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With ‘Blonde,’ Netflix’s Marilyn Monroe Biopic, the NC-17 Movie Rating Finally


Much has been made of the rating given to Blonde.

Opening in select theaters on Sept. 16, the Marilyn Monroe biopic was slapped with an NC-17 by the Motion Picture Association, meaning that teens 17 and under will have to wait until it hits Netflix 12 days later to find out what all the fuss is about.

And fuss there is. In an interview with British film magazine Screen International back in February, director Andrew Dominik bragged about the sticker, holding it up as evidence that he refused to budge on his interpretation of Joyce Carol Oates’ 2000 book of the same name.

”It’s an NC-17 movie about Marilyn Monroe, it’s kind of what you want, right?” he said.

The Aussie filmmaker struck a different tone in May, when he told Vulture that he was “surprised” at the strict rating.

“I thought we’d colored inside the lines. But I think if you’ve got a bunch of men and women in a boardroom talking about sexual behavior, maybe the men are going to be worried about what the women think. It’s just a weird time,” he said, chalking it up to cultural differences. “It’s not like depictions of happy sexuality. It’s depictions of situations that are ambiguous. And Americans are really strange when it comes to sexual behavior, don’t you think?”

The pile-on continued with star Ana de Armas, who’s already stunned audiences with her pitch-perfect look in promo shots. The actress took aim at the MPA’s undecipherable criteria.

“I didn’t understand why that happened,” she told French magazine L’Officiel this week when asked about the rating. “I can tell you a number of shows or movies that are way more explicit with a lot more sexual content than Blonde. But to tell this story it is important to show all these moments in Marilyn’s life that made her end up the way that she did.”

With nothing but a short trailer out, it remains unclear which scenes led the “independent group of parents” at the MPA’s Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA) to stamp Blonde with the dreaded “adults only” tag. Dominik shot down rumors of an alleged sex scene featuring menstrual blood. He confirmed that the movie features a rape, but so do other films that have snuck through with a more palatable R rating. So far, the choice is as much of a mystery for the audience as it is for those who made it. It’s a throwback to the pre-streaming era, when a rating could make or break an entire movie and indignant directors railed against the shadowy figures that decided their films’ fate.

CARA is notoriously opaque, both about its process and its employees. But it wasn’t always this way.

A Preemptive Strike

In 1913, Ohio lawmakers voted to create a board of censors charged with choosing what movies could be shown in the Buckeye State. Fed up with the board’s licensing fees, and with what it saw as a violation of free speech, the distributor Mutual Film Corporation, known for its work with Charlie Chaplin, sued the Industrial Commission…



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