Part of the MPAA's original ratings system for US films, a liberalization and modernization of the old Hays Code. There was G, for general audiences (it now means "kiddie glop"). And M, "for mature audiences"; confusion over what "mature" meant led to its being renamed GP, equivalent to today's PG ("parental guidance suggested", which has forked into PG and PG-13). R was always R - no one under 17 gets in sans adult.

X meant something different from today (now it would be NC-17); "art films", with nudity or "bad" language got an X. Midnight Cowboy, a celebrated picture for its day, was X-rated. In the 70s, the porn market seized upon it, hyping it up to "XXX"; Hollywood backed away from the letter. So, for many years, studios fought with the MPAA over a film here, a film there, that had too much stuff in it to get the R rating. NC-17 became the eventual compromise, allowing Miramax to release Henry and June without hacking it to R-rated pieces.

Some protesters now try to raise the same sort of fuss over NC-17 content that many did over X in the old days, and I'll bet some retailers don't sell or rent NC-17 videos.

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