An Alien’s Perspective: Sex, violence and ratings


Illustration by Tarun Bali


Back in boarding school in India, we were shown movies only every other Sunday. So when Jeffrey, who is from the U.S., said he was going to skip watching a certain movie because he felt it might have too much violence in it, we scoffed at him till the end of time.

At that point, I didn’t really understand why violence in movies could be a matter of concern. Apart from the fact that I was a naïve 13-year-old, I had primarily been exposed to Bollywood films, and their action sequences are comedic at best.

Even in 2013, the films still expect the audiences to believe that stabbing the tires of a moving SUV will give it wings, turn it into an Olympic gymnast, and make it turn three somersaults, shaming Nadia Comaneci once and for all.

But this isn’t a rant about substandard action movies Bollywood ships out. Today, I’m addressing the priorities that come into play while rating movies in certain countries.

What I defined as violence changed when I was introduced to Dexter. The narrative was brilliant. But following that, I was exposed to a lot more gore than I am comfortable admitting.

It’s no secret that the rating system in the U.S. allows more violence to get through to younger audiences than sex. From movies to video games, the media is littered with examples of stricter control over nudity and sex than graphic violence. I especially find it odd that a culture which stresses greatly on sensitivity would deem “intense or persistent violence” apt for minors.

When it comes to sex, the general culture I’ve witnessed is one of hypocrisy. Several cultures are embarrassed and blatantly try to avoid the topic as much as they can, and I’ve seen it go to the extent of teaching people to treat it with disgust. There should be a more open and honest discussion about the subject.

Take the 2005 flick “Hostel.” Somehow it is deemed appropriate to show slow, graphic, intense sequence of someone committing murder to younger audiences, while movies that depict unsimulated, consensual intercourse are almost instantly rated NC-17.

This is not the case in certain European countries where violence is dealt with more strictly than sexual content. Sexual content is aired more liberally than violence. It took Saw VI several months before it was edited and released in Spain for the graphic violence it featured.

I’m not implying that sexual content should be aired irrationally. I do not expect the MPAA to read this and decide that it’s time to feature nude women on cereal boxes. I merely find the general attitude towards sex, profanity and violence perplexing.

Get offended, and write the editor a novel if you want, but I think I’d rather live in a world where people discovered healthy sexuality before they took anatomy lessons from a serial killer on TV.