Sunday, June 9, 2013

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Self-Censors Sex Scenes

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt is making (and starring in) a film titled Don Jon and the way he's self-censored a few of the sex scenes in the film has been getting a lot of attention. Although no one has gone into any great detail about this, and it's hard to really grasp what they consider graphic sex scenes from the limited information out there, Gordon-Levitt stated he's cutting the sex scenes so the film can get an R-rating in the US.

 BERLIN – Joseph Gordon-Levitt will cut out the most graphic sex scenes from his directorial debut, Don Jon's Addiction, in order for the film to qualify for an R rating in the U.S., the actor-director said Friday.

“Yes, we expect we have to do that, and I'll be getting started on it as soon as I get back,” Gordon-Levitt said at a press conference at the Berlin International Film Festival, where Voltage Pictures' Don Jon's Addiction is screening in the Panorama section.

Questions about whether the at-times graphic romantic comedy -- in which Gordon-Levitt plays a modern-day Lothario addicted to pornography -- would have to be toned down for U.S. release have been swirling since the film premiered in Sundance.  You can read more here.

In addition to self-censoring the sex scenes the film also received a new title in what seems to be an effort to mainstream it even more so. It was originally titled Don Jon's Addiction. Here's more on that. I'm linking and not commenting because that's basically all that's out there. The film won't be released until later this year.

In this article at Huff Po Gordon Levitt said this:

"I never wanted to make something that was overly provocative, I never wanted to shock people," Gordon-Levitt said. "I wanted this to be a pop movie, a mainstream movie."

So he's shooting for average? I honestly don't know what to make out of this statement because I've never actually seen anyone do or say things like this. We usually hear that a film like this is supposed to be provocative, it's supposed to shock people, and no one ever offers any apologies at all. I have no comment on whether it's good or bad, and I've always enjoyed Gordon-Levitt's work. I just find it interesting. But more than that, the film hasn't been released to the mainstream yet, but it's been shown at festivals. To me making changes like this reminds me of when a self-published author releases a book, waits for reviews to come in, and then takes the book down and makes changes according to how the book was reviewed with the thought of pleasing everyone. If you notice, people rarely write a review that says: "There's not enough sex in this book."

I don't think it's possible or realistic to please everyone with creative content, especially when it comes to books or movies with strong sex scenes. When I released my book, Chase of a Dream, in two versions, I self-censored the abridged version because I thought I was giving people choices. I also wanted to show that an erotic romance can be self-censored by the author and it won't lose anything in the storyline. At first I thought all those who have always claimed I write too many strong sex scenes in my erotic romances would be thrilled that I'd done this for them. In the same respect, I thought the readers who enjoy reading sex scenes in erotic romance would be content that I hadn't left them out either.

What I found was interesting. The unabridged version of CoaD with the sex scenes sold basically the same way all my other erotic romances sell, and the self-censored version without sex scenes barely did anything significant. And the storyline was exactly the same in both books. The only difference was I edited 7,000 words and removed the sex scenes in one. Those who have reviewed my books and commented I write too much sex never said a single thing about the sexless version. They went dead silent, and I wasn't completely surprised about that. It was a great experiment in writing and publishing erotic romance, and the only regret I have is that I had to exchange a few books for readers who had made the wrong purchase. They bought the sexless version by mistake and I gladly gave them a new digital copy of the unabridged book.

I doubt I'll see Don Jon when it's released in theaters because of the way Gordon-Levitt self-censored the film, unless they are offering two versions. I'm not against self-censoring, but I wish he'd cut the sex scenes before the film was viewed at festivals. Another thing I've learned from writing erotic romance all these years is that it takes a hell of a lot to shock people. I've learned never to underestimate my readers. They vary in ages, lifestyles, and there's not much I can write they haven't already seen (or done) before. To suggest anything less would be almost insulting to some. So I highly doubt that anything that was removed from Don Jon would have shocked people all that much. In fact, I'm always looking for something with a little shock value because I think people want that.

I do understand the reasoning behind why Gordon-Levitt decided to make the changes. I also understand what it's like to listen to all kinds of opinions and get confused sometimes. I once released an anthology that I'd collaborated on with another author and we wanted the title of the book to be In Love with the Boss. The publisher insisted on In Bed with the Boss. The publisher won. I don't have any complaints about that. It's the same book no matter what the title is. The only reason I wanted In Love with the Boss was because I wanted readers to know it contained love stories with sex scenes, and that the love was the focus, not the sex. But in the end I don't think it mattered all that much. 

I also think that if you're writing a book, or producing a film, or even painting a portrait, you should own that work at all times, and whether or not you shock a few people shouldn't come into play. Especially with a film like Don Jon that has a theme that seems to revolve around a guy who is addicted to porn. Some of the best films in history have been those that have shocked us in one way or another.

I do hope that when the film reaches on demand there are two versions offered for those of us who can handle a little shock once in a while. But I haven't seen anything mentioned about that, so I might have to wait until it finally reaches cable to see the toned down version. I will watch it then. I don't think I've ever seen a Gordon-Levitt film I didn't like. I just wish they would all give us more credit sometimes when it comes to sexual content in films, and offer us choices. I also understand that the R-rating is important, but then again that could be debated because this isn't Spider Man or Harry Potter, where we don't expect sex scenes. 




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