Thursday, July 23, 2009

One Million Moms Want You to Screen It!

The latest action alert from One Million Moms is about how to protect kids from seeing "objectionable content" at the movies this summer.

Here's an excerpt from the alert:
This summer, our sons and daughters have a lot of choices when it comes to what movies are playing at the local theater. It almost seems this year several new movies are coming out each week.

It's clear to me that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) does a very poor job in the ratings department, and an even worse job is letting parents know what objectionable content is in a particular movie.

For example, a young lady I know recently posted on her Facebook page that she was going back to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for a second time. Her parents had no idea that this PG-13 film contains extensive sexual scenes, violence, drug use, and 37 strong profanities. And, her Christian parents were shocked to learn that the Hollywood blockbuster used God's name in vain 19 times!

As moms, it's important that we know what our children and grandchildren are being influenced by. If we are going to trust the MPAA to do it for us, we're in big trouble.

That's why I want to share a website that offers the most complete movie reviews available. Screen It! is an independent website that reviews all major motion pictures and lists every conceivable objectionable element. And it's free! OneMillionMoms staff members have used Screen It! for years and have found it to be the best parental resource out there.

This is not a OneMillionMoms offer or partnership. In fact, Screen It! isn't even aware that I'm telling you about their great website. It's simply a tool I believe will help you as a mom, to control what your children are seeing at the theater.

Now, we have some issues with the MPAA ratings system too, but not the same ones that the One Million Moms have. For example, the way that they treat male and female nudity differently. Or gay content versus straight content. Or how hung up they are on sex scenes while letting lots of graphic bloody violence slide right by.

What cracks me up about this is the mental image of someone sitting through Transformers in the theater just to count the number of profanities and instances of "taking the Lord's name in vain". And I had to laugh at the surprised comment that it "almost seems this year several new movies are coming out each week". Is that really something new and different, especially in the summer?

One thing I'll say for this campaign is that at least in this case they're arguing that the ratings of some movies are inaccurate and make it difficult for them to do their job as parents in deciding what their kids should see. Compare that to their complaints from a few weeks ago about the TV show The Cougar - they were upset partly because the show was on TV Land, a "family-friendly network" that "most parents trust to provide wholesome entertainment", while ignoring the fact that TV Land is not specifically a kids channel and the show was on at 10 PM on a weeknight with a TV-PG (Parental Guidance Suggested) rating.

I also don't think that the idea of a site like Screen It is so horrible. And the creators of the site do make it clear that their goal is to give parents the information they need to make their own choices, not to protest the content of certain movies or to set their own ratings and start telling parents what their kids should see.
Screen It! was created to give parents a way to access the content of popular entertainment their kids are exposed to. It is not intended as censorship. Rather, it is designed to allow Hollywood and Record Labels to continue to produce movies, videos and music while informing parents of the content in them. Some people argue over the moral quality of films while others want to ban certain albums that contain material that particularly offends them. That is censorship, and it's not right for others to decide what you or your children can see. That decision lies with you.

We're not affiliated with any political, social or religious group thus assuring that we'll provide unbiased reviews. By doing so, we allow parents and others to decide whether a movie/video/CD is appropriate for them and/or their kids based on THEIR values.

The one main issue that I have is the claim that Screen It provides "unbiased" reviews. They review movies based on a bunch of categories, from standard stuff like "Alcohol/Drugs", "Violence", "Profanity", and "Sex/Nudity" to more subjective things like "Disrespectful/Bad Attitude", "Imitative Behavior", and "Topics to Talk About". I think it would be pretty hard for anyone to be totally objective in evaluating all of those different categories, and I'm sure that they make judgment calls all the time about whether kids might really want to imitate Behavior X from Disrespectful Character Y.

Here's one example that I stumbled on when I was reading the reviews of a couple of movies that I've seen recently. Screen It rated the movie Star Trek as "heavy" in the Sex/Nudity category. Really? There are a few suggestive jokes and comments, a couple of kisses and one scene with two characters kissing in their underwear, but nobody is ever shown having sex and there's no nudity. I know they're thinking about it in terms of children watching it, but that rating still seems excessive to me.

But this is the part that really bugged me. This is the first item on the list for the Sex/Nudity category:
We see Kirk's expectant mother ready to give birth to him (we see a side view of her with her legs spread, but nothing explicit is seen).

Why is this scene listed in this category? There's no nudity in the scene at all - they admit themselves that all you see is a side view of her legs. Partially bare legs count as "nudity" now? There's also obviously no sex since it's a childbirth scene. I could understand putting this one under "Tense Family Scenes" or "Topics To Talk About", but it doesn't automatically qualify as Sex/Nudity just because there's a vagina involved, and classifying it that way makes it seem like they're implying that there's something dirty or inappropriate about the scene, which couldn't be further from the truth.

I have to thank the One Million Moms on this one, because I think the ESC is going to get a lot of use out of Screen It when we're trying to decide if a movie has enough inappropriate content to keep us entertained.

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