What surprised me, and I completely applaud McQueen and Fox Searchlight for the decision, is that the rating will stand. They aren't appealing or re-cutting the movie to get it down to an R. The movie is what it is - a raw, unflinching portrait of a successful, polished man with a secret whose world comes crashing down when his sister winds up moving with him. It can't be told with innuendo and still get the same emotional impact. Besides - and get this, movie theatre chain owners - in no way do I want to watch this movie with a pack of immature teens. This is not a movie you watch just to see some hotties in the buff* (and if that's the reason you want to see it, I think you'll be bored). McQueen's earlier film Hunger (also starring Michael Fassbender) is also a raw, unflinching film with a good deal of male nudity but it's also violent, brutal to the point of savagery. Watching naked men getting beaten and violated (and staving themselves to death) is not sexy.**
HixFix.com has a great interview with Carey Mulligan (she plays Fassbender's troubled sister) where she expresses irritation over the NC-17 rating - not because the film has nude scenes, but because those nude scenes aren't "sexy":
“You know, so many of the teen movies will have so much sex and so many people walking around in bikinis and bare-breasted and that all seems to be okay. And then the minute you show it and its not funny, and it's not sexy, and it's actually unattractive, then it becomes a problem, which seems so odd."The article points out that Shame has no more physical nudity than Forgetting Sarah Marshall which earned an R rating.
So, bring it, NC-17 rating. I am totally down with it.
*Er, I will grant you that Michael Fassbender nude is a plus in my book. He is easy on the eyes. But that's not the reason to see either Hunger or Shame. Sort of like Daniel Craig in Love is the Devil where he played Derek Jacobi's boyfriend - yeah, he's in his birthday suit for a few scenes, and he's got a good body, but the scenes aren't titillating.
**However, violence against women - especially sexualized violence - always seems to get a pass. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (curently not yet rated) will probably get an R rating even though Lisbeth experiences a horrific rape scene (if you've read the books you'll know what I mean). That movie ought to be an NC-17 for the violence alone.