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Similar oral-sex scenes in Black Swan and Blue Valentine get two different ratings

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A feature in the L.A. Times gives us yet another reason to distrust the feckless and regressive standards of the MPAA. In Black Swan [spoiler warning!], Mila Kunis goes down on Natalie Portman after a night of partying. The scene lasts about a minute and contains no nudity. In the soon-to-be-released Blue Valentine, Ryan Gosling goes down on Michelle Williams; the scene lasts about a minute and contains no nudity. Yet the former film is rated R, while the latter has been rated NC-17. The Weinstein Company is appealing the NC-17 rating, which would keep Blue Valentine out of many theaters, but according to the Times, that appeal is likely to be rejected this week.

Why the discrepancy? No one seems especially sure, and the MPAA apparently doesn't feel compelled to explain itself. Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance says, "There's not an ounce of skin, and it's not gratuitous in any way. I'm confused and baffled," while Black Swan's Darren Aronofsky, bemused, told the Times, "I've heard the 'Blue Valentine' scene is more emotionally authentic." (I wonder what that means in this context, and I also wonder how Aronofsky feels about it. I've never thought emotional authenticity to be one of his strong suits, honestly.) But the best comment comes from Gosling (who's already weighed in forcefully on this matter), who suggests, "Maybe it's a case of selfish love?" I.e., maybe the mostly male MPAA board thinks that men giving head is a lot more threatening than women giving head. Stay tuned for the MPAA's verdict on Blue Valentine, but I wouldn't expect a very progressive outcome.