Back on Themyscira, Wonder Woman caught a glimpse of Chris Pine’s magic sword, but come Nov. 9, we all will get the chance. According to the version of Outlaw King, that screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and will stream on Netflix, a scene in which Chris Pine’s character emerges from a lake will display his visible Chris Pine-is.
Full male nudity is still relatively rare among movie stars (hence our collective reversion to the seventh grade), especially when compared with how often female actresses show their breasts on screen. That imbalance is due not only to general cultural sexism but also specific inequality when it comes to the largely arbitrary rules of the MPAA.
A rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is voluntary, but it’s become fundamental for a film that wants to show in a theater, and the difference between an R rating and an NC-17 rating can mean life or death for a movie’s viewership and box office bank. As a result, films must ascribe to the blurry line drawn by the MPAA (or have big studio money in order to appeal a rating when it comes back unfavorably), which permits male pleasure over female pleasure and violence far more readily than sex.
The difference between an R-rated and NC-17 film can be entirely subjective. In 2010, Blue Valentine successfully appealed an NC-17 rating the MPAA slapped on the movie for a scene in which Ryan Gosling’s character performs oral sex on Michelle William’s character after public outcry that a similar scene between two women in Black Swan yielded that movie an R rating. That same bias evidenced itself in deliberations over 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry, which was flagged for the length of a woman’s orgasm.
Many times, the decision can hinge on the length of the scene: American Pie, Two Girls and a Guy, and American Psycho all avoided the NC-17 death sentence by cutting down sexual scenes without actually removing any of the suggested content. The Hollywood Reporter wrote that “three or four seconds” of thrusting is the typical allotment in an R-rated film.
The same puritanical fixation on genitalia that had critics “dazzled” by Chris Pine’s tree (sorry, not sorry — we’re sticking with the puns) makes it nearly impossible to get an NC-17 rating for anything else. Gunshots are all permissible in a PG-13 movie, and open wounds tip it over to R, but an NC-17 won’t occur for violence unless it’s grotesque for the sake of obscenity. Although Clerks did originally receive an NC-17 rating for “strong language” in 1994, Miramax appealed and got the movie an R without any changes.
By all accounts, the shot of the Outlaw King‘s family jewels is blink-and-you-miss-it (or, as we like to call it, a Gone Girl), which means the Netflix-streaming movie will have no roadblocks when it comes to theatrical viewings since big screens have already been hit by full-frontal male nudity in Blockers and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Both antiquated and puritanical, with heavy preferential treatment for the big studio films that are able to litigate multiple appeals, the MPAA is a relic that still fundamentally influences the entire motion picture industry. Maybe it’s also partially to blame for why poor Chris Pine has to deal with all of our giggling.