Re Charles Champlin's commentary "Dropping the X," June 17:
Champlin is right about one thing: The X rating, like communism, is an idea whose time has long since gone. But the blame for the de facto censorship it has represented for the past decade does not rest entirely with its capricious and inconsistent application by the Motion Picture Assn. of America but also with the nervous-nellie theater chains who unilaterally bar all X-rated films from their venues.
About the time that "9 1/2 Weeks" and "Angel Heart" were having their ratings difficulties, instead of forcing the directors to monkey around with their vision, the studios should have pressured the theater chains to drop that guideline.
The purpose of that rule was to keep porno films out of the local multiplex, but face facts: The producers of these films know the local mall is hardly the place to find their target audience. The porno market has been swallowed up almost completely by home video. Any film made by a respectable producer or distributed by a major company is not likely to fit under the heading of hard-core smut. For that matter, almost anything shot on film (rather than videotape) is probably not porno.
Of course, we still should eliminate the X, with all its less than savory associations (not the pornography, but the cloud of latent censorship it generated). Whether you replace it with an A , a 17 or an NC makes no difference--just as long as the MPAA copyrights it and keeps it under association control. If it had done that in the first place, perhaps the whole mess could have been avoided.