Mr. Wry

Pacifist drawn into ratings battle.

I'm not one to Google myself. (What would be the point? I probably have one of the most common names in America.) Yet every so often my name pops up in a national publication (usually attached to a misleadingly edited pull quote), and I feel that odd mixture of pride and shame. Noticed but misquoted—that's the critic's life for you. So while I was surprised to find my moniker in the Aug. 19-25 issue of Variety, it raised all the same qualms. This time, it was Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), borrowing my prose in a guest column defending the perennially unpopular 34-year-old film-ratings system.

Apparently, some critics believe Goldmember should've been rated R, not PG-13. Valenti cites me to argue the contrary: "Brian Miller of the Seattle Weekly wryly observes that there is more PG in it than PG-13." Actually, I wrote the movie "is far more PG than it is 13," my point being that I prefer and miss the juvenile raunchiness of the first two Powers movies

But wry? Me? Jack, I'm hurt.

Since the Texas-born World War II bomber pilot Valenti went directly from being an LBJ aide to the MPAA, his ideas of manhood are set in old-school stone. Men fly B-25s; men pick up beagles by the ears; men stick with the G through NC-17 scheme no matter what ridicule they face. In other words, we didn't beat the Nazis to be intimidated by a bunch of effete film critics who wouldn't know a Focke-Wolfe from a ME-109 in their machine-gun sights. Valenti has faced fiercer foes than me, and the free world has fared nicely since then, thank you very much.

Maybe it's a generational thing. The 71-year-old Valenti bravely remains loyal to Hollywood's self-imposed ratings system to forestall anything worse. (Just imagine what Congress might produce.) Being fundamentally lazy myself, I'd be happier in an NR world with fewer facts to check. But, Jack, please—don't draft me into the conflict.

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