“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2 (NIV)
Let’s face it! We’ve all avoided disagreeable situations with our kids by not speaking up when we observed them involved with inappropriate or – at the very least – less than terrific entertainment options. They have the TV on and are watching a PG-13 or R-rated movie, and we decide not to raise a fuss, because their friends are with them, or we just don’t have the energy to “get into it” with them. Or the TV program they’ve selected is “just a bit less than wholesome”.
The 9:00 pm Thursday offerings this past week on the 3 major networks on broadcast TV were: “Evil”, “How to Get Away with Murder”, and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” (focusing on sexually exploited victims). The choices available leave a lot to be desired.
And then there are the movies offered at the theater. It is certainly enjoyable to head to the movies for an afternoon or evening of entertainment. But the choices become difficult for involved parents. This week at the local discount theater, the choices are:
• Richard Jewell (R) (The true story of the security guard dealing with a report of a bomb in a nearby park.)
• A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (PG) (This sounds like a perfect choice and really is a good movie, but not one that would appeal to children and teens who have no memory of Mr. Rogers.)
• Midway (PG-13) (The World War II Battle of Midway story.)
• Playing with Fire (PG) (“Firefighters come to the rescue of three siblings in the path of an encroaching wildfire, they quickly realize that no amount of training could prepare them for their most challenging job yet – babysitters”.)
• Joker (R) (A frightening look at the evil one man causes.)
• Judy (PG-13) (A look at 5 weeks in the life of Judy Garland. Children and teens would not know who she is – or care.)
At the other discount theaters in the local area, these additional movies are offered:
• Zombieland: Double Tap (R) (Enough said!)
• The Grudge (R) (Described as “a twisted new take of the horror classic”.)
• Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (PG) (The description reads: “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a fantasy adventure that picks up several years after Maleficent, in which audiences learned of the events that hardened the heart of Disney’s most notorious villain and drove her to curse a baby Princess Aurora”.)
The only movie that seems mildly appropriate would be Playing with Fire, which certainly limits the choices a family would be able to make this week.
Your teens are heading to the movies with friends. What movie? Again it’s the awkward and unpopular parenting decision: Should I interfere and interject my opinions and values? Should I trust that the content of the movie will have no discernable impact on my teen’s ideas and decisions?
The culture’s standards have declined. We already know this. But we are engaged in a daily or weekly dispute over what’s acceptable entertainment.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
As always, it is imperative that discussion be a part of the family’s “MO”. One can’t suddenly take a stand against a specific TV program, videogame, music lyric, or movie if there’s never been a foundation of understanding of the family’s standards. So, rather than wait for the inevitable crisis to occur, it is time to begin that understanding right away… before that decision needs to be made. The goal is for that child or teen to make decisions on his or her own that reflect personal values.
Use dinner time or car travel time to ask questions and share opinions that will allow interaction rather than arguments.
A few possible discussion starters are:
• “What do you think are some reasons for the movie makers to spend time and money to create a new movie?”
• “How could the characters’ behavior in movies or TV programs affect your personal choices?”
• “What stereotypes are reflected in recent movies or TV programs you’ve seen?”
• “Are you like any of the characters in movies you’ve seen? In what ways?”
• “How is success portrayed in movies? How would you define personal success in life?”
• “What is happiness as shown in movies or TV programs? What’s your definition of happiness?”
• “Has care of others or service to others been emphasized in any movies or shows you’ve watched?”
Allow discussion of God’s plan for each life to be part of these discussions.
Thought for contemplation: “What would have happened if Jesus Christ had remained silent and had not disrupted the existing order of the culture?”
If you do not share your values, how will they embrace them?
Remember: silence condones!
The most important person in a teen’s life is not a movie or TV character – it’s his or her parent!