The Motion Picture Association of America's decision to revamp its movie ratings seems likely to provide audiences -- and parents -- with a much better basis for deciding what is suitable entertainment and what is not. MPAA has abandoned the X (adults only) for NC-17 (no children under 17 admitted). The two designations really mean the same thing, but the practical effect will be to make a distinction between serious adult-theme movies and plain and simple pornography, with which X has come to be identified.
The more important change in the rating game is that R, which restricts audiences to adults or children accompanied by adults, will now be accompanied by a brief explanation of why the film might be inappropriate for children. Parents who object to violence but not sexual scenes and vice versa previously have not always been able to determine whether an R movie was one they would like their children to see. Now they'll be better able to decide.
This change in the ratings is a reminder, if anyone needed it, of how the nation's changing sexual mores keep creating political and moral problems. In Cincinnati, an art museum and its director are on trial for hanging an exhibit (open to adults only, by the way, sort of an NC-18 exhibit) which included photographs deemed by local standards to be obscene. We believe this is a first.