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Mom’s ‘Extreme’ Movie Advice to Son is Right On

What would you do if your teen wanted to see the recent movie Pitch Perfect 2?

Author and blogger Glennon Doyle Melton said yes to her son Chase’s request to see the movie. But she didn’t want her son to be just a passive viewer, so her yes was a conditional one. And the conditions were fairly specific. In fact, they’re one of the most terrific examples of what discernment looks like in action that I’ve seen recently.

Melton posted a picture of a handwritten letter to her son on Facebook. And here’s what it said:


You may see Pitch Perfect 2 under these conditions: By Wednesday you will deliver to me a 2 page essay which will be your response to the movie. Your response will answer the following questions:

  1. What is this movie’s message about sex?
  2. What is this movie’s message about women’s bodies? (In particular being overweight) (Are any of these messages sexist?)
  3. Is there any racism in this movie? In what scenes?
  4. Are there any messages in this movie about love, friendship, or careers that are positive? What are they?
  5. Would you recommend this movie to your sisters? Why or why not?

So … you can see this movie—but only as a critic, not as a blind consumer. You in?

Love, Mama

Wow. There’s a lot to love here about the way Glennon responded to her son’s request. So let me make a few observations.

I’d like to start with what she says at the end: “You can see this movie—but only as a critic, not as a blind consumer.” What this wise mom is asking her son to do here is to engage thoughtfully and critically with the content he’s encountering. Instead of just letting it wash passively over him, she’s counseling that he pay attention to the messages that are being delivered.

That single step, switching from passive consumer to active engager when it comes to movies (or any other form of pop culture) is huge.

But she doesn’t stop there.

0717blogmiddleGlennon doesn’t just tell him to pay attention. She gives him specific, concrete instructions that will help him do exactly that. She asks him to focus on specific content that includes both behaviors (sexuality) and worldview (racism, sexism, body image).

Next up, she invites Chase to identify positive messages, too, asking her son to look for what Pitch Perfect 2 has to say about love, friendships and career.

Glennon’s last question asks her son to step outside of how he’s responding and to consider how this movie might influence his sisters if they saw it. What she’s done here pushes her son outside his own frame of reference and challenges him to consider it from someone else’s point of view.

Finally, I’d observe that even though this mom obviously has some concerns about this film, she doesn’t just drop the “no” bomb. She says yes, but it’s a qualified yes. And the qualification is one that she obviously hopes will lead to deeper reflection, engagement and conversation with her son.

After her son agreed to the terms, Glennon later posted an update saying that that’s exactly what happened: “He agreed, and he wrote his critique—and it started some cool family conversations.”

Other observers in the secular media didn’t find Glennon’s letter quite so cool. An article in Britain’s Daily Mirror talking about the story ran with this headline: “You won’t believe this mum’s extreme contract her son had to sign to watch Pitch Perfect 2.”

Extreme? I suppose when compared to the passive, disengaged way our culture often interacts with entertainment, it could be seen that way. Then again, we’re living in a culture that is itself extreme—and those extremes are reflected in the entertainment that splashes in front of us on screens every day.

The only way to help our children grow in their ability to navigate those extremes is if we give them the tools they need to think critically about the messages being placed in front of them (something Plugged In strives to do with each review we publish).

Glennon Doyle Melton has given us a terrific example of what teaching discernment might look like in when it comes to a specific movie. And as I look at her questions, they don’t strike me as extreme at all. She’s simply asked her son to observe the messages being delivered in a popular movie and to consider whether he’d want those he loves to be exposed to those messages.

And that is a beautiful example modeling wisdom and discernment amid the complicated and, yes, extreme entertainment environment so many families are wading through today.