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X rating

X rating

Posted Dec 16, 2011 23:04 UTC (Fri) by corbet (editor, #1)
In reply to: Xxxterm: Surfing like a Vim pro by giraffedata
Parent article: Xxxterm: Surfing like a Vim pro

My father was a film editor during one phase of his life...that gives me the standing to be pedantic here :)

The industry abandoned "X" not because there was no use for it, but because, unlike the other ratings, they had not trademarked it. So anybody could claim to have an "X-rated" movie in a way that they couldn't do with "PG" or the others. The MPAA wanted something it had a bit more control over, so they dropped "X" in favor of "NC-17", which is properly trademarked and cannot be applied to a random porn flick.

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X rating

Posted Dec 17, 2011 0:22 UTC (Sat) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

I can understand why the MPAA didn't originally try to maintain any control over X. It's not anything anyone would want to forge. X was the end of the scale; if the producers of Deep Throat had submitted it for rating, it would have earned an X from the MPAA. In fact, my guess is the MPAA encouraged people with films that obviously weren't suitable for under-17 to advertise them as X without even bothering the MPAA.

NC-17 wasn't a straight replacement of X because the MPAA won't give Deep Throat an NC-17. At least that's how I remember Siskel and Ebert pushing it -- it's meant to acknowledge the existence of a category between R and porn because even adults avoid porn.

X could exist today if there were any use for it, because there are films that don't qualify for NC-17. But since people prefer to say XXX or "unrated" or nothing at all in that case, there's no use for it.

X rating

Posted Dec 17, 2011 17:51 UTC (Sat) by Baylink (guest, #755) [Link]

There were, in fact a few movies that released with an official, MPAA-applied X rating; Henry and June and Midnight Cowboy are the two that come instantly to mind, though I think there were one or two others.

Oh: and Coming Soon was going to get an X, because the teenagers having orgasms in that movie were female, even though the PG-13 rated American Pie was substantially raunchier: it's teenagers were boys.

X rating

Posted Dec 17, 2011 19:26 UTC (Sat) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

OK, my interest has been piqued and I did some research and found out I was wrong.

I found an explanation of MPAA ratings by the father of the rating system himself, Jack Valenti. Valenti says I was right that MPAA invited producers to label a movie X without involving MPAA -- it would be a waste of MPAA's time to review the movie. But he also says that NC-17 is just a renaming of X and makes it clear that MPAA would gladly award an NC-17 rating to hardcore pornography. And confirms that no one can apply the NC-17 label without MPAA explicitly rating the movie that way.

That confuses me greatly because I can't see any reason not to let producers self-apply NC-17. Is it the risk that someone would say his movie isn't suitable for children when in fact it is?

Henry And June wasn't X. It was the first NC-17 movie. Likewise, Coming Soon must have been on track to be NC-17 rather than X because it was made after X was renamed. Midnight Cowboy was rated X by MPAA, but came out when the rating system was about a year old, before the X stigma had developed. Within a few years, it would be far less likely for anyone to apply the X label to a non-porn film. (And I'm curious as to how many did).

X rating

Posted Dec 20, 2011 13:40 UTC (Tue) by mpr22 (subscriber, #60784) [Link]

That confuses me greatly because I can't see any reason not to let producers self-apply NC-17.

Simple: If only the MPAA can lawfully apply the NC-17 imprimatur to a film or video recording, then the MPAA has absolute control over what it means. The MPAA likes control.

X rating

Posted Dec 22, 2011 0:00 UTC (Thu) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

That actually begs the question. I'm asking why the MPAA wants to control the application of NC-17. It suits the MPAA's purposes just fine or better if it doesn't control NC-17. (In Valenti's essay, he emphasizes that the purpose the rating system is limited to giving parents information about the suitability of movies for children).

I appreciate MPAA wanting to control in general, but there are millions of irrelevant things the MPAA could control but doesn't; there needs to be a reason.

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