Rated R for Wrong

I remember the first time my mom caught me watching an R-rated movie as a 12-year old. She was so upset with me, and rightly so. At one point in the heated argument I asked my mom why it was such a big deal to watch an R rated movie. In an attempt to try and end the discussion, my mom blurted out, “because R is for wrong!” To this day, my mom and I laugh about that memory.

Helping students make wise decisions about their entertainment choices is a tricky thing. We want to provide them with options that are edifying, while also seeking to protect them from harmful content. I recently received an email from a mom asking how to set boundaries for her teenage kids regarding the movies they watch. What I suggested to her, and what I am proposing to youth workers and parents alike, is that we help students develop categories, and a framework, for how they think about what movies they watch. We want our students to be wise in WHAT they watch, but also wise in HOW and WHY they watch what they watch. We should couple the boundaries with a helpful framework for our students to use, in order to guide them to think critically and theologically about the things they are hearing, seeing and experiencing.

So here is a suggestion for youth workers and parents. You could all watch a movie (youth workers will need to okay this with parents) and have a conversation together after about the themes of the movie and what was good, what was bad, what was praiseworthy, what was redemptive, etc. You can even pose a couple questions to your students before the movie that can get them thinking critically as they watch it.

Here are a few questions that you could ask them:

  • What were some of the values and beliefs of the characters in the movie?
  • What was being taught about human nature?
  • What were the ethical dilemmas in the movie?
  • How did the characters determine right and wrong?
  • What was redemptive about the movie?
  • What was worth celebrating in this movie?
  • What was worth condemning in this movie
  • Was there anything in the movie that reminded you of your faith, the bible, the gospel, God, etc.?
  • What is the overall message of the movie?
  • What did you agree with?
  • What did you disagree with?

One final thought: Kevin DeYoung posed a great question regarding gray areas like this that I find helpful in getting students to make wise decisions about entertainment.

“Can I thank God for this movie, book, show, song, etc?”

So, is there anything in this movie that is true, right, good, beautiful, pure? (Philippians 4:8-9) Is there anything in this movie that reminds you of God and the gospel? Is there anything in this movie that increases your hatred for sin? Is there anything in this movie that increases your love for others? If these questions are difficult to answer, or if there is very little to thank God for, then we should seriously consider if this movie is worth our time at all.

What other questions would you add to this list to helps students think critically and theologically about movies?

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