Did anyone sign off on the racy Hitman movie poster with Olga Kurylenko?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Nov. 6 2007 5:03 PM

Hitman, Naked Lady

Does anyone sign off on racy movie posters?

1_123125_123073_2156470_2177233_071106_ex_hitman1

Print ads for the new thriller Hitman show more of co-star Olga Kurylenko than you might expect. In one poster she's wearing a sheer, red-tinted hanky masquerading as a dress. If you're lewd enough to look between her legs, you'll see the curve of her right buttock and a small genital bulge. The Explainer's no prude, but Kurylenko's skimpy attire got her wondering: Who's supposed to keep movie posters family-friendly?

The Motion Picture Association of America. Any producer who submits a film for rating must tender all publicity materials—including posters, still photographs, and trailers—to the MPAA's advertising administration. Technically, producers can forgo the MPAA system, accept a "not rated" label, and print salacious ads from noon till night. But major theater chains rarely exhibit unrated flicks, so renegades stand to lose a whole lot of cash.

Advertisement

Before the good people of the advertising administration approve a poster, they make sure it's suitable for all viewers. Ads can't depict nudity or sexual activity, violence toward women, cruelty to animals, or rape. Other no-nos include sacrilege, cadavers, people or animals on fire, blood, offensive gestures, and references to drugs. It's also not OK to capitalize on the film's MPAA rating—i.e., "R has never gone this far," or "Banned in Boston." The approval process differs somewhat for in-theater trailers, which receive colored tags. Green tags are suitable for any audience whereas red tags may only play to audiences viewing R or NC-17 movies.

If the MPAA deems a poster unsuitable, the film company must scrap the ad or submit a revision. In May 2006, the advertising administration rejected a poster for the documentary film The Road to Guantanamo, which featured a man hanging by his handcuffed wrists with a burlap sack over his head. Apparently, the MPAA objected specifically to the burlap "hooding," presumably because it was too frightening for young viewers. So the film's distributors created a new poster, which showed only a pair of shackled hands and arms.

Poster inspection has a long history—it dates back to 1933, or to one year before the Motion Pictures Producers and Distributors Association (which later became the MPAA) began enforcing the Hays production code. Print management was a priority because the easily outraged moral guardian crowd was unlikely to make it past the salacious posters and into the theater. As a result, the MPPDA received more complaints about ads than actual films.

So what's the deal with the Hitman ad that so offended the Explainer's delicate sensibilities? Sometimes studios break the rules by circulating posters without approval. Back in 2005, for example, Lionsgate distributed unauthorized Saw II posters depicting severed fingers. But Daybreak Productions and 20th Century Fox, the companies behind Hitman, played it safe, went through the review process, and received an official OK for their salacious ad campaign. Maybe the advertising administration didn't catch the genital bulge, and decided that sheer hankies count as clothing.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Kori Bernards of the Motion Picture Association of America and Thomas Dohertyof Brandeis University.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.