The NC-17 rating was created in 1990 by the Motion Picture Association of America as a less-stigmatized alternative to the X, which was the previous “Adults Only” rating for American movies. While X was initially treated like any other rating, and the X-rated Midnight Cowboy even won the Academy Award for Best Picture, it was quickly co-opted by the porn industry. Pretty soon it was synonymous with smut and, more importantly, legitimate theaters refused to book X-rated movies because they did not want to be associated with that stigma.

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While porn never got into the habit of advertising its products by hyping up their “hot NC-17 rated action,” the rating nonetheless suffered much the same fate as the X. NC-17 just became a classier code for X. Movie theaters and large video stores like Blockbuster refused to carry NC-17-rated movies, which made it commercially unviable. Within a few years of its introduction, the NC-17 was basically dead. Today, you are far more likely to see serious films with adult content released unrated than with an NC-17.

So this news is very unusual. Netflix’s upcoming Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde has been rated NC-17 by the MPAA. When you search for the film on their official film rating websiteBlonde comes up listed as “Rated NC-17 for some sexual content.”

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Netflix has streamed sexually explicit films before, including the steamy erotic thriller 365 Days, (which is listed on Netflix’s site with a “TV-MA” rating). However, this would be the company’s first NC-17 rated original feature according to The Hollywood Reporter.

While it might seem surprising that Netflix would stream an NC-17-rated movie, Blonde’s director Andrew Dominik anticipated the rating last month in an interview with Screen Daily. At that time he described Blonde — which is based on the fictional novel about Monroe by Joyce Carol Oates and stars Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe — as “an NC-17 movie about Marilyn Monroe, it’s kind of what you want, right?” He also claimed Blonde is “a demanding movie [and] If the audience doesn’t like it, that’s the f—ing audience’s problem. It’s not running for public office.”

 

As for when you might see this potentially controversial motion picture, there have been rumors that Blonde will premiere in May at the Cannes FIlm Festival although that has not been confirmed. Netflix has not yet announced a premiere date for the film on streaming.

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(These numbers refer to the number of accounts that tuned in during a film’s first 28 days of release. To qualify, ann account had to watch at least two minutes of a movie.)