An Equally Futile Attempt at Explaining the Content Ratings

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You may notice on some reviews a red and white box labeled “Content.” This is my effort to provide information on the nature of content over and above what’s provided by the MPAA rating system (or whatever classification system is in force in your particular locality).

Longtime readers may recall my lengthy rants on the inadequacies of the MPAA rating system and my proposed solution. Rather than wait for pigs to glide over the frozen landscape of hell before the MPAA implemented my idea, I thought I’d just start using it myself.

My system is based on ratings from 0 to 5 for five different areas: Nudity, sex, violence, language and subject matter. Nudity and sex get separate ratings for the simple reason that just because someone takes their clothes off doesn’t mean they are about to get busy, if you know what I mean (and I think you do).

I’ve tried to make the ratings as objective as possible. I’m not here to render judgment on what level of content is suitable for what age group. You may not have any problem with your offspring being exposed to images of the naked human body, but you might not want them viewing graphically depicted violence. My only purpose is to describe the level of nudity, sex, violence, and language in a way that helps you make that decision yourself.

That being said, the final rating, “subject matter,” is rather subjective on my part. This is my effort to alert you to films that may be either too intense for younger viewers or sufficiently over their heads to bore them silly.

With that out of the way, what follows is my explanation of the various ratings and what the numbers mean. If a particular rating is not shown, that means it is “0” for that movie.

Nudity (N)

No Rating
Everything is covered. Even the turtles are wearing turtleneck sweaters.
Even though everything is technically covered, enough skin is showing to be considered stimulating. See Jessica Alba’s bikini in Into the Blue.
Implied nudity.
Bare butts and/or boobs.
Non-sexual male or female frontal nudity at a distance.
Close up or heavily sexualized male or female frontal nudity.

Sex (S)

No Rating
Nobody gets anything more than a peck on the cheek. People pretend that sex does not exist.
TV-grade kissy-face. Think Laura and Rob on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Maybe some oblique references to sex in dialog.
More intense kissing, making out, but nothing that implies onscreen sexual activity. Direct and frank spoken references to sexual activity.
Implied sexual contact of any kind, without visible nudity.
Implied sexual contact with visible onscreen nudity.
Implied, hell! The sexual activity onscreen is explicit enough to make you wonder, “Were they really doing it?.”

Violence (V)

No Rating
Nobody so much as gets their hair mussed. Implied threat but little or no actual violence beyond a slap.
Punches thrown but no one really hurt. Think TV western bar fight, circa 1958.
Bloodless violence, with or without weapons.
Bloody but not overly graphic wounds.
Graphic bloodletting, visible wounds with blood spray or spatter.
Graphic wounds with dismemberment or exposed viscera.

Language (L)

No Rating
Gosh darn it, compared to this movie, Pat Boone cusses like a f****** sailor.
Damn it to hell, there’s nothing here you wouldn’t hear on television.
Holy shit, some of the language you’ll only hear in the movies (or the FX Network).
What the fuck? There’s one or more f-words.
Saturation f-bombing. “Fuck” or comparable words permeate the dialog.
The words used here would make the Marquis de Sade blush.

Subject Matter (M)

For this one, I can’t provide much in the way of objective standards. This is simply a 0-5 rating on the intangible elements of intensity or maturity level for the overall film. Generally I try to assign values that roughly approximate the ones I give the other categories. In other words, if I assign an “M” rating of “4,” then I think the subject matter of the film in question requires the same level of maturity as the same rating for sex, violence or language.