Trey Parker and Matt Stone had to overcome a lot of technical obstacles to make Team America: World Police, their politically minded action spoof with an all-puppet cast, but one hurdle they might not have expected was how to film a sex scene between genitalia-free puppets that suggests erotic activity but is still tame enough to avoid an NC-17 rating. To appease the ratings board, the filmmakers had to recut the scene at issue, which reportedly involves simulated oral sex, nine times, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Finally, on the 10th submission, the board relented, granting the film an R rating and making it possible to submit newspaper advertisements by Wednesday’s deadline for this weekend’s sneak preview (the movie opens a week from Friday, on Oct. 15).
”It’s something we all did as kids with Barbie and Ken dolls,” Parker told the Los Angeles Times before the board finally approved the film for an R rating on Tuesday. ”The whole joke of it is that it’s just two dolls flopping around on each other.” Added producer Scott Rudin, ”There’s nothing we’re asking for that hasn’t appeared in other R-rated movies, and our characters are made of wood and have no genitalia. If the puppets did to each other what we show them doing, all they’d get is splinters.”
The struggle with the ratings board echoed the similar battle that Parker and Stone fought five years ago with their animated feature South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. As with that film, the ratings board seemed more concerned with sexual content than with cartoonishly over-the-top violence. In Team America, puppets representing real-life public figures are set on fire or thrown off buildings. ”We blow Janeane Garofalo’s head clean off,” said Parker, but for the ratings board, ”it’s all about the positions of the dolls having sex.” He added, ”It’s not funny — it’s tragic.”