Subtle PG-13 Lies

It’s always interesting to see what films draw teenagers. A year ago, Juno was the hottest thing. Last fall it was Twilight. So what film has their attention now?

Last Tuesday a film was released that I predict will be one of the next cult classics of this generation. The film is Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Like Juno and Twilight, the film has a PG-13 rating. But this is one PG-13 film that has me wondering what the MPAA is smoking.

Let me be clear. I’m not a big fan of the MPAA rating system anyway. I’ve never been one to let a secular rating system tell me which movies are “good” and “bad” for my kids. I’ve seen plenty of R-rated films that I have no problem with (The Passion, Saving Private Ryan, The Last Samurai…). And I’ve seen plenty of PG films that are full of subtle lies. That’s a sore spot for me. I don’t like it when the media lies to us, especially to our kids. It’s completely irresponsible to consistently show actions without consequences. That’s just not the way life works.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is a clever movie with strong characters and creative dialogue… kids are loving it. But not only is it full of graphic sexual talk, hookups and crude humor, it’s also a distortion of reality. There are drastic consequences emotionally and physically to most of the casual behaviors portrayed in Nick & Norah. Are these destructive behaviors true to life? Yes. But they are most often linked to consequences, consequences that the people behind the story of Nick and Norah chose to ignore.

Yes, Cinderella might also be a distortion of reality. Mice and birds don’t make dresses. And maybe there is no Prince Charming for most girls. But I’ve never met a teenage girl who bought into the lie that a mouse named Gus-Gus would be her best friend and a guy on a horse would take her away into the sunset. On the contrary, I’ve worked with plenty of teenager girls that found out the hard way that the casual actions in Nick & Norah have devastating consequences.

Can’t we be real with our kids? Nick & Norah is a nice fairy tale, based on realistic characters and authentic feelings. But we’re fools if we don’t understand how influential this kind of media is on our kids. The imitatable behaviors in this film aren’t just entertainment, they are telling our kids how to live in the real world.

Don’t let your kids construct their ethics from films like this.

This week I devoted our entire Youth Culture Window article to the content behind Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. In that article I give you a glimpse of what our kids will be seeing in that film. I encourage you to take a peek at the article. Todd also posted a movie review on the film.

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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