Last week, Evan Rachel Wood sent out a series of tweets indicating her displeasure with the MPAA for allegedly pressuring the director of her movie Charlie Countryman into removing a depiction of a man giving a woman oral sex so it could get an R rating for its full release. So: what exactly was in that scene anyway?
As a recap, Wood, who stars in the movie with Shia LeBeouf directed by Fredrik Bond, laid down the following claims:
After seeing the new cut of Charlie Countryman, I would like to share my disappointment with the MPAA, who thought it was necessary to censor a woman's sexuality once again. The scene where the two main characters make "love" was altered because someone felt that seeing a man give a woman oral sex made people "uncomfortable," but the scenes in which people are murdered by having their heads blown off remained intact and unaltered.
This is a symptom of a society that wants to shame women and put them down for enjoying sex, especially when (gasp) the man isn't getting off as well! It's hard for me to believe that had the roles been reversed it still would have been cut or had the female character been raped it would have been cut. It's time for people to grow up. Accept that women are sexual beings. Accept that some men like pleasuring women. Accept that women don't have to just be fucked and say thank you. We are allowed and entitled to enjoy ourselves. It's time we put our foot down. Thanks for listening.
Mother Jones' Asawin Suebsaeng tracked down the script for Charlie Countryman, written by Matt Drake. The script description of the sex in question is very vague and short:
She kisses him. Softly at first, and then harder, and then it's on — she yanks away his clothes, he pulls off what's left of hers.
And they fuck. Er, make love. No, it's definitely fucking. Wait. Now they're making love. Okay, that right there? Fucking. Jesus. They're doing both. Is that even possible.
Of course it is.
"I didn't choreograph specific sex acts as much as I tried to convey a certain mood and tone," Drake told Mother Jones. "I'm not aware of how it all went down with the MPAA. As to how the scene was staged, that would have been done on the day among [Fredrik], Shia and Evan in a closed setting." As for the set up to the actual sex explained above, it plays out on the page like Drake has said he meant it to, waffling between romantic and sexy intentions. There's definitely a push-pull between two people who are talking about whether they love each other and two people who are very attracted to each other. There's drinking a lot. It's complicated, the way adult sexual relationships are.
Since Wood was actually there filming the scene, we have to trust her that the parts that were cut depicted her character receiving oral sex (and that perhaps she has some inside knowledge from Bond on why he edited the movie). It's easy to do so, given that this story bears nearly identical markings to the way Blue Valentine was told it had to be changed to receive an R rating. In that case, the director decided not to make alterations, forcing the MPAA to rethink their rating and allowing it to avoid an NC-17 to become a darling of awards season.
Charlie Countryman first came out in January at Sundance with this scene still intact, though reviews from both then and now don't make mention of the scene, likely because it didn't appear noteworthy. What they do make mention of is that it's not a very good movie. Which is perhaps the difference here: with Blue Valentine, there was pressure from the famous lead actors, the director and the studio, as well as the viewing public and rest of Hollywood, for the "real" movie to get a wide release. It's doubtful Charlie Countryman will get the same treatment, even if it suffers from the same plight.