The out producer of the upcoming John Waters comedy A Dirty Shame has accused the U.S. movie ratings system of bowing to political pressure and a "family values" agenda by giving her project the commercially unfriendly NC-17 tag. Speaking at a news conference during the Deauville Festival of American Cinema on Monday, indie veteran Christine Vachon accused the Motion Picture Association of America of consigning movies to oblivion by certifying them as NC-17--no one under 17 admitted. "I think that even just two years ago, the MPAA would have given [A Dirty Shame] an R," which requires viewers under 17 to be accompanied by a parent or adult guardian, she said. "I think the pressure has to do with the current administration, and [there is] this encroaching feeling constantly of the notion of family values." A Dirty Shame, which was handed the NC-17 tag because of "pervasive sexual content," opens September 24 via Fine Line Features. It depicts the high jinks that ensue when a horde of sex addicts invade a blue-collar neighborhood in Baltimore.
"Dirty Shame, like most of John Waters's films, is a cheerfully dirty movie with no mean spirit whatsoever, and it would be far worse to let a child see a violent film than to see something like A Dirty Shame," Vachon added. The NC-17 rating effectively destroys a film's commercial potential, she said, because some theaters will not screen it, some papers will not carry ads for it, and number 1 video chain Blockbuster does not stock NC-17 films. But she added that Fine Line's New Line Cinema parent had kept faith with the project, even though the original contract was for an R-rated John Waters film. "[New Line] stuck by us and did not make us do any cuts," she said. "The MPAA said that if we were going to cut Dirty Shame to an R, it would be 10 minutes long." The MPAA declined comment Tuesday.