Making the Grades
We look for many different elements when we grade the media we review. Please click on one of the following for more information:
This grade is not an average of the other content grades but instead reflects our overall opinion of the artistic merits, quality, and theme of the work while considering the levels of content parents may find objectionable. Occasionally violence, sexual content, or profanities may be justifiable, or counterbalanced by a redeeming message.
Overall Grade A: To achieve an A-grade, we feel audiences will not only find the title entertaining, but will benefit from the message or other content. Children viewing or playing these items would benefit from positive messages or values, unique or creative problem solving methods, and/or educational content.
Please note that we occasionally award an A grade to titles with themes and messages that warrant commendation even though they contain material some viewers may find objectionable. Please read all of our grades and review carefully before making your own decision.
Overall Grade B: This grade indicates a product that is entertaining, but lacking the positive elements found in an A-title. It may be devoid of objectionable content, yet not outstanding creatively. It can also represent a title with the positive elements mentioned in the grade A description, but too much unjustified negative content to merit that grade.
Overall Grade C: At this level, we can no longer recommend the title for viewing by children. This category often contains situations where good and positive things are being attempted through erroneous, illegal, or unsafe methods, or the positive messages may be minor in comparison to the quantity of other content most parents would find objectionable.
Overall Grade D:Titles in this category are ones we feel are unsuitable for family use. Characters display behavior that, if modeled in reality, would be dangerous or illegal. Language, sex, and violent content are often extreme and overall themes display very little or no positive values.
This grade includes visual and verbal violence, as well as terror, scary themes, other types of aggressive behavior, and glamorization of criminal activity. Note in games, we will grade violence that can be infinitely repeated by the player, more restrictively than a one-time event that may be seen in a movie or a cut scene of a game.
Violence Grade A: To achieve an A-grade, a movie/game must not portray any content that typical parents would define as unusually aggressive, demeaning, or cruel. At a minimum, characters treat each other with courtesy and respect.
Violence Grade B: Moderate amounts of "slap stick" violence, accidental incidents (where no harm was intended), sports injuries, and acts of God are often categorized here. Guns or weapons that are key to plot motivations may be seen, but typically are not used, or are used for preservation of life, hunting food, signaling, or warning. Brief scenes of hand to hand combat or martial arts moves may be included, but not with graphic depictions of blood or injury. General dialogue involving killing (like a murder mystery) may be included, but without descriptive details. Verbal bullying will also be categorized here.
Violence Grade C: Violent depictions are more intense and detailed, yet still not completely gratuitous, terrifying, or explicit. Some justification in preserving life, liberty, or fundamental laws of society or an attempt to solve a situation through reasonable negotiation or conflict resolution must be evident. The audience shouldn't see more violence than is necessary to understand the situation and motivation of the characters. Guns and other weapons may be used, but generally we don't see the victim being shot. Intense hand-to-hand combat or martial arts situations may be depicted with blood. Dialogue regarding combat, murder, or torture may be descriptive--but only to the point of what is necessary to reasonably convince the audience of characters' motives.
Video games where violent acts may be repeated through a players interaction with the game will usually fall into the C category, including hand-to-hand combat and martial arts, even if no blood or other graphic depictions are included.
Violence Grade D: Excessive violence deemed gratuitous, unnecessary, or which serves only as an entertainment attraction. Violence is used without any consideration for non-violent conflict resolution. Explicit scenes of death, destruction, injuries or mutilation would also be assigned this grade.
We consider both visual sexual behaviors along with spoken innuendo and descriptions.
Sexual Content Grade A: No sexual activity is seen, implied, or described with the exception of basic physical affection between married couples (a brief kiss, hug, etc.) or appropriate physical affection between parents / children / siblings or friends (hugging, brief kiss, etc.). Clothing portrays what is generally acceptable in society, with the possible exception of swimsuits worn in an appropriate setting (beach, pool, etc.). Head and shoulders shots of a person in a shower or bath, with no nudity or details of private body parts through clothing or any other objects, will be included in this grade.
Sexual Content Grade B: Sexual activity is implied or briefly alluded to between married couples. Sexual activity is discussed or alluded to by unmarried adults without detailed descriptions and with no on-screen activity. Teen characters may briefly mention or discuss sexual subjects, but this level will not include any descriptions or portrayals of sexual relations (other than those mentioned in grade A) between teen characters. Clothing may include brief shots of less modest swimwear that is designed to attract audience attention or motivate sexual feelings in other characters. More revealing dress may also be included, but not to the degree where private body parts are easily seen. Non-sexual nudity of the most innocuous nature may be included in this grade.
Sexual Content Grade C: Between married couples, sexual activity is seen but without explicit nudity and still within the context of a loving and positive relationship. Sexual innuendo may be present in a greater degree, with both married and unmarried adults commenting and describing sexual situations. Teen characters may make more descriptive comments and be seen in situations alluding to sex, but the overall plot must still contain consequences or positive lessons in relation to their behavior. Clothing may indirectly reveal private body parts, although they are still covered. Brief nudity, typically posterior views, may be included in this grade.
Sexual Content Grade D: Movies and games where the central theme of the plot revolves around sexual behavior or escapades, sexual situations involving teens, and explicit nudity within a sexual context, will receive this grade. Obvious sexual activities between characters (rather than just implied) are included in this grade.
Generally this category only includes words that are considered by society to be obscene, crude, rude, or demeaning to a particular race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation. Dialogue that describes sexual or violent acts without these words would be addressed in the appropriate category of sexual content or violence. We also include language displayed in English subtitles within movies and games. We do not evaluate dialogue spoken or written in languages other than English.
In order to maintain a site suitable for use by any age, we will describe language concerns without using the actual words. These are divided into four classifications, which will be considered when applying a grade. (If you have any questions or find this information to be too vague, please write to us.)
Sexually obscene terms used as expletives, or used in a sexual context. Sexual hand gestures. Slang terms used to describe sexual activity within a sexual context.
Sexual slang terms used as expletives, crude slang terms, and coarse language.
Mild expletives, mild rude slang terms and bathroom (potty) humor including descriptive sounds.
Terms of Deity:
Any use of religious figures as an expletive or profanity. We do not include these terms when they are used in an appropriate manner by a character sincerely seeking spiritual help or guidance.
Language Grade A: No language that would be considered obscene, coarse, or crude is included. Only the mildest phrases of name-calling ("You idiot," etc.) would be included, or the single use of a term in our "Mild" or "Terms of Deity" language categories.
Language Grade B: Generally allows liberal use of language in our "Mild" category along with "Terms of Deity". A B- grade may contain one "Moderate" language term if other occasions of "Mild" language are minimal.
Language Grade C: May contain liberal use of language in our "Mild" and "Moderate" and "Terms of Deity" categories. A C- grade may contain one use of an "Extreme" word if words from the other aforementioned categories are minimal.
Language Grade D: Language from all categories may be present in unlimited number.
The frequency of smoking, tobacco products, alcohol consumption, and drug use, as well as the positive or negative light in which they are shown, is taken into account when determining these grades. Recreational drug use, illegal substances, or the abuse of prescription drugs, is usually noted within the review but medications administered in their proper dose or in a medical setting are usually not included. (We would still make note of medically prescribed marijuana or other narcotics because of the controversial nature of this practice.)
- Alcohol/Drug Use Grade A
No substances are present, short of one or two background adult characters smoking or socially drinking, which would cause an "A-" grade to be applied.
- Alcohol/Drug Use Grade B
Smoking tobacco products, social drinking -- but not to excess -- is present in adult secondary characters.
- Alcohol/Drug Use Grade C
At this level we look for role models and heroes who partake of these substances. We also note occasions when characters turn to alcohol or tobacco to relieve stress, enhance creative thinking, or are portrayed as drunken. Any use, or implied use, of tobacco or alcohol by characters who are portrayed as teenagers or younger is immediately given this grade. The use of illegal substances or recreational drug use may be discussed by adults, but the actual use of the drugs is not portrayed. If a character is portrayed as being under the influence of recreational or illegal drugs, consequences must be included for their actions to remain in this grade.
- Alcohol/Drug Use Grade D:
Any portrayed use of illegal substances by any characters results in this grade. Any implied use, or discussion of use, of illegal substances in a positive or comedic way by teenagers or younger characters is assigned this grade. Heavy use of alcohol without consequences or with comedic results may also be classified in this grading category.