it's great that Netflix is giving an NC-17 feature film like Blonde a chance to be available to the general public. This film, especially since it is a biopic about a 50s sex symbol, could be the adult movie everyone has been dying for. Maybe the second coming of the erotic thriller is among us, calling any streaming platform its home.
Yes, this does mean that people won't be going to the theaters to view these films, but theaters were not showing these films to begin with. This could be an unexpected change that could open up a door full of possibilities for filmmakers who are reluctant to edit their films for the sake of the traditional morals of the MPAA.
Could NC-17 films be coming into vogue? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!