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Mandy Moore made me cry. I admit it. Tears actually managed to squeeze their way out of my eyes and onto my cheeks as the 17-year-old singer/actress made a girl named Jamie Sullivan come to life in the movie A Walk to Remember. But I've sat dry-eyed through emotional performances many times before. Why did this one move me so? Because Jamie is the pluckiest, most sincere, most inspiring Christian teenager I have ever seen on the big screen.

I was so struck by Jamie that I wanted to get to know the girl who brought her to life. A week later on the telephone, in late 2001, Mandy told me she was first attracted to the film because she was a huge fan of Nicholas Sparks (the author of the book adapted for the movie). But I wanted to know if Jamie affected her as much as she affected me. So, after complimenting Mandy for using her talent wisely, I asked who Jamie was to her.

She replied, "I remember someone telling me, 'Every role that you choose to take on in a film, when you are done with that film and done with that experience, you are going to walk away with a piece of that character embedded within your soul for the rest of your life.' What better person to play than this angelic, straightforward, honest, intelligent person. I've never met anyone like her in my life. She didn't go to school with me. She wasn't at my church.

"Playing Jamie has actually brought me closer to God and inspired me to go to church more. It was really nice to take that piece of the character away with me. It's so nice to be a part of a teen movie that's so positive. There are so many other movies for kids to go see that are about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. They're all about losing your virginity before prom night or college. Jamie shows people the other way to go about things."

As a singer, Mandy Moore has thus far distanced herself from sultry peers Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera by refusing to flaunt her sexuality to sell records. Jamie Sullivan would be proud. Even better, with only one noteworthy exception, her lyrics have been generally positive. Naturally, I had to ask her about the exception.

In light of her outspoken support of Jamie's virginity and faith, I wanted to know how she felt about the lyrics to "17," found on her CD Mandy Moore. The chorus goes like this:

I don't wanna do right, I just want you tonight
Not just in my dreams
Save my best behavior for a little later
'Cause I'm only 17
Think I made my mind up, I got time to grow up
Face responsibility
Livin' in the moment, keeping my heart open
While I'm only 17

I explained that many families will see a contradiction between her role in A Walk to Remember and that song, which seems to condone teen sex and rebellion. I asked what she would say to a teenager who interprets her words as permission to, as she sings later on in the song, "do something stupid."

"That's a hard question." She trailed off into silence for a moment. Admitting that the lyrics did seem inconsistent, she told me she honestly didn't relate to "17." "When I was recording the song, it wasn't the first thing I thought of because that's not the situation that I'm going through. … I don't think it's necessarily bad to think those thoughts. Maybe to some people it is not bad to even act upon them. It's up to every person. It's up to how you were raised and what your religion may be. It's a personal preference. And whether you choose to take that song that way or not, that's your decision."

A squishy response to be sure. So I asked her one final question: "When it's all said and done, would you want to push your peers toward '17' or toward Jamie?" She didn't hesitate for a millisecond. She just blurted, "Toward Jamie." Good answer. Without a doubt, Jamie Sullivan is going to become a huge role model for a lot of young Christians—teenage girls in particular. Jamie isn't perfect. Neither is A Walk to Remember. But I honestly don't believe Hollywood has ever created a film with a teenage lead who possesses such a vibrant, well-rounded faith. It's enough to make a grown man cry.

Be sure to check out our Movie Night's for Teens for A Walk to Remember.

Published January 2002