I'm not sure how long the group Common Sense Media has been around (at least since 2007, which I believe is the last time they were mentioned on Cinematical), so I apologize if I am shedding light on something that's already been in and out of the spotlight for years, but I just caught wind of their ratings system yesterday. I was checking Netflix to see if Atlantis: The Lost Empire was available for streaming when I noticed, for the first time, the green Age 7 button declaring that the film's Common Sense rating was "OK for kids 7+".
My first thought was in regards to how much I liked the idea of a 'Common Sense' rating, but then I started to wonder whose common sense it was referring to. So I clicked on to read the actual details of the Atlantis rating and recoiled a bit at the idea. I still think that their assessment of 7+ is a fair one, but the "Common Sense Note" attached to it was curious. You can read the whole thing here, but if you had no idea the style of the film I'm not sure you'd let children anywhere near its "dive-bombing planes, lots of guns, a huge robot monster, fire, and the death of hundreds of anonymous sailors."
Their strange reading of Atlantis aside (their rater is oddly hung up on the anachronisms of an animated fantasy film, for one), I do like the idea behind the Common Sense Media agenda. I do think parents who aren't particularly movie savvy deserve a more descriptive and objective guide to what one can expect from certain films (and I love that Netflix supplies this system's ratings in a supplemental capacity), but I'm still not sure if their system is a better alternative to the MPAA.
I'm not a fan of the MPAA, and maybe it's just because I'm institutionalized to their presence, but in a strange way I do prefer their lack of gradation. For example, the reviewers at Common Sense Media have deemed Shutter Island only suitable for ages 17+, whereas The Crazies earns a more favorable 16+. I'm not sure I agree with where they draw the line between the brutal acts of murder in The Crazies and the "scary nightmares" of Shutter Island and I certainly don't see how either film gets an age limit attached while Edge of Darkness warrants a flat-out "No Kids" label. I suppose when it comes to the finer points of a film's more adult subject matter, I'm okay with the across the board barrier to entry that is the MPAA R-rating.
But then again, I'm not yet a parent. So to those cineparents out there, I have a few questions. Do you ever look up a film's Common Sense Media rating? Do you find their guidance to be more accurate and servicable than the MPAAs? And, on the MPAA front, do you decide what your children can see solely on their rating? Or do you also scan every word of their 'This movie contains' section for offending material?