Tag Archives: america

Notes on CRAP Alert

I enjoyed writing my CRAP Alert post yesterday. Very cathartic. But there are some serious points in it and while I might be overstating the case when I spell them out here, I think it’s worth doing just to be clear.

The truth is I genuinely do support the right of people to publish this kind of information. I am against pretty much all forms of censorship and am very much in favour of giving people good information so that they can make an informed decision themselves.

In the case of CAP Alert the thing that I dislike is the absolute nature of their criticism1 and their insistence that what they are doing is in any way objective. The numerical aspect is of dubious value — are you a better person if you swear only five times rather than ten? — and the commentary is no more objective than what I?ve written here. Using a checklist does not make things absolute, just as referring to a book does not make your morals any more sound than mine.

The checklist approach also fails to distinguish between scenes that condone “bad” behaviour and those that condemn it. Similarly, films often lose points if the protagonist questions authority. But is it always wrong to question authority? Certain historical precedents say not. Nothing is black and white.

More significantly, the “objective” nature of their commentary is undermined when they completely misunderstand the plot of the film. My favourite is for their write-up of American Beauty, in which they commend a “redneck” Marine Colonel for arguing against homosexuality while simultaneously failing to note that it was he who was gay and not his son. Kind of important to the plot, yet they claim it did “nothing for the script.” I wonder if the reviewers actually see the movies in question.

Naturally violence in real life should not be encouraged and there is such a thing as too much in a movie. I am not terribly keen on the recent spate of vigilante endings of some of the more violent Hollywood movies. But I don?t necessarily think that people genuinely take it as advice to take the law into their own hands. It?s more a case of lax story telling than lax morals. On the other hand, the CAP blanket ban on nudity betrays their puritanical roots. I find it hard to believe that it is the cause of any of the ills of the world.

Ultimately, CAP is ripe for ridicule not because of what it’s trying to do — while I do not agree with their values I wholeheartedly endorse the idea of reviewing films for specific demographics — but because in an effort to push their politics on their readers they frequently miss the mark.

  1. Which is no doubt seated in their moral objectivism rather than my more relative stance. []

CRAP Alert

Ever since I found it a few years ago I have been very impressed with the CAP Alert website. The “American Culture Ministry” owns it and their plan is to review films for objectionable content. In this context, “objectionable” means anything that does not fit in with their fairly strict interpretation of the Bible. They claim that their reviews are objective1 as they use the WISDOM scale2. I absolutely support the rights of groups such as this to take all the fun out of entertainment.

However I feel an alternative is required for people who may not follow the same faith or may not take such a strict line on all elements of the WISDOM scale. I have, therefore, created a new scale designed for the people who like a good movie and don’t take them too seriously.

My methodology is based, fundamentally, on the well-understood principle that the number of exploding helicopters is generally proportional to the quality of the film. For example, “Waterworld” is rightly considered to be a dreadful film by most critics and movie-goers. And how many exploding helicopters are there in it?

Of course, ninety minute of exploding helicopters would get a little monotonous. For this reason the scale includes other elements that make movies entertaining such as gratuitous sex or nudity, humour and cruelty to animals. (Just to be clear, I don’t condone cruelty to real animals, with the possible exception of poodles.)

I like to call this scale CRAP. Originally I wanted to go for the full six pillars like the WISDOM scale, but I realized that I really wanted to enjoy the films I watch and that I couldn’t be bothered watching a film while looking for six different characteristics. Each letter stands for something and the following paragraphs explain what to look for.

Chopper. As explained above this is only about exploding helicopters. Helicopters landing at a wonky angle or with a jolt do not count. Planes do not count. Actually, I exaggerate for dramatic effect. This pillar is really all about entertaining “action” sequences.

Relations. Here we’re looking for normal, healthy relations between consenting adults. Unlike certain other profiles, we do not discriminate on sexual orientation or marital status. Extra points may be awarded for gratuitous nudity.

Amusement. Here we rate the “fun factor” of the movie. Is it funny? Entertaining?

Plot. While the WISDOM scale will happily give high marks to films that are dull but worthy, the CRAP scale rewards movies that have a plot and “go somewhere.” Exceptions may be given where no plot is necessary, for example documentaries or Charlies Angels.

I think you’ll agree that this scale intuitively makes sense. Over the next few months I shall be reviewing movies using the CRAP scale. I plan to look at both classics and new films. You may be surprised how they compare with the WISDOM scale. I encourage you to use this scale when viewing films and suggest you add your own reviews as comments below. You will be doing a service to the whole Internet community and I thank you for your help.

  1. Although the scores are “objective” the associated commentary rarely is. For example, a man being brutally executed is dismissed as only being a film while a Disney film, which has roughly the same score on the WISDOM scale, has “behavioral, moral and value implantation dangers.” The movies were The Passion of the Christ and The Incredibles. []
  2. WISDOM are the first letters of the six elements that are assessed: Wanton violence/crime; Impudence/Hate; Sexual morality; Drugs/alcohol; Offence to God; and Murder/suicide. []