Saturday, February 10, 2007

Movie ratings for kids

I came across an interesting website, "Kids-In-Mind" that provides movie ratings that might be useful. Like most countries Australia has a one dimensional ratings system designed to tell you which age groups should watch what. However, I have found it almost useless in really giving parents information in terms of what their children should see.

To see this, the first thing we have to note is that parental preferences are different. I do not feel the same way about profanity and some forms of violence than other parents do. I would prefer to avoid sex scenes if only to avoid questions that just do not need to come up yet (for 8 year olds or under). So I struggle in that there are some M movies that I am happy for my 8 year old to see (including Star Wars III, Superman Returns and any Harry Potter) but there are PG ones which I am not sure are suitable.

Kids-In-Mind cuts through that with a three dimensional rating system. Here is what they say:
Our ratings reflect objective categories of potentially objectionable material. Unlike the MPAA, we do not assign a single, age-specific rating. Instead we assign each film three distinct, category-specific ratings: one for SEX & NUDITY, one for VIOLENCE & GORE and one for PROFANITY. Each rating is on a scale of zero to ten, depending on quantity (more F-words, for instance, will mean a higher PROFANITY rating, and so on) as well as context (especially when it comes to the categories of sex, nudity, violence and gore, since they are not as easily quantifiable as profanity). Hence, two movies which have received the same rating -- let's say a 9 in VIOLENCE & GORE -- will not necessarily contain an equal amount of violence; they are only similar in the level of violence they contain. Plus, like most numerical rating systems, the numbers are inherently approximations (think of them as plus-or-minus-one). Only the detailed descriptions we provide with each review will give you the proper context.
So Star Wars Episode III gets a 2.7.0. Lots of violence, little sex (actually 2 seems alot) and no profanity. Superman Returns gets a 3.6.2 while Harry Potter 4 gets a 3.6.3. On those scores, that is fine by me. We were thinking of taking our eldest to Dreamgirls. It has a 4.3.5 so I am a little more uncertain but this suggests that it is probably OK but last year's the Da Vinci Code with 5.7.4 was probably good to miss. Although that one raises another issue -- historical and cultural knowledge required for the movie to be understood -- something that would make a good 4th dimension.

This system also allows us to tailor things to the child. Child No.2 gets scared and so anything above a 3 on the violence dimension is surely out. But Child No.1 loves it. I remember taking her to see the second Harry Potter movie (1.4.3) when she was only 4. Kids in that movie were balling their eyes out (with the spiders and such). My daughter's only concern was when a scary thing appeared her popcorn would go flying everywhere. That issue got resolved as the movie progressed. But suffice it to say, three dimensions of ratings (and accompanying reasons) is much more information than one letter.