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

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.

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