In this section of our Colossus Movie Guide for X, we will discuss the meaning behind the movie’s title.
- Mia Goth – Maxine “Max” Minx / Pearl
- Jenna Ortega – Lorraine “Raine” Day
- Brittany Snow – Bobby-Lynne Parker
- Scott Mescudi – Jackson Hole
- Martin Henderson – Wayne Gilroy
- Owen Campbell – R.J. Nichols
- Stephen Ure – Howard
- Ti West – Director and writer
Why is the movie called X?
X is, of course, a horror film. West was determined to make his first slasher flick, and pays homage to classic horror movies like Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Alligator throughout the film. But X also echoes classic pornographic films, such as Debbie Does Dallas and Blue Movie. And both of those movies received the X rating upon their respective releases in 1978 and 1969.
The X rating was introduced alongside the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in 1968. In the early days, many directors would self-assign the X rating to their films if they contained content unsuitable for minors. That meant famous movies like Midnight Cowboy, Medium Cool, and A Clockwork Orange were X-rated when released. Soon enough, it became a marketing tool for pornographic filmmakers as adult movies became more popular and commercially viable. It turns out there was a sizable market to capture, so the idea was to emphasize the “adult content” of a motion picture.
X is about a group of people making an adult film that would have received the X rating back in 1979—so the reasoning for the title of the film could be as simple as that.
If you wanted to dig deeper, though, X is about the power of art, of movies, of storytelling. As we discussed in the Key Shots section, West created a metafilm with X, meaning the movie is about the art of making movies. The camera almost becomes a character in the film, and the artists using the cameras become a reflection of the director who created the film you’re watching. By entrenching us in the process of making a movie, the director is able to intimately involve us in the artistry of film.
One point of contention X is that RJ wants to create a transcendent piece of art while Wayne just wants to make money in the budding adult film market—this reveals a tension that West strives to call to our attention. What do these people wish to accomplish with their film? Can an adult film have a greater impact on the world and create positive change? Or do adult movies offer nothing more than simple, carnal pleasure?
As we discussed in the Themes and Meaning section, the metafilm format allows West to extract two specific themes: the ideological differences that divided America in the 1970s and the difficulty in finding one’s true calling. Back in 1979 when the film takes place, elder generations were decrying the moral state of the country, point to the rising adult film market as a sign of depraved values; while younger generations were becoming more liberated, in both the philosophical and sexual sense. Thus, represented a dividing line in the United States, represented a hurdle for the country’s growth.
These tensions specifically affect Maxine, who wishes to stake her claim and find her self-worth in the adult film market. Thus, the title “X” becomes a powerful assertion of one’s pride and vitality; an ode to the power of films that weren’t considered legitimate “art.” Maxine doesn’t shy away from her calling as an adult film star, but embraces it. Even when faced with the seeming ugly inevitably of her future in the form of Pearl, Maxine is steadfast in her fight to find her identity and manifest the future in her own image; she wants to change alongside America during such a monumental shift and embrace the positive values offered by her industry.
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