In the Dark

The Squirm Index

Little Miss Sunshine
Produced by Big Beach Films
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Screenplay by Michael Arndt
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures

Little Children
Produced and distributed by New Line Cinema
Directed by Todd Field
Screenplay by Tom Perrotta and Todd Field

Allow me to introduce the Squirm Index.  For a while now, I have been looking for an alternative to the overly elastic rating system used by the Motion Picture Association of America, which has, for 39 years, been trying to quantify what constitutes acceptable fare for our viewing entertainment.  Can we abide one nipple for a PG-13?  Two for an R?  How many f-words add up to an NC-17?  Does decapitation rate a PG or PG-13 if there’s no accompanying geyser of blood?  Slippery questions all, but I think the Squirm Index may yield answers.  Here’s how it works: Whether a film is acceptable will henceforth be determined by how likely it is to make you squirm should you watch it with a family member by your side.  How comfortable would you be watching, say, Kinsey with your parents?  With your teenagers?  If you’re a guy, do you want to take your sister to Y Tu Mamá También?  And what about the American Pie series?  Does anyone...

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