Which of these movie posters is more disturbing?

Darkside_lTry, for a second, to remember the most disturbing image you’ve ever seen on a movie poster. Think of your top five most gruesome posters, even. Got ‘em? Now, think about where a photo of two soldiers walking toward the horizon with a hooded detainee might fit on that list. If you’re me, the answer is "nowhere" — but don’t try telling that to the Motion Picture Association of America; the censor-happy bigwigs just rejected a poster for Taxi to the Dark Side, a new documentary about the U.S. military’s stance on torture, because the image you see at the left is apparently inappropriate for children. Or more specifically, the MPAA thinks the hood over the detainee’s head suggests some sort of torture-related activity.

Well, duh — it’s a documentary about torture, folks. But there’s nothing remotely explicit about the image in question. Sure, it’s politically charged, but all the soldiers are doing is walking with their hands on the prisoner’s arms. The only violence here is implied. Most kids wouldn’t even be able to identify what it is about this image that makes it so jarring for adults, unless we’re talking about third-graders with extensive knowledge of Bush administration foreign-policy. ("Help, Mommy, I saw a bad man suspending habeas corpus!")

Meanwhile, there’s a whole lotta irony in the explanation that the filmmakers say they received from the MPAA (who have only issued a terse "think of the children!" statement). "According to ThinkFilm distribution prexy Mark Urman," Variety reports, "the reason given by the Motion Picture Assn. of America for rejectingthe poster is the image of the hood, which the MPAA deemed unacceptablein the context of such horror films as Saw and Hostel." Huh. You mean, like, the Saw III one-sheet with that nauseatingly graphic dental disaster? Or perhaps they were referring to the Hostel Part II poster with the skeevy guy in the dungeon brandishing a power drill? The MPAA, of course, seemed to be cool with both of those charming images. I guess gory, sadistic fantasies are just fine for impressionable little ones.

Anyway, kudos to the MPAA for making me aware of Taxi to the Dark Side, which I’ll definitely go see when it hits theaters in a few weeks. In the meantime, does anyone care to defend the MPAA’s apparent double standard? That is, if you’re not too traumatized by the terrifying images accompanying this post. 

Comments (35 total) Add your comment
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  • Rahul

    I hate the MPAA’s selective stand on sex and violence in movies. Why is some violence acceptable (horror movies) but real life violence depicted deemed unacceptable? I thought this kind of stuff would have ended after Conservo-Valenti left the job.

  • babs

    could the people writing these literaly masterpieces of journalism please please stop taking every waking moment to trash the President of this country? we don’t need you political viewpoints thrown at the wall every time some drole piece of pop trash is written……lay off political ideations and words of derision when talking about pop, music, entertainment or sports for god’s sakes…..enough is enough!

  • rachel

    All I know is my little niece was just in the room with me, and she flipped out when she spotted that Saw poster and started shouting “Teeth! Teeth!”, but didn’t blink an eye at the documentary poster. Thanks MPAA, you hypocrite bastards!

  • Literati

    I could understand being upset if the film in question was based on a Roald Dahl story, but in fact it’s a documentary on torture that most likely involves Bush at some level, so they’re not sucker punching the president in this article. Two, considering how serious Bush’s trespasses are it’s amazing that people are urged to shut up about it.

  • Ian

    babs – The article is hardly about bashing the pResident. It’s about a ridiculous double standard that the MPAA has employed.

  • Jill

    Well obviously the “Saw” poster is much more disturbing. I didn’t even glance at the other one because I was so distracted. The MPAA is wrong here. I know my 9 year old would be creeped out by the ugly teeth whereas he wouldn’t care about 3 guys walking together.

  • james

    Babs, unfortunately the mpaa has brought politics into the world of entertainment by censoring this poster, therefore the author has no chice but to incorporate politics in this article.

  • Ron Bull

    Outrageous. I would litigate all the way to the Supreme court, plus it would also be good pub for the movie.
    Secondly, Babs it doesn’t take all day to think of something to criticize about the President. He usally does something wrong in the first few minutes that I am awake.

  • LisaMama

    I think anything that is viewed by the general public that includes children in the mix (such as at a movie theater or grocery store), should be safe. I know that everyone’s definition of “safe” is different, but I think we can all agree that the Saw poster is terrible. The other one — I don’t know. The hooded man is creepy, but let’s hope that the average 8 year old won’t understand that the hood implies torture. Let’s hope the average 8 year old doesn’t know what torture is!

  • Music Man

    The Saw poster because it means that they’re actually making another one of those pieces of crap.

  • Argus

    Babs,please take a class or at least pick up a book.Stupidity is not very becoming.Also,Bush is a retard who I hope is hung for war crimes.I’ll cheer for days when he is put down.

  • 42man

    It’s cases like these that weakens my faith in Hollywood (FYI, my faith is at -70 now). If the MPAA can censor a small picture of two men carrying another hooded men, but not a picture of chopped off fingers, or pulled teeth, then it says something about the intelligence quotient of these people. Hell, it says something about how desperate the government is to censor any wrongdoings they had a part in. Because it is my belief that if that image is censored, and so many violent and sexually motivated posters are greenlighted, that it must be about something political after all. In my books, it’s just plain disgusting.

  • djm

    How anybody with half a brain can see any value added by the MPAA is beyond me. This organization is about nothing but sensorship. They are owned by the NRAA and the Christian right and wouldn’t know their behind from a hole in the ground. It’s just retarded.

  • Kristi

    Disturbing but not surprising, especially if you have seen the excellent doc about the MPAA “This Film Is Not Yet Rated.” A bunch of hypocrites.

  • Anonymous

    You’d think Dan Glickman (the guy who replaced Valenti as the head of the MPAA) would want to spread anti-Bush sentiment to those four people who aren’t already there. He is a former member of the Clinton cabinet (as agriculture secretary, yes, but a Democratic appointee nonetheless). Since the MPAA clearly pushes its own agendas with its ratings (indie movies about two gay people in a loving committed relationship – bad, studio movie where an entire American city is leveled – good), you’d think he’d want to do his bit to get the Democrats back in power by spotlighting the horrors of the Bush administration.

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