An R Rating for Being Gay?

Posted on August 22, 2014 at 10:00 am

“Love is Strange,” a tender, beautifully written and performed love story about a three decade relationship, stars John Lithgow and Alfred Molina.  The MPAA has given the movie an R rating even though there is nothing in the film that normally triggers an R in the categories of language, violence, nudity, or sexuality.  The only possible explanation is that the gay characters at the center of the story somehow put the film into the R category.

In the Star-Ledger, Stephen Whitty compared the film to the other two R-rated movies opening this week, which feature extreme violence and explicit nudity and sexual situations.

It’s a simple human story. And it is very hard to imagine that — if it starred, say, Robert Duvall and Jane Fonda as a similar long-time couple suddenly facing homelessness — it would be lumped in with movies crammed full of queasily stylish sexism and sickening torture porn.

(Oh, and by the way, that last “Transformers” movie — which memorably featured a man burnt to a crisp — was rated PG-13. So was “The Expendables 3,” a film whose body count would require a calculator.)

He’s right.  And I agree with J. Bryan Lowder, who wrote in Slate:

Let’s hope parents are smarter than this. There is nothing “adult” or at all worrisome about a movie that quietly and gently portrays a gay couple and their struggles. To think otherwise is to participate in an insidious sort of homophobia that uses child-sized human shields to disguise basic prejudice. And the worst part is that Love Is Strange is exactly the kind of “gay film” that younger teenagers, both gay and straight, would benefit from seeing. For the former group it offers a vision of a gay romantic future that, while beset with a specific struggle, is also full of love, as well as a sense of community and history—older, happy gay people exist! And for the straight kids, the film can reinforce the dignity of gays and their relationships in a way that abstract lectures never could.

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