WHY WE CARE


Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

YOUR STORIES


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"

SUPPORT THE WORK OF PLUGGED IN

Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

PLUGGED IN RATING

Watch This Review

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Movie Review

The Church, by definition, is a sacred thing. Holy. Its very buildings reflect that hallowed call: cathedrals built in the shape of crosses, steeples that point to heaven. Those inside are thought to be the hands and feet of God Himself, serving as His reflection in this fallen, fractured world.

But while God's Church is sacred, its churches can be less so. Those who fill sanctuaries are products of the world, too. Broken and battered. Sometimes evil slithers under the door, tainting classrooms and pulpits, defiling the very altar of our faith. Our priests and pastors and leaders can fail. Our shepherds can turn into wolves.

It's hard to imagine a more powerful institution in Boston than the Catholic church in 2001. People innumerable turn to the spiritual leaders there for help and solace, for peace and friendship. Through the diocese and its charities, thousands of people are fed and clothed, educated and spiritually nurtured.

Wayward priests? Well, they're usually shuffled off elsewhere. And when one of those priests, John Geoghan, arrives in court, accused of molesting young boys, his circumstance draws sparse coverage from The Boston Globe. But even if the Globe does get interested in following the story, it'll be difficult to do: Whatever the diocese knows of Geoghan's behavior is sealed from prying eyes.

Then the Globe brings in Marty Baron as its new editor in chief, and he suggests that the paper's journalists might want to poke around a bit more. Perhaps the Catholic church knows more about Geoghan and other pedophilic priests than it's admitting. And Baron wonders whether Spotlight—a small division of Globe investigative journalists who dig into potential stories for months at a time—might be the appropriate team to handle it.

At first, Spotlight editor Robby Robinson balks. Spotlight, he says, has always been autonomous: It picks its own stories.

"Well," Baron says slowly. "Would you consider picking this one?"

Spotlight would. And it eventually shows the world that, while the Church may be sacred, those who fill it and lead it can be anything but.

Advertisement

Positive Elements

Spotlight, the movie, makes for difficult viewing, particularly for those who hold priests and cardinals and the Catholic church itself in high regard. Indeed, the real-life scandal on which Spotlight is based is a difficult story for many Christians to acknowledge. But as painful as it is, it's absolutely right to laud those who brought the outrage into the open. Secrets like these need to be exposed: As Luke 8:17 reads, "For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light."

The journalists covering the story—Robby, Sacha Pfeiffer, Mike Rezendes and Matty Carroll—work tirelessly to bring those hidden things to light. It takes months of groundwork, annoying persistence and a willingness to confront. It's discomforting for the diocese to be thrown into the role of a villain here, as it pushes the journalists to just go along to get along. But these men and women refuse to do so, and I'd like to think that the whole of the Christian Church is healthier today because of their diligence and doggedness.

Spiritual Content

Faith and religion are, of course, huge components in Spotlight. Throughout the movie, the power of the diocese is emphasized by massive cathedrals looming over seemingly every outdoor interview. Cardinal Bernard Francis Law is clearly one of Boston's most powerful leaders—speaking of God's love on national television in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, interacting with politicians and power brokers, hosting a customary sit-down with the new editor and giving him a "welcome" gift of a Catholic catechism. It's a guide to the city of Boston, Law says. The message—and even implied threat—is resounding: The Archdiocese of Boston is not an institution to be trifled with.

The priests themselves were equally powerful in their own right. When a priest asks a young boy—a victim of abuse—to gather up hymnals, the lad says, "It's like God asking for help." Indeed, boys (and girls) were flattered and honored when a priest would show them extra attention. And when that attention became criminally inappropriate, confused children would rationalize it or excuse it. "How do you say no to God, right?" one victim says.

All the Spotlight reporters say they're lapsed Catholics: Matty now attends a Presbyterian church, while Sacha says she sometimes attends Mass with her deeply religious "Nana." But the story takes a toll on even this modicum of faith. Sacha says later she can't go to Mass anymore; she looks at the priest and simply grows too angry. Mike says he left the Catholic church as a teen, but always imagined himself returning to the fold. Now, the idea of going back is unthinkable. "They knew, and they let it happen!" he exclaims. "To kids!"

But while Spotlight is unflinching in its criticism of the Archdiocese of Boston in particular and the Catholic church as a whole, at least one character—one only heard on the phone—says he still considers himself Catholic. The Catholic church is made of men, he says. But the Church—the real Church—is eternal.

We hear that Cardinal Law once called the "power of God" down upon the Globe, and how a week later the editor broke his leg while skiing. The first exposé is published on the Feast of Epiphany. "Seems appropriate," someone says. We hear children singing "Silent Night."

Sexual Content

The first Spotlight story suggests that at least 70 priests were involved in sexual abuse. The journalists suspect as many as 87, in line with predictions from a former priest who studied the presence of pedophilia in the priesthood. He alleges that 6% of priests abuse children, which would put the number of abusive priests in Boston at 90. This expert also insists that, despite their vows of celibacy, only 30% of priests are completely chaste.

While interviewing a victim, Sacha tells him that he needs to be very specific about what happened: Euphemisms like molested won't cut it. As a result, the interviews, which we observe, can be both disturbing and crude. We hear briefly about oral and anal sex, amatory touching and strip poker games, all perpetrated upon minors.

There are no flashback scenes of the abuse.

Many victims break into tears. One admits he's never even told his wife about the abuse. One effeminate victim says he's gay, and that the priest was the first person who told him it was OK. One priest confesses to Sacha that he "fooled around" with young boys, but says there was no harm in it and that he didn't get any sexual gratification from it. He adds that he was raped himself, so he should know what rape looks like.

Violent Content

We hear that some victims took their own lives as a result of the abuse. One man says a priest began his advances on him "just after my dad killed himself."

Crude or Profane Language

A half-dozen f-words and nearly 25 s-words. We hear interjections of "a--," "b--ch," "b--tard," "h---" and "p---." God's name is used in conjunction with "d--n" six or more times. Jesus' name is abused close to 10 times, not including three or four uses of the stand-in "jeez." We also hear several uses of the f-word euphemisms "frigging" and "freaking."

Drug and Alcohol Content

We learn that many victims turned to alcohol or drugs after the abuse, and one man's arms are covered with needle-scar track marks. Several ancillary characters smoke. Whiskey, wine and beer is consumed—with one guy, while drinking beer at a Red Sox game, quipping that drinking is a great way to deal with the game. Some priests would ply their targets with alcohol, we're told.

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

The pedophilic priest scandal was not limited to Boston. Slides at the end of the movie document many of the larger communities where abuses have occurred and offending priests—instead of being charged in a court of law or, at the very least, booted out of the priesthood—were instead moved to other dioceses, where many went on to abuse again.

When I was a reporter for a daily paper in Colorado Springs, I had opportunity to interview victims of priestly abuse—three brothers, the oldest first victimized when he was 8 years old. They were in their 50s and 60s when I talked with them, and they still struggled with the aftermath. Only one of the brothers claimed to still be a Christian.

The abuse detailed in Spotlight sounded so familiar, so true: How the kids were almost awed to be the focal point of a beloved religious leader, how they were systematically groomed, how confused they were when the relationship turned sexual.

These coercive elements of power and faith make Spotlight a challenging, troubling movie—hard to watch, hard to get out of your mind. It sticks with you, as well-told stories do. As shocking stories do. It's a horrific reminder of the evil that people can do. Any people.

Spotlight has its content issues, many of which are, sadly, integral to its central story. And it is undoubtedly a vehicle that will cause doubt among the faithful, disdain among those looking in from the outside. The sexual scandal revealed in part by the Spotlight team at The Boston Globe is, with certainty, a roadblock to religion for many. It was for the reporters who covered it, for many of the victims who lived it, for some who simply read and watched the story from afar. And it will be a roadblock for some moviegoers, too. This is not a film that encourages us to embrace the spiritual richness found in the churches around us. Instead, it encourages deep skepticism about how God's plan for His people can ever be realized in a world so full of sin.

But maybe that skepticism is good. Even wise. The Bible itself shows us many a fallen leader, many a hypocrite. None of those wayward souls diminished the Light that is Christ. And if we are honest, we will realize that what we see in Spotlight is a mess of humanity's making, not God's.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Genre

Drama

Author

Cast

Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer; Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes; Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron; Michael Keaton as Walter 'Robby' Robinson; Brian d'Arcy James as Matty Carroll; Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian; Billy Crudup as Eric MacLeish; John Slattery as Ben Bradlee Jr.; Len Cariou as Cardinal Law

Director

Tom McCarthy ( )

Distributor

Open Road Films

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

November 6, 2015

On Video

February 23, 2016

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!