Op-Ed: IFC Lets High Schoolers See 'Blue Is the Warmest Color'

NEW YORK CITY—As AVN noted back in May, the French movie Blue Is the Warmest Color was such a hit at the Cannes Film Festival that the festival's jury, led by no less personages than Steven Spielberg and Nicole Kidman, awarded the film the festival's highest honor, the Palme d'Or.

We also let readers know that interested moviegoers in Boise, Idaho would be deprived of the pleasure of seeing it, owing to the state's liquor commission, which won't allow sexually explicit content—the movie has about 15 minutes of steamy lesbian action—in venues that serve beer and wine, as Boise's The Flicks theater does.

But fortunately, Boise isn't the only possible venue where Blue can be seen. For example, it opens tonight at New York City's IFC Center in Greenwich Village—and the courageous folks that run that theater have said publicly that even though the MPAA has rated the film NC-17, IFC Center will allow some high school students to see it anyway.

"While the MPAA has assigned BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR a rating of NC-17, recommending that no one under 18 be admitted, IFC Center feels that the film is appropriate viewing for mature adolescents," the Center posted on its website. "Accordingly, the theater will admit high school age patrons at its discretion."

While no one yet knows how that "discretion" will play out in real life, there's no doubt that at least some kids as young as 15 (or younger) have had sex, have seen people having sex, and some of them have even figured out that there are human beings who are gay and lesbian, and some of those kids may even suspect that they fit into those categories themselves.

Of course, different countries have different attitudes (and laws) about how old a person must be to see sexually explicit material, and among the Western world, the United States is one of the most puritanical, prohibiting such materials to anyone under 18. France, on the other hand, has assigned Blue a "12" rating, meaning that kids as young as 12 are allowed to see the film.

So of course, it must be time for the ultra-conservative Parents Television Council (PTC) to get a hard-on for the IFC Center.

"On behalf of the 1.3 million members of the Parents Television Council, whose mission it is to protect children from sex, violence and profanity in entertainment, I am deeply distressed to learn of your decision not to abide by the MPAA guidelines for the motion picture rating NC-17 by allowing minor children admittance to the film Blue Is The Warmest Color," PTC president Tim Winter wrote to IFC Center general manager John Vanco.

"The MPAA ratings exist for one reason alone: to give parents information about the content of motion pictures," Winter continued. "In your statement regarding this issue, you claimed 'this is not a movie for young children, but it is our judgment that it is not inappropriate for mature, inquiring teenagers who are looking ahead to the emotional challenges and opportunities that adulthood holds.' By what measure will the IFC Center be ascertaining the maturity of the children to whom you will sell tickets? At what age, or what unascertained maturity level, will a child be denied entry? And if, in your sole determination, this film is so vitally important for some children to see, then why would you charge them for admission—unless of course this is nothing but a publicity stunt for a film that is D.O.A at the US box office? These are questions left unanswered because there is no reasonable answer you could possibly give that preserves parental input and authority over the media consumption of their children."

Ooh, ooh; we could take a crack at some of those answers! In the U.S., we believe in freedom of expression, which is partly why it isn't against the law for people of any age to see movies, even if they're rated NC-17. And while we too question what criteria IFC Center will be using to decide who gets to see the simulated sex portrayed in this movie and who doesn't, we're more than happy to have them err on the side of the First Amendment, since we know from all the legitimate, peer-reviewed research that's been done that seeing sexually explicit material doesn't damage children in any way. And of course, the reason IFC Center makes everyone pay to see movies is because that's how the business stays open.

"The IFC Center’s decision to usurp parental and family authority by allowing unfettered access to children of adult-rated, explicit sexual content is a direct assault on parents and families across the country," Winter claims in the letter. "Your selective unenforcement of the MPAA guidelines in this instances approaches industrial fraud, in that the system is intended specifically for the purpose of parental reliance, and that reliance has been obviated. Parents must be assured that content ratings are accurate, consistent and transparent, and they must be confident that exhibitors will enforce them appropriately at the theater; otherwise the system is utterly worthless."

Well, yeah! 'Cause if a parent tells his/her kid not to go see Blue Is the Warmest Color at the IFC Center, they can be sure that that's what the kid will run right out and do, right? We mean, it's not like kids ever listen to and obey their parents in 2013, right? And it's not as if a parent could explain to a kid that some material in the movie is a bit too mature for them, and suggest—even demand—that the kid not see the movie until he/she matures a bit so as to be able to understand the relationships being portrayed on the screen, which in their current state of immaturity, they might misunderstand.

Anyway, as we said, the movie opens tonight, and we'll just have to wait for the press clippings in the morning to see what kind of riots or orgies broke out among the under-18 set after catching a glimpse of two women expressing their love for one another in this award-winning film.