“The glances and tenderness of a taco towards a hotdog bun do not have the character of a sex scene.” That’s an excerpt from the Administrative Court of Paris’ decision dismissing a suit brought by Christian values group Promouvoir, and other associations, to remove the operating visa for Sony’s animated comedy Sausage Party. The case went before judges this week following an outcry at the time of the film’s release from Catholic groups and anti-same-sex marriage association, La Manif Pour Tous. They were outraged that the movie had been granted a -12 certificate (basically a PG rating) by France’s classification commission.
Promouvoir, Action for Human Dignity and others challenged the court over concerns that certain scenes in the film “aim to corrupt minors.” They sought to overturn the rating and charged that a warning message for parents should be placed on advertising. There was particular upset over the orgy scene that takes place among animated foodstuffs at the end of the film.
The court has now rendered its verdict, saying judges did not feel the film broadcasts a violent message, and that sexual scenes were not aimed at corrupting minors. The court took the position that, in view of the humorous aspect of the film, “the absence of a ban on young adolescents did not undermine the need to protect children and young people.”
Furthermore, there is no need to supplement the current rating with a warning. Restricting the film to kids over 12 — exceptional for an animated movie — and the fact that the title and poster “give pride of place to phallic symbols,” already sufficiently highlight its “subversive character and the omnipresence of sexual connotations.”
Here are some other excerpts from the judge’s interestingly-worded decision:
“If a furtive scene mimics sexual relations between a box of groats and a box of crackers, it doesn’t appear, at the state of instruction, to be a racially-motivated rape.”
The aspiration by a feminine hygiene product of the contents of a juice box “could only be interpreted as evoking a sexual assault by viewers able to distance themselves from what is given them to see,” the judge wrote, suggesting the different degrees by which a child or an adult would read the scene. “Moreover, this behavior, which is (acted out) by the character to whom the villain role has been assigned, acts as the negative pole of the amorous and sexual relations to which the two positive protagonists aspire.”
The judge also wrote that if during the final sequence of the film, “food and other products, none of which is a minor, explicitly simulate various sexual practices” this happens in “an imaginary universe — moreover expressly presented as an illusion — and cannot be interpreted as prompting the minor viewer to reproduce its content.”
Upon the movie’s November 30 release, La Manif Pour Tous — which gained notoriety in 2013 as it vocally opposed the law to legalize same-sex marriage — launched a Twitter campaign against the pic written by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. Among its missives, one was directed at France’s national film body the CNC: “Hello CNC, explain how you can authorize the screening of a giant orgy for the whole family?” it asked. The Association of Catholic Families also posted a warning on its website saying it was “urgent and important” to alert readers to the release of Sausage Party, “an animated film giving the appearance of being intended for young people and children (like Toy Story), but whose content is not only coarse, but also clearly pornographic, under cover of being ‘politically incorrect.’”
During its earlier domestic and international rollout, Sausage Party, which is co-produced by Annapurna and Point Grey Pictures and has grossed $140.4M worldwide, made no buns about the fact that it’s a comedy aimed at adults — it was rated R domestically. France has typically been quite liberal when it comes to sex in the movies. But, the past few years have seen a rising tide of upset over certain ratings when it comes to sexual content. Blue Is the Warmest Color, which won the Palme d’Or in 2013, originally was rated -12 and later lost its operating visa when a Paris court ruled it contains “realistic sex scenes likely to offend the sensibilities of a young audience.” Other films like Gaspar Noé’s Love and Lars von Trier’s Antichrist have faced similar legal challenges.
Some in the French industry agree that the ratings system requires an overhaul — if for no other reason than to keep it out of the courts.
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