21 October 2005

Rate My Movie

So, the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is "too scary" for younger children, eh? Let's see what that requires:

  • The climactic graveyard battled is "too frightening for some young children"
  • Dragging a character underground by plant roots is also "too frightening for some young children"
  • There are too many spiders
  • A central character dies
  • The language is more like that used by real British adolescents (one character says "piss off!")

On the other hand, one can watch scenes from Beirut (or any other third-world-battlefield-of-the-month) in which there is no pretense that "this is fiction" or "it's just special effects and the actor is fine" on the evening news. Rambo and Harry Callahan would envy the body count in the second season of 24. On 11 September 2001, school was semi-suspended so everyone could watch the World Trade Center collapse with thousands of people inside.

Do we have some misguided priorities here? By no means am I in favor of censorship. Just because something is "nonfiction," though—as the "news" purports to be, but too often falls into the trap of reporting the surface or the preconceived ideological line instead of the truth—should not make it "privileged" in this sense. If we're going to establish a censorship system that does more than merely guide access, the purportedly factual nature of the account should not matter. (And, under the First Amendment, can't matter.)

I object to someone who is not the parent of my child deciding exactly what my child may see without my supervision, or what time of day something that I want to watch may be broadcast on broadcast TV or basic cable. I don't object to the narrative description of a film, or a TV show. The latter is what should be necessary, because it's properly a parental decision. It's rather ironic that the rating(s) don't say "Due to intense scenes of supernatural causation, may not be suitable for fundamentalist Christians"… but that might be giving away too much. And the less said about treatment of sex in film and on TV, the better.