Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Is Our Love Rated "R"?

One thing people don't know about Jay is that he is a total movie hound. He LOVES to watch movies. All kinds...good, bad, or indifferent. The Netflix people must have a special courier just for our house because those little red envelopes never seem to leave. A great deal of what we get are total stinkers, In my humble opinion. However, every once in a while, a great movie comes along, much to my surprise. "Shelter" was just such a movie. It was directed by Jonah Markowitz of Quinceanera fame and starring Trevor Wright and Brad Rowe. But my reason for posting about this movie is in more than just its story.

"Shelter" tells the story of Zack Whose sense of responsibility to help keep his chaotic family together is at odds with his need to build his own life and all of this comes to a head when he falls in love with his best friends brother. But why listen to me prattle on...Watch this:

This was an incredibly sweet movie that had an emotional impact that came close to "Brokeback Mountain" on the sweetness scale. The characters were well done and were very like people I have known in real life...and the family element of the story is reminiscent of our own family histories. This movie told a sweet love story between two men and how difficult it can be to come out to yourself let alone your family and friends too. I wont give away the ending...that would just be too cruel...lets just say that this movie was satisfying to watch and didn't leave you feeling like you wasted two hours you can never get back.

My issue with the movie is this: Why is it rated "R" ?!

There was only one mild sex scene scene with the two men in bed and you only saw them kissing and rolling around. All of it was shot from the waist up. No nudity...nothing too suggestive.

I assert that if this movie had been a heterosexual love story, this movie would have been "PG-13". So why the "R" rating? Because its gay content? We can watch people role around in faux sexual situations all the time on network television but when its two men, it becomes taboo?

I guess I should feel lucky they didn't make one of the characters a raging alcoholic with AIDS, who dies at the end of the movie. Reinforcing the idea that we all end up that way......those are the television/movie images I grew up with about gay people. I am glad that, at least, we have moved beyond portraying our lives as inherently doomed.

So why is love between two men rated "R"? Being that there was almost no sexual content to the film and definitely no violence I am left to assume that whoever rated this movie doesn't like seeing honest portrayals of gay people. In the end it becomes another subtle message that "you gays don't belong". Clearly you don't have to contain any violence or any sex to be rate "R", you just have to be gay.

How does this affect us in our day to day lives?

A recent poster asked me if I felt comfortable holding hands with Jay in public. Sometimes I don't. Aside from the practical, personal safety issues, part of the reason is because of the subtle messages we get in society that we are not acceptable. Those messages become a part of how we deal with the world. When you know you are not acceptable as you are, you learn to hide. To make my point, You can't show two men dating on "Project Runway"...one of the gayest shows on television. Nor will they allow two men to dance together on "So You Think You Can Dance", a show with a ton of gay cast members. And The very high profile cases of "And Tango Makes Three" and "King and King" Two great children's books whose only crime is showing gay people in a positive light, being among the most banned children's books.

All of these messages become a part of societies stance toward gay people, and we get the message loud and clear. In most of us these messages get internalized in a variety of ways but suffice it to say...we know the world is not safe.

Discovering that this sweet and very entertaining movie was rated "R" really cheesed me off. I think its high time that America gets over its fear of gays and its belief that Gay=weak. Nothing could be further from the truth. Watching two men kiss will NOT make your kids gay....nor will the fabric of society come unraveled. But what WILL happen is that maybe...just maybe.....the world will become a more loving place, gay men and women will get to grow up to have happy healthy relationships, and America will finally live up to all she says she stands for.

Purchase "Shelter" from Amazon on our GLBTQ Reviews page here. It was an awsome movie and I gave it two thumbs up.


  1. When I was at university the local supermarket used to put a magazine called Attitude on the top shelf.

    Attitude is a gay lifestyle mag. It has silly articles about celebs, etc. Probably similar to the advocate.

    Magazines with the same amount of adult content (not much) but about straight people were placed on a normal shelf and Attitude was placed with all the porn.

    We started a big campaign and threatend the store manager with the student union solicitor as we firmly believed that this was discrimation of goods or services based on sexual orientation - something that is illegal here.

    After initially not taking us seriously he changed the policy and Attitude moved down from the boobie shelf. I like to think it was our nuanced legal argument but I think he was just sick of talking to us.

    If you have laws about the provision of goods and services over there maybe you could complain and make them change it?

    Every little helps...

  2. I appreciate immensely what you have said here. I live in a world where gay men and relationships are stilled viewed with impermanence and skepticism to the point that amongst many of my Christians friends, their social philosophy is stuck in the 1980s. I have had friends tell me that all gay people die young because of AIDS.

    I am learning to separate myself from these people as I come to terms with my sexuality, and embrace me for who I am.

    I have the fortune of being Canadian, and being allowed to marry. I can also say, with some degree of certainty, that this right is going to be around for quite a while. My heart grieves for homosexuals around the world who don't currently have the option of legal marriage because of misguided ideals.

    That being said, much of the political action that is still pushing in parts of America is very much so accomplished in Canada and I find much of what you have to say heartbreaking but not entirely relevant to my political environment. I can marry the man of my dreams. Once I get a job, I cannot be ousted because of my orientation.

    Today's message from you is very different. It attacks the subtle and obvious methods by which we are consistently reminded that we are second class social citizens, even for those of us who have the same legal rights as anybody else in our political environments.

    I thank you so much for this; for giving me a reason to be passionate, a reason to be angry, and a reason to have hope. I will continue to cheer for the American movement, and movements around the world.

    Now, time to go watch this movie.

  3. Ph yeah. I have it in my computer since EVER, it´s just here waiting to be watched, I think now that i have a possitive review i will watch it one of these days.

    Abour the R stuff, the rating is just moronic, I remember that when i was thirteen i couldn´t go see The perfect Storm, i just facepalmed when the cashier told me that.

    If i speak honestly, i don´t know any rating of any movie, if the story is good I´ll watch it, I was the same when I was a kid. I´ve always know that this sistem needs change, is soo old and condems sex and not violence. is just stupid.

  4. My way to "Shelter" was of those "one thing led to another"... I know the plot by the same Spanish web brought me to you! Actually I am increasingly grateful to "AmbienteG" =)
    "Shelter" is wonderful film with a completely positive message. Besides that its construction is impeccable and the story is very real, the feeling is in the beholder´s so nice... I´ve seen countless of times, I have recommended and I have written about it in my blog (http://aleteosazules.blogspot.com/2009/07/break.html my last post about feelings from Shelter)
    Unfortunately here in Argentina, do not get it, only through the "magic" of the Internet have had the blessing of seeing the movie... obviously not reached our cinemas and is not in the catalogs of video clubs ...
    It is unfortunate that this quality movies or other delightful as "Long-Term Relationship", not to leave the circle of festivals and have no "market" ... only manage to get those gay-themed films that have a humorous or very dramatic argument, that it hit hard and sets stereotypes ...
    And that I think is the reason to give that kind of classification: the stereotype that if is a gay-themed (and not a comedy), then "deserves" to be restricted.
    Anyway ... I love Shelter ... I... wake up every morning with the Opening of the film!!! "I like that" ...
    Kisses from Buenos Aires
    PS: Bryan, Jay, Daniel & Selena: I tell you that English is not my language and helped me to write with on-line translators. I apologize if you find a word misspelled or misused.
    More kisses!

  5. first of all I want to say how much I respect you guys as people. you guys are amazing, i have been following you guys on youtube for about maybe almost a year and on your blog for a few months. i think watching you guy's coming out video gave me the extra push to do it myself so thank you. secondly i love your blog. i live in Canada but if i could i would march and vote with you guys whenever i could.
    now on to shelter. I literally spent about 13 hours trying to watch this movie. it cut out 15 mins before the ending. long story short it is 1:10am and i just finished it. AMAZING movie. thank you for bringing it to our attention. this whole rated "R" is stupid. it's fear and ignorance of change and the unknown. just had to talk about. thanks again.

  6. One of my favorite movies is "Imagine Me & You". It's very sweet and funny, and very lighthearted. I love to watch it to cheer myself up. It's about two women who fall in love. It's also rated R, but there are only two kissing scenes in it(between the women anyway, there are a few other hetero kisses) and no sex, none even hinted at. I think there are about two swears or so, but other movies with the same amount of swearing NEVER get an R rating.

    Shelter looks great too! I am going to watch it =)

  7. Hi Bryan and Jay, I downloaded the movie yesterday after I read about it on your blog, and it was an excellent and indeed sweet movie. And I dont get why the R rated, either. I guess the US still does that, especially with gay movies, while totally unnecessary. Like Jay I love movies a lot. I have many tips for you, if you like :). Summersonset/Wendy from the Netherlands.

  8. Hi!
    First time visitor...great blog.
    While I think the MPAA is frequently homo-sensitive in making our love too adult, in the case of 'Shelter', the stated reasons for the rating by the MPAA were language and drug use, with sexual situations listed last. The MPAA has a thing about the f-word, and it's prominent in "Shelter." On the other hand, I do wonder what they would do with the romantic aspects if the language wasn't there.

    One great gay romance (very chaste romance) that includes a couple of man on man kisses but didn't rate an R-rating was "Big Eden." There is zero skin in that movie and no sex...I wonder if we are only PG-13 if we never get passed first base? :-)