IF YOU are a Maryland moviegoer, the following may be considered objectionable -- at least that's what the last of the red-hot movie censors is likely to conclude. Yet with a little luck and maybe a veto if it takes one, Maryland's censor board -- said to be the only statewide board of its kind left in the country -- could evaporate under a sunset law. Only if the General Assembly approves legislation and Gov. Harry Hughes agrees will the board stay alive. But already, a see-no-evil majority in the House has voted to prolong the undistinguished life of the censor board.
In the Senate, Mary Avara -- the board's spokeswoman for cinematic cleanliness -- gave a lively performance at a committee meeting the other day, noting that her grandchildren call her "X-rated grandma" and vowing to "stand up and fight for what's right." She told Baltimore Sen. J. Joseph Curran Jr., chairman of the committee, "Buddy boy, most of our complaints come from your district. . . . Curran, really, I'm old enough to be your grandmother. Do you want your children to see sex the way I see it?"
The way she sees it is in enormous quantity and often pitifully bad quality. Still, what makes a group of censors such great judges of what is or isn't offensive?The assumption is that people aren't qualified to judge for themselves what they may see, hear and know -- which is nonsense. However imperfect, the G-to-X ratings given out by the industry itself do offer guidance for parents as well as some protection against minors tumbling into no-no shows.
Gov. Hughes has not said publicity what he would do if the bill to continue the censor board is sent to him. But he has said he hopes the legislature will allow the board to die. The Senate can and should pitch in right now by non-violently killing the bill and leaving the board on the cutting room floor where it belongs.