Moral-Spiritual Value
 +1  -3 
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About the Moral-Spiritual Value (+4/-4) Rating

The Decent Films Guide rates films for moral and spiritual value on a scale from +4 (“a feast for the spirit”) to -4 (“poison”), with a baseline of zero (“basically harmless”). (Note: The +4/-4 scale represents a recent revision in the Decent Films rating system. Previously, the moral-spiritual rating ran from +2 to -2, with half-points. See below for more.)

As with all the ratings, the moral-spiritual rating is an index of opinion, not a statement of fact or article of faith. Readers are encouraged to read the reviews critically and arrive at their own conclusions.

The Decent Films moral-spiritual rating may be unique among religiously-oriented film sites in considering both positive and negative moral-spiritual factors individually, rather than reducing every film to a single moral character. This system is meant to reflect the fact that many films are mixtures of both praiseworthy and problematic elements.

Although the +4/-4 scale is new, the system works the same way it did previously with the original scale of +2/-2 with half-points. There were several reasons for this revision. The main advantage is eliminating the half-points (+3/-1 is easier to read and understand than +1.5/-.5). Also, ther’s a certain symmetry in having the top value in the moral-spiritual value correspond to the maximum number of stars. Any number in a scale of this sort is by definition arbitrary, but at least this way it’s the same number.

At the same time, it’s important to note important differences between the moral-spiritual value rating and the star rating. A two-star film is only mediocre, and a zero-star film is terrible, But a +2 film has “positive” moral-spiritual content, and even a moral-spiritual rating of 0 (“basically harmless”) isn’t a negative judgment.

Another way of putting it is that the baseline for the moral-spiritual value rating, the cutoff between films with positive and negative content, is zero. But the baseline for the star rating, the cutoff between films that are well made and those that aren’t, is three stars.

It sounds more complicated than it really is. In practice, the plus and minus signs (reinforced by blue and red color-coding) should make the positive or negative valuations pretty self-explanatory.

This film has a split rating of +1/-3. +1 is between “positive” and “basically harmless”; -3 is between “problematic” and “poison.”

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