GOD ONLINE: Exploring media spirituality

Web sites, TV, films, books and the search for meaning.

Moral stats of movies

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Last in my series of movie review sites is Movieguide.

Want to know how many bad words are in Weather Girl? Or what kinds of sex show up in Cheri? Or how many ways people are killed or maimed in The Hurt Locker? Then Movieguide is for you.

CB031428The Christian-oriented site looks like it was designed by a moralistic statistician. First, there’s a four-star scale for production values and “entertainment quality” of a movie. Then there’s an eight-level scale — from +4 to -4 — for “acceptability,” meaning moral and theological viewpoints.

Moral content is further broken down into language, violence, sex and nudity, with a four-level scale for each — a total of 16 possible combinations. Finally, a detailed paragraph in the review itself details how the objectionable stuff shows up. (How does a writer track all that while paying attention to the plot?)

Still, the site can surprise. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince might have been one to beat up on for its occultic atmosphere. But Movieguide gives it a partly good review for “some direct encouragements toward cardinal virtues” — though it advises parents to steer their kids away.

And a favorable morality rating doesn’t win automatic smiles. My Sister’s Keeper, according to Movieguide, was low on sex, violence and nudity. But it still got a mixed review for a “nihilistic humanist tone that results in a depressing ending.”

Movieguide’s founder, Ted Baehr, does know his stuff. He holds a degree in literature from Dartmouth and a law degree from New York University. He’s also a former director of the Television Center at the City University of New York.

Annnnnnd, Baehr also gives you tools for giving feedback. Each review names not only the director and producer, but also the president of the film company — with its mailing address, email address and phone number.


Written by Jim Davis

July 16, 2009 at 4:31 am

Posted in culture, film, films, movies

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