10 Memorable Movie Poster Controversies

[Editor’s note: While your Flavorwire editors take a much-needed holiday break, we’re revisiting some of our most popular features of the year. This post was originally published August 3, 2011.] As Roger Ebert says, “It’s not what a movie is about, but how it is about it,” so who knows, maybe The Change-Up isn’t going to be an inane R-rated update of a 20-plus-years-stale narrative. (But it sure as hell looks like it.) We can’t say we’re too hopeful, though, particularly considering its numb-skulled print campaign, which high-lariously juxtaposes Jason Bateman’s miserable handling of twin infants with Ryan Reynolds’s delighted groping of twin models. They’re both in white! Which do you want — babies or babes? HAW HAW! (Indiewire’s @erickohn twit-pic’ed a piece of “subway film criticism” that nailed the issue fairly effectively.)

The movie poster is a tricky form, a very specific merging of art and commerce that must sell a product but hopefully also convey the essence of the picture in question. Occasionally, the marketers and artists responsible for them can run afoul — either in the court of public opinion, or in the boardrooms of the MPAA, who not only rate films but control their advertising. After the jump, we’ll take a look at ten movie posters that stirred up some controversy — sometimes intentionally, sometimes not.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Few upcoming films are more breathlessly anticipated than David Fincher’s American adaptation of the first book in Stieg Larsson’s bestselling “Millennium Trilogy,” so interest was high when the film’s first teaser trailer and poster were released earlier this summer. Unsurprisingly, it’s dark, and goth-y, and NSFW. But there’s more to it than that, as our own Judy Berman wrote when it was released: “We think the poster is in pretty poor taste, purely because it so blatantly misrepresents the characters. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is about a survivor of rape and other abuse who has grown tough and seeks revenge. The dynamic in the poster suggests that Rooney Mara’s Lizbeth Salander is sexily vulnerable and in need of Mikael Blomkvist’s (Daniel Craig) fully clothed protection. Does anyone else find this a bit worrisome?”