To See or Not to See: Is That Our Question?

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decisions, decisions

Every couple of years or so, we try to survey Plugged In’s users to see what you think of the website: what works, what doesn’t, what you’d like to see changed or added. Our team got the results of our latest survey this week. And there was one contrasting set of suggestions that I felt was worth talking about.

One group of Plugged In constituents would like us to be more directive—to give stronger opinions on whether people should or should not see a particular movie. They actively want us to recommend more movies, and, conversely, to clearly warn people away from those that have lots of issues.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have a group of readers who don’t want us to offer opinions, recommendations or subjective commentary about films at all. We might call these folks the “Just the Facts” tribe. Not only do they not want to hear our opinions, they find those opinions to be a detraction.

So how should we, as Plugged In’s editorial team, respond to those two opposite suggestions?

First, we have to acknowledge that—as with many things in life—we can’t please everyone. No matter what approach we take, we’ll likely have some readers who don’t think it’s quite the right one.

That said, however, I think the philosophical approach we do take tries, in some ways, to touch on both concerns.

Certainly, each reviewer’s perspective and opinions come through in each review. But our primary goal is to accurately catalog a film’s content (or that in a TV show, video game, album or track) so that you have what you need to make the best decision for yourself and for your family. And closely related to that is our commitment to seeing entertainment through a biblical lens, which shapes how we see some of the issues we find in any given movie.

Because of that approach, we generally try to craft our reviews to be about 80% objectively reported content, perhaps 20% subjective analysis. That may vary a bit, of course. But the primary purpose of our reviews isn’t to provide an aesthetic assessment—in other words, whether a movie is an artistic triumph or a piece of artistic garbage—but rather to see and report all of the content and worldview issues in play.

As far as recommendations go, that’s an even trickier proposition. Why? Because we don’t know your or your family’s particular sensibilities. What might be a fine film for one family to enjoy could be too intense for another with children who are exactly the same age. Our family, for instance, would have no problem popping in, say, The Incredibles or Big Hero 6 for a family movie night. I have a niece, however, who has nightmares after she watches almost anything—including some of the movies that are fine for my own kids. We would never choose to watch those movies if she happened to be spending the night with my daughters.

For that reason, we rarely give a strong, clear recommendation, hollering, “You should go see this right now!” Again, there are exceptions to that general approach. But they’re infrequent.

I’m not at all surprised that we have readers who want us to be more subjective and directive, and those who want us to be more objective and less personal. As I said, we probably won’t please all of you all the time.

But we are absolutely committed to accurately bringing you all of the information you need to make a wise, informed decision for your family’s entertainment interests.

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Jig Manaloto 2 days ago
I understand where the  “Just the Facts” people are coming from; however, I think they can get such information from other websites, such as IMDb. If PluggedIn will not give at least some direction or advice, then it loses its purpose and identity as a CHRISTIAN movie review website. I think the strategy you have now is good; it (at least somehow or to some extent) reaches both groups of viewers and everyone in between.
Katherine Vinson 5 days ago
I like the balance you currently have. I appreciate being given the information I need to make my own decision and I always find PluggedIn to be a perfect resource in that regard. 
Sandi Powell 7 days ago
We (husband) used to go to the movies EVERY Friday night and loved opening night. Nothing off limits. Now, our spiritual sensibilities have returned and at the cost of movies, we want info about movies before we go. I️Always go to Plugged-In when deciding whether to go   I️Want a biblical opinion/review to aid our decision. You could set it up with a brief review for those who don’t want a lot, and have a drop down for more explicit review or opinions for those that rely on them to choose a movie or TV program. Love Plugged-In for its content and service
Anonymous 7 days ago
I use Plugged In for myself, my family, and my youth group at church.  We can never un-see or un-hear what we have seen or heard so it is vital that we use the tools afforded to us to help us prevent seeing or hearing something that could impact our minds.  Thank you for all you do and I would encourage everyone to support Plugged In financially as they continue this valuable work.
Anonymous 7 days ago
Not having any kids, I use the Plugged In's reviews for my movie and TV viewing!  Thanks for your input on my viewing decisions because you are looking at the entire picture's message from a Biblically centered worldview!
pastorsuff 8 days ago
You guys do a really good job. It even helps when the content is light but the movie isn't good. That usually shines through, even though you're not really trying to make that a main focus. 

You guys are about the only ones who go beyond surface "content" to evaluate the themes of the movie, which can redeem some movies with a few rough edges and make otherwise "clean" movies a hard pass. I don't always agree with these evaluations once I've seen a movie, but you guys do a great job overall.

No major overhaul is needed, as far as I am concerned.
Alex Fields 8 days ago
I'd day there are other outlets for purely objective review (see, IMDB or CommonSenseMedia), so offering more of what makes Focus on the Family unique - that is, Bible centered worldview, is probably good. 
Maybe you can implement both? Have an easily accessible space for objective facts, and have another section for summary or more subjective analysis. Good luck! 
Anonymous 8 days ago
As an avid reader of plugged in for reviews, I absolutely agree with the first camp. There are not many sources we can trust as parents to deliver a Biblical review of movies before they come into our home and into our children's hearts and minds. My husband and I personally value your honest evaluation and opinion. Keep them coming- with NO POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, PLEASE! We beg of you. Thank you for your hard work. 
Jeannette Martin 8 days ago
You have done a great job and I believe you are providing the information we need to make an informed decision on what we will or not watch. Thank you for this service.  Please continue to do the great job that you are doing!
Anonymous 8 days ago
Plugged In has been our family “go to” for reviews of media content for many years!  Before we view any movie or purchase any video game, we check you reviews first!  I find the categorization of film content to be spot on, and your reviews have been the determining factor on whether or not we engage in a particular movie, regardless of what outside popular opinion may recommend.  Your reviews make it easy for our family to know clearly what the content of a film will involve, thereby, helping us make solid and informed choices.  I have recommended your site to others hundreds of times over the years!  Thank you for doing the hard work, and making my life as a parent a little easier in this area!
Anonymous 8 days ago
I agree! You are right on with your evaluations! Some of us are more strict and some are morel lenient and as long as we have the facts, we can proceed based on that info! I do chuckle though when you do slip over to the opinion side occasionally! feel like i know you and it is so personal! I like hearing other's opinions too! Bless you for what you do!
Anonymous 8 days ago
I think the current Plugged In approach of reviewing movies and other "entertainment" is spot on.  Your reviews are given from a biblical perspective.  If people don't want that input, then they should get their information elsewhere.  Don't change what you're doing!
Stephen Bene 8 days ago
As a grown adult I get to make my own decisions about everything. I don't want people telling me what to do but I like to make informed decisions too. Every Friday I look forward to reading your movie reviews because they help me make an informed decision on whether or not I take my family to see a new movie.

All of the reviews have been right on target and very influential in helping me decide on whether or not we see a new movie that weekend. We don't see a movie without reading your reviews because they have always matched up with our criteria for what a family movie should look like. 

I also work as the Activities Director at a Children's Home in Georgia. We have to be very rigid in what our kids can and cannot watch. Plugged In is my first, and usually my only, resource for finding "family first, family friendly" movies for our kids to watch. Again, I don't see a movie without reading Plugged In's reviews first.

Often times I feel sorry for you having to watch all of the filth and trash that Hollywood puts out today. I am also very grateful for your willingness to be on the front lines fighting for families in this sin-sick, salacious society we live in today. 
charitysplace 8 days ago
I appreciate what you do, and how you do it.

"to give stronger opinions on whether people should or should not see a particular movie" ...

Why, can't they make up their mind themselves?
Inkfeather1 . 9 days ago
I see nothing wrong with providing your opinion on a movie. I ask for people's opinions on movies before I watch them and am still able to make up my own mind about whether or not it's right for me.  I think as long as you don't cross the line and start saying judgmental things like "you're not a good Christian if you see this terrible movie" then you're fine :)