Tales From the Script

Teenagers at the cinema
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I'm a sucker for a good story.

I think we all are. It's how God made us. The fact that we can be so moved by stories presented on the big screen shouldn't surprise us. Movies push our love of storytelling to unimagined levels and are incredibly effective teaching tools, saturating our senses with larger-than-life sights, sounds and themes.

Is that bad? Not necessarily. Movies can instill or strengthen a worthwhile lesson. It's one thing to have your Sunday school teacher quote Luke 12:48 but quite another to hear Spider-Man, soaring gracefully over the sunset-hued Manhattan skyline while a dramatic score plays, paraphrase that verse: "With great power comes great responsibility." We could argue whether the messenger is flawed — but there's no denying the innate power of it.

But not all messages are worthwhile. Consider Watchmen, a nihilistic superhero story that suggests God either isn't around or is completely disinterested in humanity. Or Public Enemies, the Johnny Depp film that very effectively glamorizes gangsters. Or Katherine Heigl's The Ugly Truth, which peddles boorish, crass sexism as romantic comedy.

Like these, most films aren't all good or bad, but decidedly mixed. Therefore, how can we as parents sift through the messages? Here are three quick tips:

Before you go to a movie

Do research at sites such as Plugged In. Then once you've gotten a taste of what a movie is about — what messages it contains — decide whether you should go. This is particularly critical if your children will be watching it. Children are more impressionable than adults, and the themes in movies will have a greater impact on them.

When you go

Don't set aside your brain for those two hours. Analyze the film's messages just as rigorously as you would a sermon or speech; and don't allow the movie's emotional resonance to carry you away.

After you go

Talk about it. The process of discussing a film with friends or family will help you better weigh its messages. It is especially important to talk with your children about the movies they see — whether it's Up or Transformers. Sometimes, films can help reinforce positive lessons in their lives. And if they see a film that they shouldn't have, talking with them about its content can help inoculate them from its harmful influence.

Engage

Think about the film. Analyze it; and don't let it passively wash over you. Remember, most of us are suckers for stories. That's the way God made us. Just make sure you and your children are listening to the right ones.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2010 issue of Thriving Family magazine. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2010 by Paul Asay.

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