Skip to main content

Don't take your kid to see 'Blue' movie

By Pepper Schwartz, Special to CNN
November 9, 2013 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
From its title to its promotional posters -- <a href='http://insidemovies.ew.com/2013/10/10/nymphomaniac-posters/' target='_blank'>close-ups of actors such as Shia LaBeouf, left, making passionate grimaces</a> -- "Nymphomaniac" has sold us on its sex appeal. The movie, directed by Lars von Trier, has been split into two parts and was released in spring 2014. But before von Trier's film titillated audiences, it was these risque scenes that had moviegoers on edge: From its title to its promotional posters -- close-ups of actors such as Shia LaBeouf, left, making passionate grimaces -- "Nymphomaniac" has sold us on its sex appeal. The movie, directed by Lars von Trier, has been split into two parts and was released in spring 2014. But before von Trier's film titillated audiences, it was these risque scenes that had moviegoers on edge:
HIDE CAPTION
Hollywood's steamiest sex scenes
'Last Tango in Paris' (1972)
'Don't Look Now' (1973)
'Nine 1/2 Weeks' (1986)
'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' (1988)
'Basic Instinct' (1992)
'The Lover' (1992)
'Mulholland Drive' (1996)
'Bound' (1996)
'Love Jones' (1997)
Wild Things (1998)
'Eyes Wide Shut' (1999)
'Cruel Intentions' (1999)
'Monster's Ball' (2001)
'Y Tu Mama Tambien' (2001)
'Secretary' (2002)
'The Brown Bunny' (2003)
'The Notebook' (2004)
'Brokeback Mountain' (2005)
'A History of Violence' (2005)
'Black Snake Moan' (2006)
'Shortbus' (2006)
'The Reader' (2008)
'Blue Valentine' (2010)
'Black Swan' (2010)
'Blue is the Warmest Color' (2013)
'The Wolf of Wall Street' (2013)
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pepper Schwartz: Graphic sex in "Blue Is the Warmest Color" causing controversy
  • She says Times critic said film is relevant for young teens; his 14-year-old saw it
  • She says: You kidding? Most kids very unprepared for film's level of raw sexuality
  • Schwartz: Not advisable for a parent to introduce this kind of sex to a youngster

Editor's note: Pepper Schwartz is professor of sociology at the University of Washington and the author or co-author of 19 books, the latest of which is "The Normal Bar." She is the AARP love and relationship ambassador and writes the Naked Truth column for AARP.org. She is a senior fellow at the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit organization that gathers research on American families, and chairperson of the advisory board for the PhD in Sexual Studies at the Institute for Integral Research.

(CNN) -- The film "Blue Is the Warmest Color," a French import, has kicked up a storm of controversy, mostly because of its extraordinarily long, detailed and explicit lesbian sexual and romantic scenes. So graphic was a roughly six-minute coupling, that the Motion Picture Association of America gave the movie an NC-17 rating, that is, no one under 17 admitted.

But there was additional controversy when a prominent film critic suggested it could be a good movie to introduce one's teenage daughter to. In a blog post on The New York Times website about a theater in New York that chose to flout the MPAA rating, critic A.O. Scott said that "in some ways, because of its tone and subject matter, 'Blue' is a movie that may be best appreciated by viewers under the NC-17 age cutoff." His 14-year-old daughter had seen it twice at the Telluride Film Festival.

Pepper Schwartz
Pepper Schwartz

My take on his comment -- as a sex researcher, a university professor and a mom who has seen the film -- is: "Are you kidding?!" I would not recommend anything so vivid portrayed by a same-sex or opposite sex couple to any young person, particularly one who was not already sexually experienced.

Furthermore, while my family is hardly shy about sharing information and opinions on all kinds of sex, it would be awkward and inappropriate to be the one introducing either my daughter or son to three highly-detailed sex scenes (even simulated, which these are). We may have frank conversations about sex, but they're not fully illustrated, and that makes a difference!

If you have not yet sat down with your kids to look through pictures of sexual positions and intercourse, having them watch this movie would be a strange place to start. "Blue Is the Warmest Color" is not family entertainment. Its athletic, rough and tumble sexuality can look aggressive, even frightening, to an inexperienced young person, and it is hard to explain to many teens why that might also be loving.

In a perfect world, one would want one's child to go through stages of experiencing sex, from kissing to fondling to an intimate connection with a first lover. Perhaps this is idealistic, but at least their exposure to vivid images of sexuality might occur over time, graduated according to what they are ready to see and understand.

In any case, it's certainly not something they'd want to watch with their parents, although it's not clear whether Scott actually accompanied his 14-year-old to the Telluride screenings. I am also mystified that Scott talks about the movie as a realistic depiction of young love that teens will identify with. Huh? This is not a realistic depiction for most teenagers. Approximately 40% to 50% of them will not have had intercourse until they have graduated high school. Very few of them will have had a relationship of this caliber or impact.

Discussion around students and sexting

How sexually explicit films affect kids is debated among health professionals and sex researchers. Some maintain that they can encourage sexual experimentation and a change in values in young people, while others disagree -- but as a parent, why go there? Why consciously risk flipping youngsters ahead of their own experience by introducing information before they are more erotically mature?

One other reservation about taking a teen to this movie? I love a love story; gay, straight, bisexual or undecided. The chilling part of this film is that it's basically the story of an adult woman (she's 5 or 6 years older) poaching on a high-schooler. The issue is glossed over in the movie. But parents should be wary of taking their kids to see a movie that glamorizes sexual relationships between a sexy older person and a teen. Yes, it's only a movie. But it is one that can deliver a message.

Of course, there should be lots of conversations between parent and child on all these topics -- lesbian love affairs, affairs with older lovers, sexual desire when you are young -- before a child is launched into the adult world. But a parent exposing a child to deeply intimate sexuality -- people having oral sex together, slapping and grabbing each others' butts and bringing each other to orgasm -- is neither necessary nor desirable.

We can have, as sex educators call it, "a teachable moment" other ways. If your child does go see this film, by all means, discuss it. But I am pretty sure this kind of field trip would make parent and child feel they'd had an exceptionally squeamish, and highly regrettable, experience.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Pepper Schwartz.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT