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Saturday, March 5, 2011

THWS: Comprehensive Movie Ratings

Today I give you the latest installment of the Totally Handy Web Sites (THWS) series.

I am a parent of several children, and I am a firm believer in filtering them from unnecessary crap in entertainment media. I also need to filter, from time to time, exactly what it is that they are exposed to depending on the age of each kid.

Regarding movies, what exactly is PG, or PG-13? Did it get its rating because of too much skin? Too much blood? Too much language? Could be any of them. I am willing to tolerate more contextual violence for the kids than skin, for example. If it's a war movie, people bleed. But a comedy that relies too much on partly-dressed ladies to be cute is not of value to my kids. Bad language? What exactly is it? Cursing? Suggestive language? The MPAA system is so incredibly subjective that it is impossible to decide with any real assurance what is OK for the kids of any particular age to watch based on the MPAA rating alone.

Enter Kids In Mind

The staff of this site goes to incredible lengths to tell you exactly what to expect in a movie that you would want to know about before letting the kids watch it. Each movie is scored on a 1-10 scale in three areas: Sex and Nudity, Language, and Violence and Gore. And they don't just score them so you make your judgment on the rating, but they go to a detached level of objective detail as to how each score was determined.

Lets look at a couple of examples.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel

This is supposed to be a harmless kids movie, right? Rated PG? Why? Kids In Mind scored it a 2.3.2 (Sex-2, Violence-3, Language-2). Not too bad, I guess, but what's in it? Their review reveals, among other things, that A chipmunk says that a woman is "Practicing her pole dancing." A remark is made about a chipmunk having "Junk in the trunk." A chipmunk calls to a crowd, "Shake what your mama gave you.". My six year old does not need to see or hear that. The violence is all cartoonish violence, and though they spell it out in detail, it is silly and of no consequence. On the language, they report 3 mild anatomical terms, 2 mild obscenities, exclamations (nuts, heck, dang), name-calling (short, jock, dirty rat, stupid, jerk, low-life, rat face, suckers, loser), 2 religious exclamations.

This may seem overkill in detail, but it tells me a whole lot more than "PG" did. I'd let the pre-teen kids watch it, but I also wouldn't go out of my way to pick this when movies of higher quality are out there.

How about a movie that I might or might not want to watch with my wife?

No Strings Attached

Rated R, unsurprisingly, but why? Kids In Mind scored it 8.3.6, and although the very detailed description never mentions frontal nudity, there is so much visual and verbal sexual content and partial nudity that it racks up the score quickly and has a very long 10-paragraph breakdown of what contributed to the sex/nudity score. And as for the language? A score of 6 is found with About 16 F-words and its derivatives, 29 sexual references, 11 scatological terms, 16 anatomical terms, 7 mild obscenities, name-calling, 13 religious exclamations. Very survivable to adults, I suppose, but not my kind of movie, either.

So you see, this site is not just for parents to filter for the kids, but for adults to filter for themselves, too. Some of the people I show this site to laugh at me and think I am way overzealous about protecting my kids. You know what, they're right. My kids don't live in a protective castle, but quality, context, and crap are subjectively things that I care about, that are not adequately measured by the MPAA. Kids In Mind lets me make a confident decision in what I watch or let my kids watch, without having to preview the show on my own. You too may chuckle at first, but when you aren't sure about a show your kids ask to see, I bet you'll find yourself at Kids In Mind checking it out. And then you'll tell your friends about it, too.

Do you have a Totally Handy Web Site you like? Let me know and it might be added to the collection here. grumpydispatcher [at] gmail

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