Tuesday October 5, 2004
Team America: World Police
The latest feature film from the creators of South Park is facing the box office kiss of death NC-17 rating because of a scene showing simulated oral sex between marionettes.
The makers of Team America: World Police have reportedly gone to great lengths, modifying the offending scene nine times for submission to the Motion Picture Association of America, the US film classification authority. They are keen to secure an R rating, which would allow under-18s to see the film when accompanied by an adult.
The makers, directors Matt Stone and Trey Parker and producer Scott Rudin, are contesting the MPAA classification, saying that the film doesn't show anything that's not been seen before in other R-rated movies. And besides, Rudin told the Hollywood Reporter, "our characters are made of wood and have no genitalia. If the puppets did to each other what we show them doing, all they'd get is splinters."
A resolution to this dispute is particularly urgent because the film-makers are contractually obliged to deliver an R-rated film for release by October 15, but the film is scheduled for sneak previews this coming weekend.
Stone and Parker are no strangers to ratings wrangles - their 1999 film South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut was also the subject of a very long and public battle with the MPAA, but ultimately got an R rating.
Parker pointed to the differences between the MPAAs treatment of simulated violence and simulated sex. Team America features violent scenes in which a Tim Robbins puppet is set on fire and a Susan Sarandon puppet is dropped off a 20-story building - all acts that passed MPAA muster.
"We blow Janeane Garofalo's head clean off, [but for the MPAA] it's all about the positions of the dolls having sex," Parker said. "It's not funny - it's tragic."