FIRST-PERSON: 'Goldmember' evidences why movie ratings are a farce

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)--If the content of the most recent Austin Power's movie is any indication, the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) rating scale is meaningless.

"Goldmember" is currently showing in theaters across America and warrants a PG-13 rating according to the MPAA. After enduring the film, I can only conclude that PG-13 must stand for Profoundly Gross and full of rude, crude and socially unacceptable humor that no one with an IQ over 13 is capable of appreciating.

When the MPAA revised its rating system a few years ago and added the PG-13 designation, some family groups applauded. I was skeptical. I theorized the move was simply a reflection of our society's receding values and not Hollywood's attempt to placate its more moral patrons.

My prediction concerning the new rating system was that films, which would have previously been rated R, would begin to garner a PG-13 rating. Those films once deserving the X designation would be given an R rating, and NC-17 would be nothing more than "soft" pornography.

With the release of "Goldmember," it seemed like an appropriate time to gage if my forecast had been on target. I slipped into a matinee to view the immensely popular character created by Mike Myers of "Saturday Night Live" fame. Austin Powers was introduced to the world in the summer of 1997 via the movie "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery." The secret agent's spicy brand of humor was a hit with moviegoers and Powers quickly became a cultural icon.

"Goldmember" wasted no time in dishing out the dirt. Not five minutes into the film and sexual innuendo was flying around like bullets in a John Wayne western. The explicit insinuations continued throughout the movie and were joined by a wide variety of sordid scatological references.

The theater was mostly empty at the matinee I attended. Though no one sat near me, I could not help but feel embarrassed by the distasteful display I was watching. It was raunchy and vulgar, and not the least bit funny. I felt like I might even need to bathe upon leaving the theater.

Of course my motive for attending "Goldmember" was not to be entertained. I was there in an attempt to discern why Austin Powers is so wildly popular. However, as I sat in the theater, my mind drifted to the unsuspecting parent who, trusting the MPAA rating system, takes his or her child to view a "Goldmember" type of movie.

Can you imagine sitting next to your young teen when the first sexually suggestive comment is made? How about when the first boorish bathroom joke is cracked? After recovering from shock and embarrassment, I would hope most parents would storm out of the theater and demand a refund.

The only thing worse than a parent accidentally taking their child to see a movie fraught with sexually explicit innuendo and filthy frivolity would be an unsuspecting parent allowing their teen to view the movie un-chaperoned based on the MPAA rating.

Parents who desire to protect the innocence of their children as long as possible want to know the content of a film before it is viewed. Many rely on the MPAA's ratings as a guide. Those who do run the risk of contaminating their children with filth that water won't wash off. Once a child is exposed to the kind of fare offered in a movie like "Goldmember," he or she won't soon forget it.

Parents who want to know about the true content of a movie can visit websites like www.moviereporter.com or www.screenit.com. Sites like these can help insure your kid's innocence is not accidentally smudged. You simply cannot trust the MPAA's rating system. It is a farce.


Boggs, whose column appears in Baptist Press each week, is pastor of Valley Baptist Church, McMinnville, Ore.

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