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In the gray area for kid-friendly movies

January 03, 2004

STEVE SMITH

A few weeks ago, my mother gave me the gift of a subscription to the

Christian Science Monitor. Having read it almost daily since, I am

pleased to report that this is an excellent newspaper, one that I

highly recommend to you.

The reporting is crisp and clear, with as much of the elusive

"balance" that I've ever seen.

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Don't let the name fool you -- this is not a religious paper.

There is on occasion a column devoted to promoting Christian Science,

but it is clearly marked as such and except for that, there are no

other references.

The issues are brief; my daily copies are usually 12 pages, and

the overall page size is half of the daily newspapers you receive.

Last Saturday's issue was the most important I've received. Larger

than usual, it contained an extensive year-end movie review section,

which will be invaluable to my wife and me during 2004.

Since we've sworn off television, our alternatives are reading or

watching movies; and we do watch a lot of movies, many of which have

to be screened before the kids can see them. After watching the

second "Lord of the Rings" movie, we determined that it was too

violent and had too many scary images for our 11-year-old son.

The year-end issue of the Monitor proved to be a bonanza. That

issue had their summary reviews of many movies from 2003, and while

the review board seems to have never met a documentary it didn't

like, the recaps were generally right on the money.

But more valuable than their opinions was the straight ahead

family analysis of all the flicks. Each movie was rated according to

several kid-friendly categories, including violent scenes, sexual

scenes, profanity and scenes of drinking and drugs. So, if the reader

sees a PG-13 rating, for example, and wonders how that was

determined, this list will offer a good, detailed explanation,

including the specific number of violent, sexual or drug scenes, even

the number of four-letter words spoken in the movie and whether those

words were the mild type.

PG-13 seems to be the gray area for parents. PG-13 movies are

rated as such usually because there's too much sex or sexual innuendo

or because there's too much violence. But the PG-13 rating for

violence does not take into account the difference between "real"

violence and "make believe" violence. Real violence is regular people

doing violent things to each other. The make-believe stuff is from

fictional characters doing some outrageous things.

I'm one of those who believes that most kids can make the

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