Freud, Pussycats & Nixon: A Deep Throat and Fritz the Cat Sublimation

Paper by Alec Oretniuq.

The year is 1972, Nixon has been in office for over three years. The M.P.A.A ratings system was created just four years ago, and due to the young system not having any government interference, as of yet, the X-Rating still exists! When a film is given an X-rating at the time it meant that the film is not allowed to be viewed by anyone under the age of 17. Mainly due to their content that was seen as too obscene, violent, this, that and the other. Filmmakers jumped at the chance to find footing and success at the time of the new rating system. Films that were bestowed with an X-rating were given obstacles of success given the smallest demographic of people could view the film. But, many of the more experimental filmmakers were able to explore this creative freedom and exploit the aesthetic that came with the X-rating. Or as it was put in the Cinema Journal “at first, some MPAA studios exploited the notoriety provided by the X rating and its suggestion of “uncensored spectacle.”” (Sandler). The X-rating is almost as new as our president Richard Nixon the always level headed, lawful, war-hero, republican. Of course, we know better than to believe all of that now. The then president Nixon has gone down in history as one of the most noticeably corrupt politicians and presidents of the 20th century. The rise of the newly established X-rating didn’t stand a chance against the 37th president of the United States. This paper will help establish a timeline of the MPAA ratings system from its inception, in 1968, to a quick fast forward in 1972, where will look at two films that had the dawned the X-rating, how they fared with audiences and their impact on the industry and the rating system as a whole. Finally, I’ll look at the end of the X-rating and expose that it was Nixon who ultimately was responsible for the end of the X-rating.

The United States of America has had the current ratings system for movies, the Motion Picture Association of America or MPAA since 1968. The MPAA however, did have predecessors that gave the MPAA a foundation to build off of, the predecessor of the MPAA is what is now referred to as the Hays Code, under the then named Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA). The code was a set of rules that limited or restricted what kind of content was allowed to be put into movies from 1930-1956, although the Hays Code wasn’t really enforced on the movie industry until around 1934. The Hays Code was a child of a list from then president of the MPPDA, William Hays, called “Don’ts and Be carefuls” the list included many things that would be considered out of date by today’s standards. The Hays Code was based off of such notions like bigoted judgement and listed a ban on interracial relationships in films. It wasn’t until 1956, after William Hays retired, that the MPPDA, changed its name to the MPAA and revised the then outdated Hays Code. Regardless of the revision, the code was tossed to the side for many filmmakers and many films that would become big hits in the 1950s and early 1960s were released without the codes stamp of approval. These films not only enjoyed box office success, but would also receive praise from film critics along with multiple Academy Awards. Finally, the then president of the MPAA, Jack Valenti, saw all of this happening and knew that the code had to be thrown out completely. In 1968 he came up with a rating system that was able to give the viewers information on the films that they were watching before they actually saw the films. This rating same rating system is what we have to this day, with the exception of some tweaks and adjustments (G is for Golden, 7-11).

It should come as no surprise that many, if not all, of the X-rated films released from 1968-1989 drew controversy. The X-rating was never intended to be what it is today, but it has been manipulated into the screens of many children throughout the United States. What was once a genre of film within itself is now nothing more than sex. The X-rating had a short lifespan when looking at the history of film. For this paper, I was limited in the amount of films to choose from, as X-rating had by far the lowest amount of film made, in comparison to all of the other MPAA ratings. So, for this paper I decided to focus on two specific films that both received an X-rating and both were released in 1972. The films I’ll be analyzing are Deep Throat (Gerard Damiano, 1972) and Fritz the Cat (Ralph Bakshi, 1972). Both these films challenge conventional norms at the time and to this day like sex, college, sexuality, gender roles, psychology, and sociology to name a few.

The film Deep Throat came out in the early 1970s America was still recovering from the sixties and the sexual revolution that took place. So, at the time America had a slew of people that were very open about their sexuality, this was arguably the perfect time for this type of film to come out. The film starts off with a Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977) like introduction, with words appearing from the bottom of the screen then, rather quickly, moved upward. I had to pause the film to be able to fully read what was there, that’s how fast it was moving. It essentially explains what the film was truly trying to exploit, it explained Sigmund Freud’s sexual theory involving the different stages that humans get hung up on sexually. And how this film is, in a comical, exploiting the theory and applying a young woman’s sexual “hang-ups” on her being fixated on oral sex. Although the film is applying Freud’s theory to the main plot, the film at its heart is a film about sex. The first scene that the film, that has lines, involves the protagonist Linda Loveless (Linda Loveless) returning home and going to the kitchen, where she sees her friend, Helen (Dolly Sharp) receiving oral sex from a man. Linda goes on to ask if she’s interrupting while her friend nonchalantly asks her to help her put away the groceries. The scenes most memorable moment takes place when Helen grabs the man by his hair and asks: “mind if I smoke, while you’re eating?”, the man replies: “no, not at all”. The film does a great job of making the viewer numb to sex and treats it as an act no different than eating, a necessity. The oral kitchen scene in particular lasts for over three and a half minutes. Deep Throat has music or loud sounds of some kind constantly playing throughout the film, it even has a catchy song, where the title of the film is repeated constantly in the song, during sex scenes. At the end of the movie the viewer is subjected to subliminal messaging, a constant back and forth from Linda Loveless giving oral to bells ringing, the launch of a rocket and fireworks going off. This way the viewer can compare the orgasm that she is receiving to the raw power and energy that takes place when all of those things take place. The film ironically ends with the words THE END appearing on the screen, but first appear upside down, then it does a 180-degree spin to become right side up, with a close up on Linda’s mouth. Which perfectly illustrates where the protagonist was in the beginning of the film completely confused and not being satisfied with sex then turning it around to fulfilling hers and the viewers vision of what an orgasm should be.

One scene from Deep Throat that I found to be interesting and hilarious happened towards the end of the film. Linda Loveless is proposed to by one of her lovers/clients Wilber Wang (William Love), she declines due to the fact that she must marry a man with a nine-inch cock. To which a disappointed Wilber proclaims, “I’m only 4 inches away from happiness!”. To which Linda tells him, that he could possibly get silicone injections to increase his phallus size. This sounds to me like a critique on the double standard that our society has on silicon enhancements, mainly with women getting them to increase their breast size. But, in Deep Throat Linda’s actual deep throat overrides this double standard and turns it on its head, so to speak. According to imdb Deep Throat was a complete box office success it was made for $25,000 dollars while made $45,000,000 domestically (Deep Throat).

Released in the same year, the film Fritz the Cat was the first ever animated X-rated film ever to be made. It has left an impact on all of the animated world, as when you watch the film you can see the parallels between the film and some of the cartoons that we see to this day. Examples of this, in my opinion are South Park, Family Guy, and Rick and Morty they all pull from the foul-mouthed feline excellently and critique society much like the film Fritz the Cat. The film takes place vaguely in the 1960s, where we have our protagonist Fritz (Skip Hinnant) a college cat who is on the prowl for tail and enlightenment of some kind. The film quickly jumps to Fritz managing to persuade three females into coming with him to a sketchy apartment. Once there, Fritz asks the presumed owner if he has a room they can borrow, the guy responds that the bathroom, is the only room left. Of course, once they get into the tub of the bathroom, they have an orgy. I’m not sure if this is a shot at the old PCA code which had toilets as one of their don’ts, but it’s pretty funny. More animals come and join in the orgy and also bring in weed creating a smoky, organic, sexual vibe to the bathroom the camera moves back so we can see all the action taking place. We see Fritz unhappy with the added amount of people or animals to the orgy as he puffs on a blunt. The film is constantly showing sex both as a social critique of the 1960s sexual revolution, but also as a way to keep audiences interested. Although Fritz is someone who the audience likes throughout the film, he certainly isn’t always a hero in the film. He starts a riot in the intercity of New York after going off on one of his many rants. After the riot ensues and his friend Duke (Charles Spidar) a crow gets shot to death, after saving Fritz’s life for a second time. Fritz looks on frightened, at the chaos that he started, and begins to run away and hide.

One scene that best illustrates that our feline protagonist is exactly what he was drawn as is when he gets involved in a pseudo revolution with neo-Nazi named Blue (John McCurry). Fritz is once again is a rebel without a cause and down in the dumps, but then he gets the chance to hop on the back of a bike with Blue and his girlfriend. The revolution takes a turn when in the midst of planning their attack on a power plant, Blue and his fellow conspirators decide to tie up and whip Blues girlfriend with a chain and gang rape her. Fritz once again looks on, he does voice his objection to the gang rape with a simple “guys, that’s uncool don’t do that”. Scenes like this help get us to what Baskhi is going for, that people want a revolution until social order goes a rye. Revolutions are much better in theory than in practice, it’s easy to talk about a revolution and to point out corruption, hypocrisies, and inequality throughout the country. But, when we get down to it many of the people calling for change or a revolution of the proletariat against their bourgeoise oppressors, but in the end, we want safety and security much like Fritz in the film. The film brings to life what the 1960s meant for the country, people who wanted revolution and wanted freedom but ultimately failed due to social disorder and lack of resources.

Economically speaking from 1968-1979 out of all the films that received an X-rating only five percent of them made over $1 million dollars (by 1969 standards) domestically. Once more, in comparison to that of the other ratings at the time G, PG, and R the X-rating had the lowest percentage of success by far. It is also worth noting that the MPAA slapped an X-rating to very few films in comparison with that of their other ratings, in this study only 341 films had such a rating. The study notes that this can be explained by common sense of having a smaller demographic, but also limitations on booking and less press through advertising in newspapers and magazines (Austin at el. 28-29). When looking at the study, they bring up advertising as one of the reasons to look at X-rated films having a low percentage of success. But how did it come to be that X-rated movies would have less advertisement opportunities? Well, “the pivotal case was Miller v. California (1973), and its significance to the industry was lost on no one in Hollywood at the time” (Lewis, 288). The court case was a close 5-4 vote that basically gave local counties in each of the states to decide if a films content was to obscene and could ban those movies from their local theaters. It’s sad to see that things like court cases would lead to the decline of a whole genre of film, but make no mistake they did. In a complete contradiction to what the MPAA had set out to accomplish, essentially creative freedom without government censorship. Instead the death of the X-rating was not by a fair leveled market “answered not by the marketplace but by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1973 and 1974 the so-called Nixon court (four of the nine justices having been appointed by President Nixon) rendered five major decisions that effectively banned hardcore movie from public theaters yet shielded mainstream Hollywood studios from censorship” (Lewis, 288). And although Miller v. California might have endangered the other ratings from the MPAA, mainly the R-rated films, this fear was squashed by the decision of Jenkins v. Georgia (1974) which overturned a local Georgia county from banning a R-rated film they felt to be too obscene for their liking. Basically, ruling that in no way could a R-rated film, or any of the other ratings such as: G, PG, and PG-13 be viewed as too obscene and overturning the earlier decision in Miller v. California. After Jenkins v. Georgia all of the other ratings have been, in a sense, given a pass and were allowed to be fully integrated into the mainstream media (Lewis, 289).

So, where are we now? Well, the X-rating was eventually transformed into NC-17 in 1990 mainly due to the porno industry using the X-rating heavily in their films. Once that happened it only was a matter of time when the political climate would catch up to the X-rating and deem it to be too taboo for American mainstream audiences. But, even before the X-rating was abolished it had its obstacles in its way “most major theater chains–which themselves are members of NATO–had pledged not to exhibit X-rated films or films not bearing the MPAA seal” (Sandler). Despite this the films in this paper managed to fight against the establishment and rise above what Hollywood and Jack Valenti wanted, he never wanted a X-rating to begin with. Why else would he not copyright the X-rating like he did all of the other ratings? Deep Throat was actually investigated by the FBI, under Nixon at the time. According to the Los Angeles Times, “FBI files show that agents across the country and at the highest level of the agency investigated “Deep Throat”– the 1972 porn movie…” (Quick Takes). The FBI apparently was very interested in the film as, “among 498 pages from the FBI file on Gerard Damiano, who directed the movie and who died in October. Released this month following a Freedom of Information Act request by the Associated Press, they are just a glimpse into Damiano’s roughly 4,800-page file” (Quick Takes). The fact that the film would become a success and ironically become the moniker for the whistleblower that took down Nixon, is nothing more than poetic justice and I suppose a win for the revolution. The X-rating may be dead and now audiences are left with sex scenes that have such clichés, like arched backs and only last about as long as a simple soundtrack. The X-rating short lifespan will not be forgotten and had a dramatic impact on our courts highest levels, our rating system and that’s not too bad for films that weren’t supposed to succeed in the first place.

Works Cited
Austin, Bruce A., et al. “M. P. A. A. Ratings and the Box Office: Some Tantalizing Statistics.” Film Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 2, 1981, pp. 28–30. JSTOR.
“Deep Throat.” IMDb, IMDb.com, 8 Jan. 1973, www.imdb.com/title/tt0068468/.
“G is for Golden: The M.P.A.A Ratings at 50.” mpaa.org, Nov 1 2018, pp. 7-11.
Lewis, Jon. American Film A History. 1 ed., New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 2008, pp. 287-58.
“QUICK TAKES; FBI Scrutinized ‘Deep Throat’.” Los Angeles Times, Jun 20 2009.
Sandler, Kevin S. “The Naked Truth: Showgirls and the Fate of the X/NC-17 Rating.” Cinema Journal, vol. 40 no. 3, 2001, pp. 69-93. Project MUSE.

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