Naughtiness is running rampant on silver screen

From the June 11, 1999, Deseret News

Does anyone care that in the new "Austin Powers" movie the word "shag" does not refer to a knotty rug but a naughty act?

The film, of course, is "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," Mike Myers' sequel to his James Bond/Everything Sixties spoof of two years ago. And "shag," as if you couldn't figure it out for yourself, is a British slang word — more specifically, an obscene word — that refers to fornication.

Even one of Myers' co-stars, Elizabeth Hurley, said in a recent interview, "I don't think Americans know quite how rude a word 'shag' is in England. That's really a four-letter word. You certainly wouldn't use the word 'shag' in front of your grandmother, or you'd get a slap."


So, let's review:

The title of the film is "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me."

The lead female character is Felicity Shagwell (Heather Graham).

And there are other characters, ranging from an obese Scotsman (also played by Myers) to a sexy, buxom assassin (Fabiana Udenio, also in the first film), whose character names are so harsh they can't be repeated here. (Suffice it to say that both are designed to make audiences blush -- if movie audiences can blush anymore.)

And, perhaps most significantly, the movie is rated PG-13.

Of course, the first "Austin Powers" movie, subtitled "International Man of Mystery," was also rated PG-13.

When I reviewed that film for the Deseret News in 1997, I wrote: "If ever there were a PG-13 movie that should be rated R, this is it."

And despite some of the things moviegoers have been force-fed over the past couple of years — and despite how explicitly sexual nearly all television programming has become — my opinion remains the same.

This time around, since I'm no longer the movie critic, I have no intention of subjecting myself to the sequel.

But all you have to do is read a review or an interview with the "Austin Powers" principals to know that this film is every bit as raunchy as the first film — if not raunchier.

In Singapore, censors were shocked by the film's subtitle and changed it from "The Spy Who Shagged Me" to "The Spy Who Was Very Nice to Me."

But Warner Bros. appealed and the censors backed off. The original title will remain. Why? Because Singapore censors agreed with Warner Bros. that "today's educated Singaporeans are more mature and discerning."

So, the more mature and discerning you are, the better sleazy sex jokes seem?

Perhaps that's the way the U.S. movie rating board looks at young teenagers. They're so much more mature and discerning. Why not fill movies aimed at them with all kinds of sexual material?

This is always the argument, of course: Kids today are so much more sophisticated than they were 30 years ago — they can handle it.

Yeah, right. They're so mature that teen pregnancy, teen alcoholism, teen smoking and teen suicide have all but disappeared, right?

Another argument is that there's nothing in sexy movies that kids can't see on TV or hear at school.

True enough. But doesn't anyone want to take the high road anymore? Just because it's all around us is no excuse for contributing to it.

I can hear my mother, 35 years ago, saying, "If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?"

However mature some of them may appear to be on the surface, 13-year-olds — and 14-, 15- and 16-year-olds — are still kids. They need guidance and they're still impressionable.

And while I'm not suggesting that every young teen who's exposed to casual sex in the movies or on television is automatically going to do something rash, isn't it fair to wonder how much they are affected by constant exposure to that message?

After years of being told in both comic and serious ways by movies and television that there isn't anything wrong with recreational sex — that, in fact, it should be celebrated — isn't there at least a chance that it may cause them to let their guard down at the wrong moment?

Mind you, I'm not calling for censorship here. But how about a little sensitivity? Or at least some common sense?