A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
General criticism of repressive religious patriarchies that restrict/punish free thought, especially as it relates to love and sensuality. The idea that a couple's love can be stronger than social conventions and rules.
Positive Role Models
Hester Prynne and some of her more rebellious fellow Puritan women are the heroes, near to modern feminists in their outlooks on love, marriage, and spirituality. Puritan women who behave otherwise are depicted negatively. The Rev. Dimmesdale is a much-liked and admired priest, although he breaks the laws of his society.
Violence & Scariness
Bloody violence emphasizes throat slashings, arrows in the neck ,and spurting, severed arteries (and scalpings) in Indian attacks. The white militia slays Indians with guns. A gruesomely mutilated corpse. A near-rape. One character's eye gouged. Roger Prynne messes with a gory, gutted deer. Death by hanging. Dimmesdale self-mutilates (gripping a gallows until blood runs from his hands).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Full male nudity shown in a skinny-dipping context. Hester is briefly completely naked from the side as she bathes. Topless Indian women. A non-explicit sex scene between Hester and Arthur.
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"Slut." Puritans discuss sex in euphemistic fashion ("poking," "private parts").
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this historical melodrama has bloody violence -- throat slashings, scalpings, shootings -- plus attempted rape. Brief male and female nudity are shown in a non-sexual context and several sex scenes are non-explicit. Students who watch this movie as a shortcut for reading the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel should wear the scarlet "S" (for slacker), and know that it deviates from the the book a lot. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Frankly, dears, it's hard to give a damn about this Scarlet. Maybe time and critics would have been a little kinder to THE SCARLET LETTER if only Tinseltown had changed the title and character names and distanced it from the stern English-class-assignment novel by moralistic author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Rewriting the source material with a proverbial post-1960s Hollywood spin, this goes off-topic into Indian-settler problems, witchcraft hysteria, slavery, and the general idea of colonials acting destructive. The tragic affair between Hester and Dimmesdale mutates into an upbeat, defiant, and happy love match, more like a kitschy romance paperback. Much as Moore's monotonously noble performance in the lead role was widely panned, the script doesn't do many favors either to actors such as Gary Oldman and Robert Duvall (though they do get to yell a lot).
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.