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Whatever happened to "Rated X"?

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Pictured above is what the Motion Pictures Association of America, a.k.a. the MPAA, used to use for its rating system. It's at the bottom. The "X" rating. This is what used to be used before the introduction of NC-17.

NC-17 replaced X in 1990, along with agreeing that R-rated movies would then be accompanied with short descriptions instead of just "RESTRICTED".

Why was the X dumped? Because the adult movie industry pretty much made X synonymous with adult film. What adult film movie makers did was purposely advertise the fact their movies were X-rated just to get more sales. And it worked. NC-17 was introduced in an attempt to get movie houses to feature adult-themed movies that were not adult films.

Did it work? Nope. Movie houses instantly recognized that NC-17 was "just another X" and refused to carry movies with that rating, and wouldn't even accept promotional posters for them either.

Even now almost a quarter-century later, when someone identifies something as "Rated X" or "X-rated", you know it's either an adult film or at bare minimum know it's "forbidden".

I'm actually old enough to remember the days before PG-13, which was introduced in 1984. And why was that one introduced? Because of movies like Gremlins and Clash of the Titans. These were movies that got PG-approved, but scared little kids and gave them nightmares because of certain content. The MPAA, of course, got yelled at for that by "concerned parents", so they decided to introduce an intermediate rating between PG and R, which is PG-13.

PG-13 had a legitimate reason to exist. But NC-17 never really did, and has always been dopey. X was just so much better.

Should the X rating come back?

Yes. It's been over two decades and a lot of people would really like to see it again. If it came back, I guarantee you that the first movie to receive an X rating in over 25 years will sell out movie houses across the country just because it got the X.

What should the first new X-rated movie be? Not an adult film. It should be a gory, nasty horror movie unlike anyone has ever seen. I'm talking about something just unbelievably grotesque.

Would I go see it? Hell no. But a ton of people would. The advertising line of "The first officially X-rated movie in 25 years" alone is enough to pack the theaters.

I can even envision the television commercial for it, with the last 2 seconds of it having nothing but this:

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Just imagine how many people would get excited over seeing that. "Wow! An X-rated movie!"

Would the adult movie industry commandeer the X rating all over again?

No, because nobody would pay to see a adult movie in a movie house these days, combined with the fact almost everyone gets their adult video off the internet now.

If X returned, I'm pretty sure the horror genre would command it easily. While there would be a few major-production adult flicks, I seriously doubt they would overtake the X like they did before.

Times have changed. Like I said, nobody would pay to see adult films in a movie house, but they would pay to see a truly grotesque horror flick in a theater. Why? Because it's fun and entertaining.

NC-17 is obsolete and it's time to let it go

The X rating is a part of American culture. It's time to dump NC-17 and kick it to the curb because it was always awful and just plain stupid. X was better, if for no other reason than it just sounded cool.

If the MPAA wants a real reason to bring back X, read what I said above. It will pack movie houses. Count on it.

Published 2014 Mar 1

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