Try, 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.