Thoughts on Movie Poster Controversy

This post is in response to an interesting list that was circulating last week from Flavorwire on the 10 most memorable film poster controversies. When it’s usually the films themselves that get people up in arms, I found this article to be a new perspective on the many forms of censorship (warranted and not) that exist in the film industry. My thoughts about each list entry are below, please refer to the link above for pictures in the original article.

1. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, David Fincher (2011)

I’m going to go out on a limb and claim this film as the most anticipated of the year. So when the poster was released (with a killer tagline I might add), it was bound to stir up attention. But many found the half-naked depiction of Rooney Mara a little jarring, and a misrepresentation of her character, Lisbeth. Instead of a strong heroine, many found a vulnerable victim in the arms of Daniel Craig. When I saw this poster I didn’t have the same reaction. I think many people mistake vulnerability for weakness, and that’s not what is being portrayed here. Plus, it’s David Fincher, and as Ryan has said, “he’s no hack director.” I have all the confidence in the world that he will do justice to Lisbeth and her story.

2.  Captivity, Roland Joffe (2007)

I’m not a fan of horror films, so I had no idea this movie really existed although I do recall hearing a little about this controversy. All I really have to say about this one is movies like this should never even be made, let alone marketed to a general audience. It’s torture porn, plain and simple, and everyone associated with something like this should be ashamed. The article includes a link to another article that has more coverage of the public outcry, and the lame attempts at excuse making by distributor reps. My favorite includes the explanation that a change in the film’s ending (supposedly our lead remains alive instead of being tortured to death) is empowering to women. My question is, even if you mistakenly send the wrong images to the printer (which the reps claim is what happened, and that there was no executive sign off or approval) the fact is that this series of four panels was at one point a draft. A draft that was up for consideration, and a draft that pretty much gave the ending of the film (at one time) away. I posed my confusion about this to Ryan, to which he replied, “a movie like this doesn’t have a story, it doesn’t matter.” Exactly.

3. The Road to Guantanamo, Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross (2006)

Interesting that one little close up fixes the problem for everyone. A great example of the power of perception.

4. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Werner Herzog (2009)

This entry was an interesting read, if what interests you is the MPAA’s quirky and oftentimes ridiculous regulations. Although I have to agree that a gun shoved in someone’s face sends out messages, whether we want it to or not.

5. The Hills Have Eyes II, Martin Weisz (2007)

The article found this entry to be another random morality call by the MPAA, but to me there is a stark difference if you can believe it or not. As you may have already gathered, I hate the depiction of torture in movies. I can see people shot, blown up, blah, blah, but I don’t do mental or physical torture. Which is why I hate horror films. So back to the posters. The first poster submitted to the MPAA was rejected because of the hand clawing its way from the body bag. This person, obviously alive, is trying to escape almost certain death. To me this represents torture, which can be disturbing (and honestly it should be disturbing) to a lot of people. So they changed it to the feet of presumably a dead person dragging outside the bag. Don’t get me wrong, this is just as messed up as the first, but slightly less so since the worse for this poor soul seems to be over. Can I just ask what the heck is appealing about films like this? I mean really, I actually want to know. I kind of want to take a shower after writing this paragraph….

6. I Spit on Your Grave, Steven Monroe (2010)

All I have to say is, why was this even made? See Captivity.

7. Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Kevin Smith (2008)

I actually thought the original poster was hilarious. Apparently the Canadians have a better sense of humor.

8. The Rules of Attraction, Roger Avary (2002)

This was interesting to me because I know I read a book for my Russian History class in college that had toys, I believe a bear and a Barbie doll in a compromising position on the cover (you had to read the book). So it was strange to me that this came across as offensive, especially since I’m pretty sure most kids have done this to their stuffed animals at one point.

9. The People vs. Larry Flynt, Milos Forman (1996)

The original poster was used in Europe, but I have to say I like the second poster more-I think the symbolism rings truer.

10.    The Outlaw, Howard Hughes (1943)

The outlaw? Apparently Jane Russell’s breasts….