Forget about whether or not the MPAA is actually making improvements to the film ratings system. You can believe that it is, or you can believe that it isn't. The important thing is that the board should be communicating more clearly to moviegoers the point of film ratings and the reasons for a film being rated what it is rated. The worse thing for independent cinema is not that films may unfairly receive an NC-17 rating; it is that the public misunderstands the NC-17 rating. This problem is still mostly the fault of the MPAA, along with the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO). Fortunately, the MPAA may be finally acknowledging this.

Last week, when the MPAA's ratings revision proposal was announced, there was mention of a plan to provide more specific descriptors for R-rated films, addressing whether they are more or less inappropriate for children. I wrote hopefully that this was a plan to steer away from the poisonous NC-17 rating. But in his official declaration of the new policies, Dan Glickman stated the opposite. The MPAA, he said, would like the world to love and embrace the NC-17.

Hey, that should be fine if the MPAA can convince everyone that the rating is not the same as XXX. And according to the agenda, the first step is for NATO to accept the idea. But most theater chains only have a ban on NC-17 films because many patrons threaten to boycott cinemas that show them. So, obviously, the first step needs to be a full-on ad campaign to convince those patrons that NC-17 rated films are not smut. This will be a difficult task.

Unfortunately, I think the damage is done as far as the NC-17 is concerned. It may be better to simply bury it beside the X rating and start over. It would take less of an effort for the MPAA to introduce a new rating that will immediately be given a positive association for adults. Keep the negativity of the "N" letter out of there. Avoid using any words like 'adult' or 'mature'. May I suggest "Rated OM: Open-mindedness Suggested"?

There are other issues with the ratings system that need to be addressed and/or changed. This Film is Not Yet Rated director Kirby Dick wrote an article in the L.A. Times Wednesday in which he further attacks the MPAA's "revisions" and points out these more important issues. A lot of his complaints would be partially solved if the stigma was in fact removed from the NC-17 rating, even if it wouldn't make the rating board's "homophobic discrimination" disappear.