For Adults Only: Changes in the Perception of the NC-17 Rating in the Era of Responsible Entertainment
This thesis examines the changes that have occurred in the way the average American regards films carrying the NC-17 rating since 2007, when Dr. Kevin Sandler's book The Naked Truth: Why Hollywood Doesn't Make X-Rated Movies was published. In The Naked Truth, Sandler coins the phrase "responsible entertainment," referring to the Hollywood industry's standard of avoiding making, distributing and exhibiting films that carry the NC-17 rating. The mainstream film industry's commitment to responsible entertainment goes back to the creation of the movie rating system in 1968; since that time, adults-only movies have been stigmatized and ghettoized from the rest of mainstream film. However, since Sandler's analysis of the NC-17 rating in 2007, there have been notable changes in parents' attitudes about what is acceptable for their kids, as well as in the public's attitude about movie ratings; in addition, the general political climate of the country as a whole has evolved. This raises the question, is the era of responsible entertainment coming to an end? This thesis examines the four significant NC-17 films to be theatrically released since the publication of Sandler's work--Lust, Caution (2007), Shame (2011), Killer Joe (2012) and Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)--in an effort to analyze the cultural and political catalysts that have led to these changes in the perception of the MPAA's most restrictive movie rating. In doing so, it may be possible to determine what the future holds for NC-17 movies, how they are released, and how the public will perceive them.