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YEAR IN FILM: Confidential to the Motion Picture Association of America: F-U

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Colin Firth as King George VI, working blue in The King's Speech.
PHOTO BY LAURIE SPARHAM

These complaints have prompted some vague hints of change afoot, albeit more toward hitting torture-porn horror harder than lightening up on the birds 'n' bees. In any case, it's difficult to be very hopeful: for every progressive cultural step forward these days, there seem to be two Tea Party dance-steps back. It was announced earlier this month that Christian pastor and cable honcho Robert H. Schuller had contracted to broadcast G-rated versions of movies like the original Alien (1979) and Predator (1987). OK, so they'll have bad language and explicit violence removed; but even these eviscerated edits will still offer entertainment predicated on the horrific (if now nongraphically suggested) murders of humans by icky monsters. Giving kids nightmares is more godly (and provides a more "positive message," per the Rev. Schuller) than showing them (God forbid) a nipple.

Such hypocrisies run rampant in U.S. entertainment and society in general. Media outlets generally refuse to advertise NC-17 films, giving them and their modicum of sexual explicitness the commercial kiss of death while most kids freely access porn online. Screen violence grows ever more desensitizing; explosions of cars, buildings, entire cities, or planets are viewed as harmless while anything truly unpleasant enough to act as a deterrent sparks outrage. (By now the escapist Saw and Hostel movies get shrugged at, whereas the recent Killer Inside Me remake offended many because its protracted scenes of domestic violence were realistically painful to watch.)

Penises are now OK in small doses, albeit only in the clownish contexts of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Observe and Report (2009), etc. Ironically, any time sex is taken seriously, sans juvenile humor or lurid "erotic-thriller" type judgment, it becomes unfit for allegedly innocent eyes. Blue Valentine's good sex, and subsequent bad breakup sex, disturbs the MPAA because it is all too real-world relatable in both its pleasure and fallibility, something you won't often find in porn, either.

The logic gap grows ever more ridiculous even as our culture wars' battle lines harden. Imagine a Palin White House two years hence, presiding over a land in which sex education is nonexistent, abstinence clubs are the new Honor Society, and teenage pregnancy rates skyrocket. When in doubt as to the nation's course, say grace, then settle down to dinner with the kids as you watch a "clean" tube edit of something like 1995's Braveheart, its medieval spears through the chest trimmed but that humorous throwing of a prince's homosexual BFF from the castle tower left intact. Then drift off to slumberland, family values affirmed.

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