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Focus on the Family Responds to My F Review of “Irreplaceable”

posted by Nell Minow

I am most grateful to Focus on the Family for their very courteous response to my review of their film “Irreplaceable,” one of the harshest I have ever published.  I strongly encourage everyone who wants to understand our disagreement to read their response carefully, along with the extensive exchange of comments following the review with people who had a variety of reactions to the film and which have a great deal more detail about what I found offensive.

My primary concern, as I explained in the review’s second paragraph, was the film’s refusal to meet the fundamental requirement of advocacy: stating contrary opinions to the satisfaction of the person whose opinion is being described.  They prove my point in this reply, responding, for example, to a charge of being “radical” which no one never made.  The problems I had with the film are repeated in their response, where they insist “there is no boogey man in this documentary. There is no ‘other side’ and no ‘them’” but then acknowledge that “some family forms are simply more effective than others at bringing good and essential things to people’s lives than others, regardless of how sincere the people are that create them.” I believe that the way they present the “less effective” family forms in the film is inflammatory and unfair and does create a boogey man.irreplaceable movie

We agree on a number of issues, starting with the importance of each of us making a renewed commitment to our own families and the families in our communities. And we agree that the best way for people to decide which view of the film is correct is to see the film. They ask people to see the film and make their own judgment, which I endorse entirely.  The movie was so successful in its initial one-night showing that it will be in theaters again tonight, so if this debate has piqued your curiosity, or if you share with both Focus on the Family and me the goal of exploring how we can be better and more effective in supporting our own families and others in our community, I encourage you to see it and let me know what you think.

I would just ask Focus on the Family to do the same with the movie I recommended in my review as a supplement, Rosie O’Donnell’s “A Family is a Family is a Family.” Whether they view it or not, I make the same offer to them that I did to my most engaged commenter; if they come to Washington, D.C., I’d be glad to invite them to lunch to discuss my concerns about the film further and explore more effective messages for addressing the concerns we share. Again, my thanks for the respectful response.



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  • Donna Kazee

    It’s OK if you didn’t like the film, and their response still has the elements of apology that are really non-apology and lifting up one form of family to the tune of surrepetitiously putting down the other. It reminds me of ghosting in my proposal-writing days of long ago. I do not agree that you are truly promoting something in which you believe if you have to decimate alternatives to that belief.

    • Nell Minow

      Many thanks, Donna. I agree — if you can’t take on the other side’s best argument head-on, even if you have to make it for them, your make it clear that you either don’t trust your arguments or don’t trust your audience. Or both.

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