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‘Porno’ in Film Title Causes Mainstream Controversy

Advertisers shun even toned down ads for Kevin Smith’s new film
‘Porno’ in Film Title Causes Mainstream Controversy
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Oct 17, 2008 7:00 AM PDT    Text size: 
LOS ANGELES — The mere presence of the word “porno” in the title of upcoming mainstream comedy from Kevin Smith has created a storm of controversy.

Even with creative efforts to market the film, some newspaper, TV and outdoor ads for the ads for “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” because they allude to pornography.

Opening Halloween day, "Zack and Miri" features Rogen and Banks as platonic best buddies and roommates who decide to make their own skin flick to dig themselves out of debt. The ratings board of the Motion Picture Association of America initially rated "Zack and Miri" NC-17, only to later let it squeak by with an R rating after Smith appealed.

Among those refusing to carry ads are about 15 newspapers and several TV stations and cable channels. Commercials for the film during Los Angeles Dodgers games on Fox Sports were dropped at the team's request after some viewers complained.

Smith told the Associated Press he found it ironic that the film’s posters have been a problem — even after they were toned down.

As part of the MPAA rating system, all advertising materials must be reviewed for suitability for general audiences. The MPAA decided the "artwork is highly sexually suggestive and not suitable for general audiences" and the marketers submitted new art for approval.

Newspaper ads even dropped the title of the film. Those ads simply said, "Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks made a movie so outrageous that we can't even tell you the title."

"The whole idea was, our hands were so tied on all previous entries we'd given them that this ad was meant to be the innocuous one that would get approved everywhere," Smith said.

Diane Levin, a child development professor at Wheelock College in Boston, said she thought the posters at city bus stops sent a message to children that the adult industry was an acceptable career choice.

"It's drawing attention to a movie which is mainstreaming and normalizing pornography, saying if you need money, this is what you do," Levin said.

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