It’s no surprise that a movie (especially a horror/thriller/torture flick) would be marketed via the age old tools of sex and violence (yawn), but when Captivity, starring Elisha Cuthbert, rolled out its billboards in LA to market the film, average commuters and a variety of women’s groups took offence. No wonder. Jill Soloway at The Huffington Post describes what she saw while she was with her son:
“The first image had a black-gloved hand over her mouth, titled CAPTURE. Next, her eyes begged for rescue as her mascara ran and her bloody finger tried to pry its way out of a cage, titled CONFINEMENT…the next picture, titled TORTURE, she was encased in a strange mask, with tubes coming out of her nose, draining blood…. The last frame was Elisha…hanging dead, lying on her back with one breast prominently displayed. The word in this frame was TERMINATION.”
You can view the actual billboard here, but please be warned that it’s offensive and disturbing as as all heck.
Now, the story of how the billboards came to be is complicated. According to a press release by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America,) the images were never actually approved (and actually rejected) for public consumption and After Dark films put them up anyway:
“The MPAA didn’t approve this ad campaign. On the contrary, they said it violated their guidelines. But it went up anyway.”
The response of After Dark Films when confronted? It was a printer error. They also promised that the new images were much better (just a woman being buried alive) and that they would make a donation to a woman’s group. (Vomit)
I know this is all very disgusting and stomach turning, but there were some nice things to come out of the vile imagery. Most notably, the blogosphere is largely responsible for bringing After Dark to task regarding their blatant disregard for the MPAA. Soloway says:
“The good news is this: we actually are at a cultural moment where we have the power to say— just as we have with porn and cigarettes-fine for those who want it, but please don’t advertise it on our streets, on our way to school and work.”
And finally, where does my beloved Joss Whedon of Buffy fame fit in? Well, he wrote a beautifully eloquent letter to the MPAA:
“…let me say that the ad campaign for Captivity is not only a literal sign of the collapse of humanity, it’s an assault. I’ve watched plenty of horror - in fact I’ve made my share. But the advent of torture-porn and the total dehumanizing not just of women (though they always come first) but of all human beings has made horror a largely unpalatable genre. This ad campaign is part of something dangerous and repulsive, and that act of aggression has to be answered.”
From: Joss Whedon
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2007 10:17 PM
Subject: CAPTIVITY BILLBOARDS/REMOVE THE RATING
To the MPAA,
There’s a message I’m supposed to cut and paste but I imagine you’ve read it. So just let me say that the ad campaign for “Captivity” is not only a literal sign of the collapse of humanity, it’s an assault. I’ve watched plenty of horror - in fact I’ve made my share. But the advent of torture-porn and the total dehumanizing not just of women (though they always come first) but of all human beings has made horror a largely unpalatable genre. This ad campaign is part of something dangerous and repulsive, and that act of aggression has to be answered.
As a believer not only in the First Amendment but of the necessity of horror stories, I’ve always been against acts of censorship. I distrust anyone who wants to ban something ‘for the good of the public’. But this ad is part of a cycle of violence and misogyny that takes something away from the people who have to see it. It’s like being mugged (and I have been). These people flouted the basic rules of human decency. God knows the culture led them there, but we have to find our way back and we have to make them know that people will not stand for this. And the only language they speak is money. (A devastating piece in the New Yorker - not gonna do it.) So talk money. Remove the rating, and let them see how far over the edge they really are.
Thanks for reading this, if anyone did.
Sincerely, Joss Whedon.
Creator, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”