Movie Ratings Websites Help Parents Parse Oscar Hopefuls
CREDIT: The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences
Despite an expanded roster of 10 movies, this year's nominations for best picture still include a large number of R-rated movies. Even more vexing for parents, some of the R-rated movies, such as "The King's Speech," contain almost no objectionable material, while the G-rated entry, "Toy Story 3," contains many adult themes about aging, death and loss. With the MPAA ratings proving too blunt of a tool to parse out that level of nuance, a new crop of websites have arisen that give parents the information they need to determine what movies are and are not appropriate for their children.
Sites like CommonSense.org and Screenit.com use the expanded space of the Internet to provide the kind of multilevel analyses that can't fit on a movie poster. And by leveraging social media as well, they provide a space where parents can look at the views of developmental experts and other parents to decide which films they can share with their kids, and which award winners to hold until the children get older.
"It all boils down to the fact that we base our ratings on developmental criterion. It's all about what kids are ready for at different ages. Of course, it also depends on the individual kids. Some 4-year-olds can watch Harry Potter, and others can't watch Tinker Bell," said Betst Bozdech, director of ratings and reviews at CommonSense.org. "The idea was, 'let's lay out what people really need to care about.' But this day, when people are almost addicted to information, they just want to know more."
To provide that enhanced level of information, CommonSense rates every movie on a range from "off" to "iffy" to "on,"a scale that acknowledges the range of maturity even children of the same age could display. They develop the ratings based on a combination of input from child developmental psychologists and educators, Bozdech told InnovationNewsDaily.
Beyond that, the site offers a customizable search feature that allows parents to pinpoint the exact range of movies they consider suitable. Parents can search by age range, by recommendations from other parents, and even analyze the specific content within the films.
CommonSense breaks down the movies past the sex, violence and language that the MPAA focuses on for their ratings, including issues such as consumerism, the context of the language and violence, and the presence of role models.
Screenit doesn't have the same level of interactivity as CommonSense, but does provide infographics that rate the presence of disrespectful attitudes toward authority, whether or not the film includes behavior a child is likely to imitate and even the creepiness of the movie's score.
Most important, unlike the MPAA ratings, which movie theaters enforce for the parents, these sites leverage the information-disseminating power of the web to place the choice in the hands of the family.
"We're just giving the information the parents need," Bozdech said. "We're saying, on a scale of one to five, here's what in the movie, you make the call."