Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Which is Dirtier — ‘Land of the Lost’ or ‘Hangover?’ (Spoiler Alert)

posted by Nell Minow

The Hangover and Land of the Lost opened on the same day. Other than that, they have little in common. The Hangover is a raunchy comedy about the aftermath of a Las Vegas bachelor party that would have been unforgettable if any of the attendees could remember any of it. The movie has male and female nudity, substance abuse, and many different kinds of very bad behavior. The movie is rated R, just barely (no pun intended). The still photos over the closing credits merit an NC-17.
Land of the Lost is based on a classic — if cheesy — 1970’s children’s television show. It has dinosaurs and time travel but it is “rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and for language including a drug reference.”
Both movies are silly comedies with no aspiration to be anything else, but I would argue that it is the superficially raunchier film, “The Hangover,” that is more moral and a more entertaining film as a result. “Land of the Lost” treats its female character (played by the talented and beautiful Anna Friel) as a prop. She is there to provide exposition, to be literally pawed by an ape-boy, and to gaze adoringly at Will Ferrell. Although she is the only intelligent and capable person in the film, she is treated as an afterthought. The other characters behave badly and treat her badly and there are no consequences of any kind.
“The Hangover,” on the other hand, is a movie entirely about consequences. The bachelor party guests spend the whole film piecing together the bad choices they made the night before and paying for them financially, emotionally, and even spiritually. They all learn something important and we leave confident that they will be unlikely to repeat their mistakes (except that they have already agreed to a sequel). Furthermore, legally and morally they are not completely responsible for the worst of their behavior because they were drugged, two of them inadvertently.
No one is arguing that either of these films is any kind of morality tale. They are both helium-weight comedies. But I think “The Hangover” is a better film because it fits the innate audience desire for justice and lessons learned. The vicarious thrill of the transgressive behavior is not nearly as satisfying as seeing the characters learn some painful lessons and pay for their mistakes.
For a little more insight into the MPAA’s approach to ratings, take a look at what they have to say.


The MPAA‘s description of a PG-13 rating:

A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning by the Rating Board to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suited for them. A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category. The theme of the motion picture by itself will not result in a rating greater than PG-13, although depictions of activities related to a mature theme may result in a restricted rating for the motion picture. Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating. More than brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity in a PG-13 rated motion picture generally will not be sexually oriented. There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence. A motion picture’s single use of one of the harsher sexually-derived words, though only as an expletive, initially requires at least a PG-13 rating. More than one such expletive requires an R rating, as must even one of those words used in a sexual context. The Rating Board nevertheless may rate such a motion picture PG-13 if, based on a special vote by a two-thirds majority, the Raters feel that most American parents would believe that a PG-13 rating is appropriate because of the context or manner in which the words are used or because the use of those words in the motion picture is inconspicuous.


The MPAA’s description of an R rating:

An R-rated motion picture, in the view of the Rating Board, contains some adult material. An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously. Children under 17 are not allowed to attend R-rated motion pictures unaccompanied by a parent or adult guardian. Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.

  • Your Name

    excellent post, Nell – and I couldn’t agree with you more – shouldn’t excessive use of the “s” word merit an “R” rating?
    perhaps you could do a list of films that received the PG-13 rating, much to the chagrin of head-scratching parents everywhere? i’d include THE DARK KNIGHT, TAKEN and the unforgettable YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN…

  • Nell Minow

    It would be a long list, I’m afraid. I could go on all day about the idiocy of the PG-13 standards. Up to two uses of the f-word are permitted as long as it is not in a sexual context. What does that even mean? If it’s a bad word, why allow it twice?
    Thanks so much for a great comment.

  • Tim1974

    Without question it has to be “The Hangover.” How can you feel that any film showing male genitals, including an erection, is not worse than a film without any nudity ? Is it just because it is male nudity ? Would you feel the same if it was female frontal nudity and a scene of NC-17 caliber ? I think not because it seems you are bothered by a female having her clothed breasts groped during the film. And let me be clear, I in no way approve of the groping scenes either. It could have been a much better show without that and the foul language. However, the gratuitous display of male genitals to me is much worse than anything found in “Land of The Lost.”

  • Nell Minow

    Tim, as you know, I disagree with your views on nudity and find your concept of “equality” to be superficial and skewed. As the post explains, I believe context is more important than which parts of the body are shown.

  • Your Name

    Once again: The values of the American audience are, in my opinion, backwards. Nudity is perfectly fine if it’s in the right context, such as love. It’s NOT a big deal! However, any violence including sexual behavior is. I think violence is much more disturbing than sexual content. It’s simply a matter of how it’s related to the story.
    I’m surprised that, evem today parents still think that sexual content is worse than violence. It’s funny to se the title Zack and Miri Make a Porno being seen here in Sweden on the rental racks. Yet , in the USA, it’s an issue.
    I agree that we do have to respect that people have different values, but I think we’d be ok if we were able to help childen know what we feel is right and wrong. Foul language, unfortunately, is allowed on Swedsh television. Almost all films have been viewed here in Sweden without censorship, even films like Scarface, with Al Pacino. However, it’s viewed late at night.
    The most important thing to remember is that our children learn mostly from what our vaulues are. Some families view nudity as a natural part of life, while others don’t. One thing I don’t approve of is degrading women, which was Nell’s point in the article.
    Nell, great writings here, by the way. It’s greatly appreciated.

  • Alicia

    Thanks, Nell. I will definitely see “The Hangover,” but “Land of the Lost” looks like a real turkey.
    These days, parents take children, even very young ones, to the most horrible, violent movies. I also object to young children or young teens being taken to programs with adult sexual content. But, as teens grow up, they can handle a lot more. (My 16-year old niece’s favorite show is “House,” which is hardly for children. She also loved “Little Miss Sunshine.” I feel no qualms about her being able to handle these shows and films. But I think she is still a little young for “The Hangover.”)

  • Nell Minow

    Good for you, Alicia! You are a great aunt, I can tell. What I like to see is parents and other special grown-ups who know the child or teen well enough to make good judgments about what they can handle.

  • Christian Toto

    Great post … I’m not the parent of a movie-going age child just yet (5-month-olds seem disinterested in movies!) but I was alarmed at the content in “Lost.”
    The film is awful, but the gratuitious moments showed how desperate the production was to milk a laugh out of the screenplay.
    Good luck with that task.
    The naughty bits could have been lopped off making it a safe story for younger viewers. And, frankly, only younger viewers could glean any entertainment out of this mess.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Christian. It was a waste of money, talent, and the audience’s time — and it could have been so much fun! Big kiss for li’l WWTW!

  • Joe Blow

    Your Name is a perfect example of the mentality of too many people out there—basically a diatribe from someone informing us how free and open minded they are and demanding we adhere to their values. Hey buddy—go watch “Bruno” with your parents and then tell us how wonderful and enlightening it was.
    I also like how you tell us how great nudity is and then inform us that you do not approve of degrading women. What if someone disagreed, saying nudity was degrading? Too bad. The open-minded Your Name (who basically sounds like a dude that likes to see naked chicks) has rigid beliefs that trump those concerns.
    I tell you, the great debate of my life is turning into a contest to see who can be more annoying in imposing their belief system in others: Bible Thumpers or Enlightened Lefties. The thumpers had the lead for the longest time but the ELs are making a serious charge.

  • Nell Minow

    A pleasure to hear from you, Joe Blow. I’m sorry to say that “Your Name” is a sometime glitch in our comment system here and was probably not intended by the commenter. I think anyone who writes for a living, especially anyone who writes opinions about a topic that provokes a lot of very strong feelings in people is going to feel that “clowns to the left of me jokers to the right” feeling every once in a while. But I am lucky to have almost entirely very civilized and open-minded posters. (I boot out the ones who are not, and I enjoy it.) I’ve found this particular your name to be very open-minded and friendly and very interested in cultural comparisons.

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