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Pornographic or simply graphic, many movie theaters and some video stores now prohibit NC-17 movies, not only from being shown or sold but from being advertised. With the result, as the Los Angeles Times recently put it, "An NC-17 rating is the kiss of death at the box office. Movie studios usually contractually require directors to work with the MPAA to whittle films down to at least an R-rating."

Even Kubrick, whose Eyes Wide Shut was the last film he made before he died, digitally doctored the film's sex scenes rather than have it rated NC-17.

Doesn't this show, I asked Huynh, that there's something problematic about any adults-only rating? Huynh disagreed: "In terms of Eyes Wide Shut, Warner Brothers decided to make it R. If they had released the movie as an NC-17, it would've been fine.

"Showgirls made it," she went on. Distributed by MGM, "it was a wide release. It's a decision up to the distributor. But the thing is, a lot of movies choose not to make an NC-17."

"NO!" The reaction was deafening when I broached with Megan, Susan, and Macalah the possibility of two ratings: one for everybody and the other for adults only. "Oh no," Susan said. "I don't want to be able to go to a theater and just see a G-movie. I would be for bringing some stupid parent permission slip...instead of having a parent escort you."

All three could not think of a movie they had wanted to see in the past two years that they'd missed because of its R-rating. Parents often take their children's counsel on which movies they should be allowed to see, and if they don't... "Anywhere else I've ever gone," Susan remarked, "they won't card you. This is the only place.

"There's a lot of 16-year-olds," she went on, "who are a lot more mature than [the MPAA] think." That's why Susan, herself 16, would change the R-rating in one way at least: Lower the age for unrestricted admission to 16.

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