Paramount Apparently Can’t Handle 40 Seconds of Two Men Cuddling Nude in Rocketman

Taron Egerton plays Elton John in 'Rocketman'

I’ll admit, the upcoming Taron Egerton-led Elton John biopic, Rocketman, has not drawn my interest. However, the it’s now apparently facing off against studio notes that are worried about a 40-second scene in which John and his male lover at the time are cuddling in the nude.

If film execs are worried that the movie’s audience might object to same-sex love, we might have some surprising news for them about the person they chose as the movie’s subject!

It’s not even a sex scene, either! The Guardian covered the story, writing, “The offending scene features stars Taron Egerton as John and Richard Madden as his lover and manager John Reid naked in bed together, but although their bare bottoms are on display, intercourse is not depicted.” So … sex isn’t the problem here.

Similarly, if they’re going to complain about the nudity, I know plenty of PG-13 films in which bare asses are shown. In Titanic, we see Kate Winslet’s entire bare upper half and have a brief glimpse of full frontal nudity. So, the nudity really does not seem to be a problem as well, given the history of the MPAA.

Paramount apparently feels the scene, which lasts all of 40 seconds, is too racy to earn the film a PG-13 rating in the U.S., but based on what we’ve just covered, it’s not a sex scene, and bare behinds are not an automatic R rating. So, it seems as though the problem is that it’s two men who are in bed together, naked, showing affection.

I don’t know where Paramount thought a film about famously gay Elton John was going to go, but John is a gay man. He is married to David Furnish. He previously told the filmmakers that nothing was off limits, and they could go up to an R rating if they wanted. It’s clear that Paramount wants a more audience-friendly rating of PG-13, to match the success of the also rated PG-13 Bohemian Rhapsody, however their choice to call this a racy scene shows some serious problems.

There is nothing inherently sexual about nudity or two men cuddling. We see plenty of heterosexual couples in film and television, post-coitus and cuddling, with varying degrees of nudity. So why is the problem that two men are doing it? It’s not like they’re pulling an Outlaw King and we’ll see full frontal nudity. Again, I ask, what’s the problem?

I don’t want to cry homophobia, but that’s what this feels like. It feels as though studios want the idea of LGBTQ+ representation without actually showing it onscreen or giving queer characters the same treatment they do heterosexual ones. Many queer critics previously criticized Bohemian Rhapsody for how it depicted Freddie Mercury’s sexuality, and now it seems as though we’re getting a repeat with John’s story being sanitized down for a heterosexual audience.

This scene should not be at at controversial, and it shows how out of touch studios are with their audiences. Hollywood, do better.

(image: Paramount)

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