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« Dover Watch - Lawsuit Filed The RantsWhat Don't You Get About "No Ten Commandments"? »

CAP Alert: Good Idea, Bad Execution
2004.12.16 (Thu) 14:44

On our journeys through the World Wide Web, we do indulge in a particular vice: visiting websites which we find exceedingly misguided or deranged, simply for our own amusement. One such site, however, is an interesting mix of a good basic idea and a batshit insane implementation of that idea — the Childcare Action Project (CAP) Alert site, and more specifically, CAP Alert's movie analysis reports.

The premise is simple: rate movies, not on an arbitrary scale such as the MPAA's G through NC-17 ratings, but rather according to the actual content of the movie. This is something that the ESRB has already started doing — read the list of Content Descriptors they use, such as Cartoon Violence, Partial Nudity, and Use of Drugs. By providing these descriptors, rather than vaguely defined ratings, the ESRB informs parents of what they can expect video games to show their children. If a parent has no problem with graphic violence, but a major problem with nudity (just like the MPAA!), that parent can use the ESRB's descriptors to pick out a game that matches this sensibility.

There is a prime advantage to using content descriptors rather than broadly categorical ratings — it enables parents to have actual knowledge of the content to which their children will be exposed, and base their allowance of such content on their own personal opinions of what their children should and should not see, rather than the opinions of a corporate ratings board (which was, until recently, run by a selectively puritanical man). The ability to raise a child according to your own values is put back into your hands.

This is, to some extent, what Thomas A. Carder, founder of CAP Alert, is attempting to do; and, despite his particular motives for doing so, we at the Two Percent Company absolutely agree with the idea. For the basic idea, Mr. Carder, we applaud you!

However, as you might guess, there is a catch. In this case, the catch is Mr. Carder's rampant, flaming fundamentalism. Not content to simply lay out the content of the films he analyzes, Mr. Carder feels the fundamentalist urge to judge this content according to his interpretation of the bible. (Do we really have to point out what Mr. Carder is supposed to believe?)

So this is where it all falls down. Rather than strictly providing an objective report of the content of a movie, the CAP Alert analyses score each movie in various categories with names such as Wanton Violence/Crime (fine), Impudence/Hate (well...okay), Sex/Homosexuality (partly okay), Drugs/Alcohol (absolutely right), Murder/Suicide (very good), and Offense to God (oh, boy...).

Within each category, the CAP Alert analysis provides details of the actual content presented in the movie. Bravo! That is the right idea. For instance, the reporter keeps a running count of the instances of profanity in a movie, describes any violent acts in mild but descriptive detail, and states exactly what naughty bits you might see (rather than vaguely mentioning "brief" or "partial" or "full" nudity).

We'd even go so far as to say the mentions of a movie's treatment of religious concepts and icons are appropriate — hey, even though we don't care about that for our children, there are plenty of people who do, so that's certainly fair game for a good analysis of a movie.

However, there remain two big problems with the CAP Alert approach to these reports.

First, Mr. Carder constantly implies (we're not kidding, he points it out in at least half the movie analyses we've read!) how "objective" his analysis is:

While the Summary/Commentary section of these reports is precisely that -- a summary in commentary format which can be and sometimes is subjective -- the actual CAP Analysis Model (the Findings/Scoring section) makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse, for manufacture of justification for, or camouflaging of ignominious content or aberrant behavior or imagery with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme/plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example of behavior or thought from the sinful display or of the actors/actresses demonstrating the sinful behavior or the writers of it. We make no attempt to quantify the "artistic" or "entertainment" value of a movie.

Well, according to Mr. Carder, "sin" is apparently an objective concept, rather than a human concept, the application of which is based on the values of the culture using the word. So he can be forgiven (begrudgingly) for assuming that his judgment of what is "sinful behavior" is an objective judgment.

But the fact that he liberally sprinkles his analyses with footnotes which all lead to quotes from scripture should be a big, flashing beacon to even the most casual of readers — there is nothing objective about Mr. Carder's reports, because the basis for the majority of his "complaints" about a movie is his interpretation of scripture! Despite what Mr. Carder might think, this is not an "objective" view to hold.

Mr. Carder himself mentions that:

Whether a movie has any positive value or "entertainment" value (which many do) is up to mom/dad.

Okay, fine — then quit it with the liturgy lessons and just provide the content descriptors! Having an entire category of descriptors labelled "Offense to God" clearly delineates your subjectivity. Describing elements of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring as "unholy control of the elements to fight evil" [our emphasis] means that you are absolutely approaching your analysis of the movie from a biblical standpoint.

Is it a horrible, eville thing to use the bible as your jumping off point for such movie analyses? Hey, whatever floats your boat. Just don't describe such an analysis as "objective."

The other remaining problem is Mr. Carder's inability to even stick to his own fire-and-brimstone, bible thumping rules for exactly what is an offense to his god.

As an example...

In various movie analyses — such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the three released Harry Potter movies — Mr. Carder emphasizes the inherently evil nature of magic; whether sorcery, witchcraft, or wizardry, whether used for good or ill. A smattering of samples:

This movie is likely another maneuver to capitalize on the new found infatuation of visually oriented youth with bright and dazzling display of the occult, witchcraft and evil. It is another presentation of the "good" using evil to fight evil.
The bottom line is that God clearly commands that witchcraft, sorcery and wizardry are evil. He gives no situations under which these evils are not evil: no conditions under which these evils may be tolerated. There is no such thing as a "good" witch. Not even Wendy.
...the use of evil (sorcery/witchcraft/wizardry) for good continues so this movie continues the trend of the LotR movies to violate the admonishment of Isa. 5:20 which warns "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!"
...now comes Harry Potter presenting evil as something to admire and emulate; something to use against evil. Using evil for good?
Professor Sprout may be bubbly and Hermione may be sparkling but none of what the movie characters do is either. For all are representative of the evil of witchcraft, sorcery and wizardry...
An example of this is Professor Lockhart who teaches protection against the dark arts using witchcraft, sorcery and wizardry. That, in and of itself is misleading and false, saying that witchcraft, sorcery and wizardry are not dark arts while God says they are.
Please remember that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) does not consider as bad influences things like Potter-style witchcraft, sorcery, divination, foretelling the future and crystal-ball gazing or the enticing and emboldening of others with them. God does. And, because He does, so do we.
She [Professor Trelawney] speaks of "the noble art of divination" and "broaden your minds ... open your inner eye to see the future." Wow! Bad news indeed for they who believe God's Word.... So much for the idea that Harry Potter films are as harmless as Bambi and Old Yeller.
A school for teaching witchcraft, wizardry, sorcery, divination and more unholy things with a professor teaching defense against the dark arts!? Isn't that a contradiction?

You should get the picture by now. Mr. Carder is of the firm opinion that magic, in any form, is a blatant offense to his god, and inherently evil — it cannot be good or harmless.


We thought about it, and tried to come up with a movie that portrays excessive use of magic, but is really rather innocuous and good-hearted. We finally hit on one: Mary Poppins.

So we looked up Mary Poppins in the CAP Alert archives, and lo and behold — it received a CAP score of 100, the highest (meaning "least offensive") score the CAP Alert can award! In fact, Mary Poppins was one of only two movies that received this great honor from Mr. Carder (the other being the obscure Who Gets the House). That's right, not even the innumerable innocent Sesame Street movies or Disney cartoons (including Pooh flicks!) managed to get a CAP score of 100 (all were struck down by various offenses in Mr. Carder's eyes).

We smelled something wrong, here. Hasn't this guy made it extremely clear that any magic, for whatever reason it is used, is evil and an offense to God? Yet here is good old Mary Poppins, cheerfully conjuring and levitating throughout the movie, and she doesn't get so much as a slap on the wrist from Tom Carder?

The Two Percent Company needed to get to the bottom of this. With a little research, we were able to uncover an exchange between a friend of the Two Percent Company and Mr. Carder himself concerning this seeming contradiction. The original e-mail was sent quite innocently by our friend — a good parent trying to screen entertainment for his children based on his own views and not someone else's, and trying to understand Mr. Carder's system. Our friend made it clear that he didn't subscribe to all of Mr. Carder's beliefs, and asked about the ruling on magic. After a few exchanges — necessary to ease Mr. Carder's immediate suspicions that our friend wasn't outright challenging his worldview (boy, a little touchy, isn't he?) — our friend finally received a response to his inquiry (all mistakes are Mr. Carder's, people, we just cut-and-pasted!):

The bottom line about magic from a spiritual sense is the source of it, not the use or the user.


*Mary Poppins* presented nothing evil or sinister. Indeed, the character could have been portraying an angel. And she was not hailed as a witch/sorcerer(ess) nor advertised as such.


The source of the power determines the holiness of it, not the user. There was no mention or implication of witchcraft/sorcery/wizardry in *Mary Poppins* but *Harry Potter* and *The Lord of the Rings* were not only filled with them but based ON them. While *Mary Poppins* used magic for good, both *Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets* and *The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring* had the "good" using evil (witchcraft/sorcery/wizardry) to do good, thus serving evil. Angels and angel-possessed people use good "magic", better termed holy power from God.


Again, the source of the power determines whether it is evil or not, not the use of it not the user.

Let's compare and contrast, shall we? From Mr. Carder's movie analysis of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

The bottom line is that God clearly commands that witchcraft, sorcery and wizardry are evil. He gives no situations under which these evils are not evil: no conditions under which these evils may be tolerated. There is no such thing as a "good" witch. Not even Wendy.

From Mr. Carder's e-mailed explanation of why Mary Poppins gets a CAP Alert score of 100:

The bottom line about magic from a spiritual sense is the source of it, not the use or the user.

We'd say the bottom line is that Mr. Carder is waffling, badly. His defense of Mary Poppins' perfect score boils down to: since we aren't explicitly told the origin of Mary's powers, we can assume that she is some sort of agent of God, and therefore a good person using holy magic.

We call bullshit. Thomas Carder simply enjoyed Mary Poppins and was willing to overlook his usual strict guidelines concerning magic — for the sake of what is, as we would agree, a harmlessly fun children's movie. The magic is not the only thing Mr. Carder lets slide in Mary Poppins:

While some might consider the "We won't go to sleep!" from Michael to Mary Poppins to be arrogance and/or impudence, the obstinence was NOT at his parents.

So "respect your elders" isn't a Christian imploration, Tommy? Apparently, it only applies to your parents.

Really, it's just another sign that Mr. Carder is no more "objective" in his calculated analyses than he is in his summaries. We just feel he should have the fucking balls to admit it, and either stop fucking over innocent films like Piglet's BIG Movie (scored 97) and Big Bird in China (scored 98) or calculate Mary Poppins' score accurately, according to the same standards to which he holds all other movies.

However, despite all this, we would like to remind our readers that while we don't share Mr. Carder's values, and we feel he is dishonest about his objectivity (or lack thereof) and lies to cover up his own contradictory behavior, we still agree that this method of analyzing movies — by actually describing the content — is a wonderful and viable concept, which would give parents greater freedom to raise their children as they would like. If only someone without an overt agenda (such as Mr. Carder's Christian fundamentalism) would give this a try, we could start (rightfully) ignoring the bullshit MPAA ratings and make informed decisions on which movies to allow our children to see.

— • —
[  Filed under: % Media & Censorship  % Religion  ]

Comments (10)

Phil Smith, 2005.09.18 (Sun) 23:56 [Link] »

Couldn't agree more about the CAP Alerts site. I emailed the guy with a genuine question and over three emails he came across as arrogant, defensive and ignorant. It currently looks as though his site is currently under threat due to a lack of donations. This can only be a good thing.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.09.19 (Mon) 21:44 [Link] »

We've seen the same behavior from this guy — he's a prince.

However, we do worry about his site shutting down. Based on what we've seen from him (as well as his picture), he seems like the type of person who might climb into a clock tower with a twelve-gauge to "purge the sinners." Perhaps it's best if he stays online.... In fact, we may donate some money ourselves just to keep Mr. Carder's neighbors safe.


interupt, 2005.12.06 (Tue) 23:59 [Link] »


Really enjoy your site, I found it directly from this rant as well. I have been keeping tabs on Cap Alert since the start of the year because, frankly, it is a great source of amusement to me over his movie reviews and worldly view of life.

I have noted on the Cap Alert Site, a new section has popped up called 'A Sad Affair.' where its a epic essay on begging for money.

Poor Tom is desperate, and it shows. I do feel sorry for him in the sense that his family of 9 are probably in deep trouble, but more for the fact that Mr Carder has run headlong into the cold harsh reality of life; that the large proportion of people just don't hand out money based on your belief, and that people just don't agree with him on most issues.

Reading your last comment that hes the type of guy that would do something monumentally stupid if not properly distracted, I nod my head in apprehensive agreement. Why? Well just having a read of his essay, the imagery is slightly creepy.

This quote blows me away though.
[i] I can assure you like no one else can that I do not go to them (movies) for enjoyment[/i]

Speaks volumes...you sort of hope Granbury doesn't become the next Waco.

The Two Percent Company, 2005.12.08 (Thu) 20:56 [Link] »

Thanks for dropping by, interupt — we're glad you're enjoying the site.

We've noticed Tom Carder's dire straits, too, and visited again for old time's sake — we also saved a few of his tastiest and most bizarre ravings locally, since we had an eerie feeling that he might not be around much longer.

And yeah, what kind of morose, joyless individual proudly asserts that he doesn't watch movies to enjoy them? Actually, Tom's picture (and, as you said, his uniquely creepy prose) are a pretty thorough answer to that question. Anybody who feels the need to type "In Service to His Little Ones through their Parents and Grandparents in His Name by His Word" when "With Regards" will suffice...well, let's just say he clearly has issues.

This month is supposed to be his deadline for donations, or he'll be forced — against Jesus' will! — to shut down the CAP Alert site. Only time will tell.

interupt, 2005.12.08 (Thu) 22:24 [Link] »


Anybody who feels the need to type "In Service to His Little Ones through their Parents and Grandparents in His Name by His Word" when "With Regards" will suffice...well, let's just say he clearly has issues.

Oh yes, it beggars belief that someone can go to the sin-ema just to sit there and not be entertained. Then again people go to church out a sense of duty...I guess.

But spending a bit of time reading about religion and reading up on the Fundamentalist crowd...this is the sentence to watch for.

My Sinful doubting heart...

This is the catch cry of someone in deep deep trouble. If hes doubting, and then declaring hes sinned, then feels guilty about sinning the vicious cirle starts.

To me it rings alarm bells as in a town crier pelting down the main street with his clothes on fire ringing his bell yelling "Holy Shit I'm on fire!" type anxiety.

At last look he apparently has donations flowing again so the site will be up for a while longer, but at least you have cached some local content.

Gavin, 2005.12.12 (Mon) 13:11 [Link] »

Carder is a freak. As a Christian myself, I share (I think) the fundamental belief that movies contain a lot of non-Christian crap. Sex, violence, etc. Still, I agree with a previous poster who said the guy is an arrogant jerk. When I want to get a Christian perspective on a movie, I go to the Focus on the Family "unplugged" site.

Take it easy.


Tom from the Two Percent Company, 2005.12.23 (Fri) 16:47 [Link] »

I only wish that Carder's site was a joke, because if he wasn't serious, his entries would be hilarious. The fact that he really means what he's saying makes it all a little scary.

Take this entry on the South Park movie. He's going though this list of things that he finds offensive, including Kenny's trip to a cartoon hell, and one item struck us as really odd:

Angels were portrayed as females — nude, very nude. God was called many vulgar and hateful names. Satan was glorified. Jesus was equated with sexual anatomy. A child was graphically incinerated by igniting his flatulence, then another kid tried to beat out the flames with a stick and was concerned about the stick catching fire. Body parts dripping with blood were ripped from a child by a surgeon who expressed shallow concern. The dead child was then seen with an exploded chest. The dead child, after being rejected from Heaven (by nude female angels) and cast into Hell (which is a violation of Scripture in and of itself), was then presented as a ghost trying to influence the other kids. An all-male chorus line wore pink bikini briefs. Homosexual acts were described. Decomposing burned bodies were cast as live occupants of Hell. "Big brother" electronic shock control of a child was used to prevent his use of foul language (each time he cussed he was shocked — he used this shock later to defeat Hussein by shouting every known and several unknown foul words). A man committed suicide by jumping out of a window. And throughout the movie was script to promote licentious belittlement of wholesome life and entertainment: rationale to lessen even further the threshold of acceptance. [Rom. 16:17-18]

Sure, just the way he writes this makes you wonder if he understands that these are jokes, but the one phrase that slays us, in the midst of all of these demons and dismembered body parts, is: "An all-male chorus line wore pink bikini briefs."

If only his site was meant to be funny.

Proteus, 2006.01.13 (Fri) 12:17 [Link] »

Can anybody provide a link to his supposedly completed "Guest Commentary" for Brokeback Mountain? I can't seem to find it in his list of analyses, and am eager to read it - to see how the rampant drinking/smoking competes with the rampant everything else in Carder's calculation of Sin.

interupt, 2006.01.13 (Fri) 19:34 [Link] »

G'day Proteus,

From what Im guessing, you have to be a "Cap"tain and subscribe his mailing list to recieve these reviews, so they aren't going to be posted for quite some time until everyone owes him a living because he is a "Man of God" (read: King James Only cult freak)

Its a movie that promotes the Gay Agenda! Carder will just not bother to calculate the Offense to God bit and go from there.

Julie, 2010.01.22 (Fri) 15:45 [Link] »

I also have kept tabs on this site for a few years for its entertainment value. As a Christian, I was at first intrigued by the idea of a site dedicated to analyses of movies from a biblical standpoint. The first review I read, however, made it clear this was not what I would be getting from this ridiculous site! After reading one particularly obnoxious review (I think it may have been for The Hours) that in no uncertain terms stated there is no difference between a sexual predator and a homosexual - that in fact being homosexual implies that you are a sexual predator - I emailed our good friend Tom with the issues I had with his statements. Not only this particular blanket statement, but many others (forgive me, this has been several years so I cannot remember the exact issues). The statements I made were courteous and I was honestly asking where he got his facts and how he reconciled his statements with the Bible. The response I got was scathing, offensive and not even a little bit "Christlike" as he purports to be. By the end of his tirade I (at the time a 19-year-old female student at a Christian college) had become a blasphemous homosexual male child molester who only took issue with his statements because they hit too close to home. Taking apart his email line by line (as he had done to mine) provided countless hours of entertainment for my friends and I!

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