Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Irreplaceable

posted by Nell Minow
F
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:None
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:None
Diversity Issues:Expressions of intolerance
Movie Release Date:May 6, 2014

Irreplaceable” is indefensible.

My parents taught me that you automatically lose an argument if you (1) fail to state the other side’s views in a manner they approve or (2) fail to attribute to the other side the same good intentions you assume for you own. Focus on the Family’s faux documentary “Irreplaceable” fails on both grounds.  It probably also violates one of the Commandments as well, the one prohibiting the bearing of false witness.

I’m in favor of strong, loving families with responsible parents. You’re in favor of strong. loving, families with responsible parents. It is safe to say that there is just about no one who is not in favor of strong, loving families with responsible parents. It is about the least controversial position imaginable. But this film uses the rhetoric of support for family as a thin and increasingly cynical and specious cover for a pernicious agenda disguised as a “conversation.” It’s so smug, constricted, and phony that it does not even qualify as one-sided.

irreplaceable movieThe unctuous tones of the participants are intended to convey concern. But the false humility is merely an attempt to distract the audience from a poisonous message. Though some vague generalities acknowledge that in some cases marriages cannot be made safe and spouses must leave, the real message is that there is only one kind of family and everything else is unstable for its members and for culture and society. If it had any faith in its positions, Focus on the Family would honestly explain the views of those who embrace a variety of family structures and roles, allowing each family to find what is best for them.  Instead it slants and distorts those messages because it knows it has no effective arguments to make honestly.  It relies on innuendo and the basest slur to keep its base too scared to be anything but compliant.

The “experts” in the film tell us that the problem is that we are getting cultural messages about valuing self, possessions, and pleasure over the family.  Those are serious questions and worth exploring.  But they fall back on an imagined war between faith and culture without any exploration of why the faith community has failed to communicate its message more effectively or how the faith community or society as a whole could provide more support for families in need.  There is no place in the world of these experts for families that do not fit into their one-size-fits-all vision of mother, father, children all living together.  Is it possible for strong, loving, intact families with gay parents to raise happy, healthy children?  For single parents and blended families to raise happy, healthy, children?  Are fathers today more deeply involved in their children’s lives than in the falsely idealized vision of the mid-20th century promoted here?  Statistics say yes, but you would not know that from this film.  If indeed that era was so ideal, why did the overwhelming majority of those who grew up that way advocate with such passion for alternatives?

Those who wish to persuade others can best do so by building a bridge to establish a common foundation, making it clear that what connects us is more important than what separates us. Or, as they have done here, they can build a moat around their shrinking base, reassuring the condescending sense of superiority of their own little group by telling them that only their answers work for everyone and reinforcing their worst fears and stereotypes.

One of the “experts” in this film tells us, “If anyone says they can fix the world, run.”  Yet that is just what they do here, imagining that once there was a heavenly era of intact families living out God’s plan without acknowledging that the mid-century “ideal” was neither universal nor considered ideal by those living in it.  The dissatisfactions that model engendered led to a cultural upheaval that created its own problems, but none so grave to lead to a widespread call for a return to stultifying, rigidly conformist norms.  While commentators in this film make vague concessions to those whose situations are so intolerable that the marriage cannot survive, the essential condescension, arrogance, and total absence of grace or compassion is its primary message.

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With this cynical, meretricious and hypocritical film, Focus on the Family has dug a moat and burned the drawbridge. It purports to be about the importance of fathers taking responsibility for their children (again, something everyone agrees on, but you would not know that from this film). It purports to be about forgiveness, something else everyone agrees on, but it engages in the most immoral tactics by demonizing anyone who does not meet its standards.

I am happy for the person in the film who is glad his mother stayed with his father even after he went to jail for stealing money but that does not mean that it would be right for all spouses. And it does not mean I will forgive Focus on the Family for this shoddy, hateful, and dishonest film.

Parents should know that this is a dishonest film that attempts to hide its biased agenda.

Family discussion:  What families do you admire and why?  What can you to do help your family be stronger?

If you like this, try: “A Family is a Family is a Family”



  • Mom2Four

    Wow, I have read and loved your reviews since my children were very young. In fact, I was just thinking back on the 10 year anniversary of “Mean Girls”…my daughter called from a sleepover (she was 9 at the time) and asked if it would be ok to watch the movie and I immediately went to your review. My answer was (that night) No…(we went on to watch and enjoy the movie together multiple times once she was a teenager.) I now go to you for the movies *I* want to see to “touch base.” I’m a fan.

    I linked to the above review from your twitter feed over the weekend. I WASN’T surprised that the movie was a pretense for proselytizing a very narrow and judgmental point of view-I WAS surprised at the outrage in your voice…so unlike you. I have just participated in an animated back and forth on facebook about the movie and referenced your review. I am almost intrigued enough by the nerve the movie has touched to see it…ALMOST (probably wouldn’t be good for my blood pressure!)

    Thank you for sharing your gifts of putting films in context-culturally and artistically-in your reviews.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks so much, Mom2Four! Yes, I don’t give many F’s, but this one really made me angry for the way it misrepresented the people it was blaming and for its coded messages of intolerance. If you do see it, let me know what you think!

  • Brian_Dell

    For a good example of intolerance see this review. “hateful”? The hater is this reviewer.

    • Nell Minow

      Mr. Dell, I am always happy to engage with my critics, but insult is not argument. If you can point out a single moment in the film that is contrary to my description, I would be more than happy to hear about it. I suspect, however, that since it won’t be in theaters until tomorrow, you have not seen it. If you do see it, please come back to discuss it.

      • Brian_Dell

        The 1940 film “Der Ewige Jude” is “hateful”. If this film is “hateful” then Michael Moore’s films are downright venomous. I am very disturbed you cannot tell the difference. Perhaps you have not seen a truly “hateful” movie.

        If you can point out a single moment in this film that is “hateful,” I would be more than happy to hear about it. This particular movie is an invitation to reexamine oneself, not accuse any other particular human of being born inferior. There was a conscious effort to depict demographic diversity here.

        It seems to me that you cannot tolerate individuals who dare to suggest that some lifestyles are psychologically or spiritually healthier than others. I suggest opening your mind to that possibility in a spirit of generosity and humility instead of holding yourself out as the final arbiter of what’s right and passing judgment with such rage and hostility. The people in this film are not passing judgment on you. They are passing judgment on America’s culture of consumption and self-indulgence to say they wish to choose otherwise. I find it unfortunate you cannot allow this viewpoint to be expressed without trying to shame it, attack it, or otherwise try to stamp it out.

        • Nell Minow

          I actually do believe that you need to see the film to comment on it, especially if you are going to claim that the people in the film are not passing judgment, so if you do see it, let me know. I am entirely in favor of the message that families are of vital importance and that we should do everything we can to support them and help them to become stronger, more loving, and healthier. I’m in favor of conscious choices, less emphasis on material things and digital relationships, and more emphasis on kindness and purpose. I was lucky enough to grow up in a warm, loving, family with two parents and to be able to provide that for my children. That is why it is such a disappointment to me that this movie wastes an opportunity to send a critical message about families by using such obviously biased “experts” and failing to make any thoughtful statements about where dysfunction comes from or how we can do better.

          Sure, there are some elements in the film people can find thoughtful and serious. As I said in my review, no one is disputing the importance of strong, loving, healthy, responsible families. Suggesting otherwise is to demonize the people who raise legitimate questions raised by equally thoughtful, serious people.

  • Pamela Schuler

    Movie mom, there is no hidden agenda! Do things God’s way or unfortunately live with the natural consequences that occur as a result. There can be no argument that our society has seen a drastr rise in troubled youths and adults as a result of the breakdown of the natural family. Like it or not, those are the facts.

    • Nell Minow

      Ms. Schuler, you are right that the agenda is not very well hidden. And as I said, we all want to be a part of and provide support for loving, committed, healthy families. But I side with those who believe that God’s way is about love, compassion, generosity, and humility, none of which I found in this film.

      • Pamela Schuler

        No I did not say, “hideen very well.” I said, “no hidden agenda. ” Focus on the Family has always aligned their teachings with the Holy Bible. You may not agree with God, but unfortunately God does not need to take our preferences into account. He is the creator and lawgiver. Thankfully He is also merciful, which is why he provided a way through Jesus Christ to forgive each man for their sins. We need only accept the gift and repent of our sins.

        • Nell Minow

          Ms. Schuler, I thank you for sharing your views.

      • Brian_Dell

        You mean none of which was found in your review.

        • Nell Minow

          Mr. Dell, if someone from Focus on the Family would like to tell me that I am wrong and that they fully support all kinds of loving,, healthy families and all kinds of beliefs, I will take down my review. On their own website they say they are a global Christian ministry and the response I have had from defenders of the film here and privately as email show that many of them got and endorse the message that “traditional” families means heterosexual and Christian. I completely accept Ms.Schuler’s interpretation of the film’s message and I do not think it is inconsistent with my description. My objection is that the movie is not honest about its message, though Ms. Schuler and I had not trouble figuring out what it was.

    • NEWipOP

      Young lady, you haven’t said anything specific however you express that whatever you are alluding to is the facts. Perhaps you would care to illuminate readers with exactly in what ways the people you are thinking of are troubled and how they are victimised by the breakdown of the natural family. It would be nice if you would tell us what the natural family is, and if you could , give dates of when it started to break down.

      • Pamela Schuler

        Huh. Haven’t been called young lady in years, lol. Natural family- man and woman. Breakdown in society- more emotionally unstable people, higher crime, drop out rate, fewer two parent homes… etc.

        • NEWipOP

          It has been decades for me:) Sometimes I feel like the oldest woman on the internet, deary!

          I have a few questions about your assertions. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation crime is relatively low at present. Crime rates increased after world war II. The increased peaked in the 1980′s, and began sharply declining in the early 1990′s. That goes for both violent and property crime. Our current crime rates look more like they did in the 1960′s.

          Statistics on same sex households would not show any major impact on children, simply because there aren’t enough of them. The vast majority of the nation have less than one percent of their households represented by same sex partners. The total number as of 2010 was 594,000 same sex households. Whats more, of those 594,000, only 115,000 involve children.

          Divorce rates are likewise down in the past few decades. From my analysis, they aren’t down much, but they certainly aren’t up when looking over the past thirty years. It would seem that economic hardship is good for keeping marriages together, whereas prosperity leads ot more divorce. It doesn’t appear to fluctuate drastically either way.

          The information that I’ve found on drop out rates also shows them to be declining, albeit very slowly and gradually. From about 1990 to 2000 the rate of women between the ages of 16 and 24 who were not in school and received a diploma or GED was over 10%. Since then it has been below. The drop out rate for men of the same age fell below 10% in 2007 and hasn’t risen past that number based on the data up until 2012. After looking at the 22 years of reliable data between the years of 1990 – 2012, I wouldn’t expect any serious spikes up or down in this number to have taken place over the past 2 years.

          It is harder for me to find solid numbers on the trends in the rates of mental disorders in the United States. I hazard to guess that is do to the expansion of the field of mental health. I’m sure you are of an age to remember when autism wasn’t a word. There are many other disorders that are being defined as well. Of course the less severe cases of autism in children may have been overlooked as no disorder at all in the past, and of course the severe cases would have been categorized differently. If I may, another very good example of this is what soldiers experience as post traumatic stress. No research was down on the phenomenon until after World War I. At that time we called it shell shock. Since then it has been called battle fatigue and now, post traumatic stress. PTSD has a range of symptoms that range from simple nightmares and stress, all the way up to physical symptoms including the loss of limb function. After WWI we men with more mild symptoms probably self medicated more and didn’t receive help, whereas today their mild symptoms would be recognized as PTSD and the would be labelled as a person with a mental disorder. It is unlikely that the people facing combat in 1915 truly had lower rates of PTSD, however that would be the way it would appear do to lack of knowledge of the illness.

          Now for the good news (for your argument, but it is bad news in general) The number of children between the ages of 0-17 who live in households with two parents was at 77% in 1980 and is down to 64% as of 2012.

          Most of the information I am referencing came from the FBI and US census data. I am not seeing a breakdown in society. I haven’t been able to find good data to say one way or the other that people are less emotionally stable. Crime is not higher in any significant way that I was able to see going back about 52 years. It is in fact very low in that time range. The drop out rate is down. There don’t appear to be many spikes in it from 1990, but there is a gradual and slow trend down. There are more single parent households. That has been trending gradually and slowly up over the past 25 years. The numbers of children living in same sex parent households are too low to affect crime, drop out rates and mental illness trends very much. The information on the subject that I did find shows that there isn’t really a typical same sex parent household, meaning that children in households with same sex parents don’t significantly do better or worse than their children in house holds with two opposite sex parents.

          I have to conclude based on the statistical data that there is not a breakdown in society. Most of the indicators you mentioned showed that America is healthier than it has been in past decades.

          • Nell Minow

            Many thanks for this refreshing reliance on empiricism, NEWipOP. As someone once said, if the “traditional” families of the 50′s were so ideal, why were so many people who grew up that way so determined to do something different?

          • NEWipOP

            And thank you, Nell! I can assure you that the fifties had its problems.
            It is a very human trait to look to the past as some better time. This
            is a quote from the Hagakure that I think of when I start to feel excessively nostalgic:

            “It is said that what is called “the spirit of an age” is something to
            which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due
            to the world’s coming to an end. For this reason, although one would
            like to change today’s world back to the spirit of one hundred years or
            more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out
            of every generation.”

            -Yamamoto Tsunetomo- some time between 1709 to 1716

            That was written in a very violent era in Japan’s history.

            Thank you again for your kind words.

  • Fernando Valdivia

    Has this movie touched your innermost darkest secrets of your life? You sound incredibly disgusted by this movie. You sound like an ACLU lawyer that doesn’t understand the love of God. You support the unnatural, we get it. you support everything that is unholy. Your concept of morality sounds lukewarm. God will spit the lukewarm. When you praise homosexuals for raising families you become part of the problem. I will never read your reviews. Enjoy your hateful speech Sodomite!

    • Nell Minow

      Mr. Valdivia, it always grieves me to see anyone claiming to represent Christianity express himself with such lack of kindness and courtesy. If I didn’t know better, I would think you were an atheist trying to make Christians look bad. Sadly, you are just reinforcing the hateful agenda of this film, which has nothing to do with what God expects from us. You are welcome to comment here any time, but I do ask that you observe the rules for participation. http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/moviemom/2011/03/bad-manners-and-the-rules-of-e.html

      • Fernando Valdivia

        You follow into the category of a lukewarm NEO Christian. The one who defends a demonic agenda by using the word LOVE. Is the word Tolerance used to allow sexual abominations to teach and propagate immorality to children in the name of love?
        I know It will be impossible to change your mind and yes you will call me a Bigot but you must know that thanks to you more Christians will be persecuted and killed.

        • Nell Minow

          I am not the first one to use the term love. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” It does not sound to me as though you’ve seen the movie. If you have, I hope you will let me know what parts of it you think will be persuasive to anyone who is not already of the same mind as the people who made it and what the makers of the film are doing that will help address the problems we all acknowledge. I am sorry to see you express so much anger and lack of respect because it reinforces the worst stereotypes of Christians as judgmental and arrogant. If you want to persuade others to join your walk with Christ, you have to show them how your spirit has been healed. You must earn the right to lead and demonstrate what your belief has done for you. That will bring people closer to God than ranting and throwing insults.

          • Fernando Valdivia

            Please tell me what I should say or do when I see two homosexual men or two lesbian women raise children. Is this beliefnet.com or glaad

          • Nell Minow

            I would not be a part of Beliefnet if it did not stand for love, compassion, and kindness to all people or a believer in any faith that did not aspire to that standard. I think the best rule is still to do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you. And not to throw the first stone. You can live as you want, as long as you don’t harm anyone else, but other people must have the same right.

  • Me

    Say what any one will say, it comes down to one simple fact, people have stopped following God’s order and so as the Bible said thousand of years before today ” In those days, they will call the bad, good and the good, bad” So vent all you want when your day comes to stand in front of Him, will you be able to argue with the maker???? Um, more than likely, NOT. So argue with the children but good luck winning “YOUR” ideas with the one who established the order.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks for the comment, Me, but I don’t agree that it is simple or a fact. If we assume you are right, though, that still does not address the primary point of my review which is that even to the extent that this film raises important questions about what we can to to strengthen families, it is not going to change any minds. It is a terrible waste of an opportunity to have conversations with those who need help and guidance, instead wasting its time mired in self-congratulation.

      • Me

        I think it might not change YOUR mind, but those who are in real need will see a message desperately needed. I’m not sure what you mean by “Conversation With those in need of help” One film one, one time, is not meant to fix long standing issues, but it will usher in a thought provoking realization for the ones it’s meant to. I felt the film was brilliant and has a message many are so afraid to bring up now. The dire need humanity has for a savior, is there for a reason. As for “simple fact” you need only look around, maybe not your space, but far beyond what has been in front of you. I sure hope no one missed the film and the chance to make their own opinion based on this one sided view.

        • Nell Minow

          Thank you for the comment, Me, and I hope anyone who did see the film came away with a renewed commitment to supporting the families in their communities.

  • 8mom

    I don’t think that Focus on the Family’s aim is to criticize certain choices people make, it is just to examine how raising children in traditional families effects their upbringing and society as a whole. They do look at things from a moral standpoint, which unfortunately, tends to offend some people who have immoral beliefs.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks 8Mom. Good to hear from you. The use of the term “traditional” and “moral” is criticism of those who do not fit their definition of those terms. It bothers me, as I said in my review, that they misrepresent and distort the facts about “non-traditional” families, never address the problems that led to shifts in the “traditions” (that are fairly modern), and never propose solutions to help families stay together and function more effectively. There is not a lot of “examining” in the film, which is why it is unlikely to persuade anyone not already in agreement.

      • 8mom

        Nell, I am in complete agreement with you, that they needed to address the problems that led to the shifts in traditions, propose solutions, and definitely do more to “examine”. The film does seem to be aimed at those who are already in agreement with Focus on the Family and not at persuading people to have stronger family ties, no matter what type of family one has – that is what makes me sad.

        • Nell Minow

          Thanks, 8Mom. Glad to hear we agree and I very much appreciate your thoughtful comments.

  • JB

    Ms. Minow, I saw the movie last night and I can understand why you hated this film. I would bet that most people with a liberal view on family such as yours would see this as old fashioned, one sided, or judgmental. If you are truly in favor of “strong and loving families and responsible parents”, why would you object to a movie that highlights the benefits of a strong and loving family? I understand that you may be upset because it dis not reflect every group that you identify as family, but I don’t think that was the intent. I believe that the intent was to show what can happen when families fail, more specifically when fathers fail.

    You can’t argure with the statistics that show the high rate of incarceration, drug and alcohol use, sexual abuse, behavior problems, and suicide rates are so much higher in homes without a dad. I believe that the movie spent a majority of the time challenging men to become better fathers to their kids and to reach out and be a dad to kids that don’t have a father. I believe that would be loving, generous, and compassionate.

    • Nell Minow

      JB, I agree entirely with the film’s challenge to men to be more responsible fathers. That is why I was so disappointed in its lack of faith in its own message, as shown by its dishonesty in portraying the reasons for family dysfunction. I am glad to hear your perspective and I do hope people who see the film will be inspired by it to become better parents and provide more support for families in their communities. Thank you for your comment.

      • JB

        I am also hopeful that it has the same inspiration. I am curious to hear what reasons regarding family dysfunction you found to be dishonest. I read your view again, but was unclear.

        • Nell Minow

          The “experts” in the film had no data to support their statements and seriously misrepresented the positions of people who have different views. They reflected one very narrow set of views and there was no acknowledgement of the concerns of those who find that perspective inappropriate for their families. I found the movie, as I said, slanted and fear-mongering.

          • JB

            I do agree that the movie was slanted towards a biblical view instead of a world view, but does that mean that they do not have a voice or that they are intolerant. I believe that those experts were giving their opinions and that may
            not coincide with your beliefs, but that doesn’t mean they are
            incorrect. By dismissing their opinion, aren’t you being intolerant yourself?

            As far as “fear mongering”, I don’t remember seeing anything in the film that would qualify as “fear mongering.” If you are referring to the risks associated without having a father, then I would ask you to look at some of these stats at http://thefatherlessgeneration.wordpress.com/statistics/

            Hard to argue that homes without a father aren’t at risk

          • Nell Minow

            JB, as I said in the review, if the “experts” had honestly characterized the views of the other side, I would respect their position and would have given the film a much better grade. And no one has ever said that being tolerant means tolerating intolerance. I agree with you about the importance of both fathers and mothers for children. This movie had a great opportunity to make a case for strong, responsible, healthy families but wasted much of it by spending time blaming demonized “opponents” instead of working for real solutions.

          • JB

            Ms. Minow,The film certainly did not reflect all points of view, but I am not sure a documentary is supposed to do that. I don’t believe it was meant to compare and contrast different views of family. It was meant to give their point of view that they believe that children and society benefit from healthy families with a mom and dad.

            if you feel that omission qualifies as “intolerance and demonization”, almost every documentary I have ever seen fits your definition i.e. An Inconvenient Truth, Food Inc., or any Michael Moore film. I have read your reviews on Michael Moore films and you do not seem to mind that He omits every point of view other than his. His “experts” are simply him and other people with the same beliefs. That didn’t affect the way you saw his films. In fact you applauded the fact that he, “didn’t pretend to be balanced or hesitate to be irreverent.” I don’t recall Focus on the Family stating this was going to be a comprehensive look at all aspects of the family. I believe your intolerance for other points of view on family may have clouded your judgement in your review of this film.

            If you recall any specific comments made in this film that were bigoted, hate-filled, or homophobic please let me know. Perhaps I missed them.

          • 8mom

            Yes, JB, a documentary does not reflect all points of view, and it appears that is what is often forgotten. I still do not believe that the intent was to criticize anyone in this film, just to show how a family with positive role models of active mother and father loving each other and their children and working together as a family has positive effects on children, and that when those things are not present, there is an increase in negative results. I think that those who chose a different path, sometimes assume that they are being criticized when they are in actuality, not.

          • JB

            I agree with you 8mom. In my opinion, Focus on the Family went out of their way not to criticize, but to highlight the importance of intact families. In fact, they even said there are circumstances in which it is proper and even better for the kids if there is a divorce (abuse, neglect, etc…) but it highlighted the need for other men to step up and assist.

          • JB

            Ms. Minow, I know you are busy, but I would really enjoy your view on the previous post. I think that your definition of intolerance by omission is hypocritical based on your past reviews and applauding of liberal documentaries that are slanted and filled with “experts” on only one side (See earlier Michael Moore reviews of yours).

            Also, many of the folks on this discussion page have asked for specific comments made in the film that you considered bigoted, hate filled, or homophobic.

            I am starting to think that your reviews and columns are simply propaganda for your causes and beliefs versus fair reviews.

            I would love to hear a response.
            Thanks

          • Nell Minow

            I did not say intolerance by omission. I said that this film explicitly distorts and misrepresents the other side, and my review was very clear that that is the reason for the F grade. With regard to my reviews of Michael Moore’s movies, if you read them, you will see that I recommend that audiences review opposing views and often include links to resources that I think fairly represent his opposition. I am also critical of his advocacy where I think it is warranted. He is often outrageous and provocative. But he is more fair than this film and more candid about his own bias.

            My reviews reflect my views. After all, reviews are opinions. And a critic has to bring all he or she is to a film. So, my reviews reflect my gender, education and professional training (I have a law degree and have worked in government for both Republicans and Democrats and in business), and my experiences as a member of my family. I do my best to review films based on how well they meet their own aspirations and the expectations of the intended audience. And I am always happy to engage with people who disagree with me, which is more than I can say for the people who made this film, who are so terrified of the truth about the people they are trying to demonize that they do not trust their audience with an honest description.

          • JB

            I believed that you are making my point Ms. Minow. In your review of a liberal point of view, you suggested reviewing opposing views, yet you were not critical of his “intolerance” of other views while doing so. I understand that his films suit your political view, but even your opinion should have the same standards that you go by. If not, it is simply an op ed piece instead of a review.

            The reason I stated that omission was your main reason of the films intolerance is because you have made general statements that it didn’t include all sides You stated, “if the “experts” had honestly characterized the views of the other side,
            I would respect their position and would have given the film a much
            better grade.” This is why I mentioned that.

            A number of folks on this thread have asked for specific examples of demonization, bigotry, or “fear mongering” in this film. As far as distorting or misrepresenting the other side, I haven’t seen or heard any examples in your review other than not telling both sides.

            I am not being critical of your ability to dislike this film based on your views and beliefs, but to hide behind the standard “intolerance” rhetoric, I find to be dishonest.

          • Nell Minow

            As I said in my review, the movie choses to express its views with careful vagueness, but its message is very clear, as shown by the many people who have responded to me with enthusiastic endorsement of its advocacy of “traditional” and “Biblical” families, some explicitly supporting its anti-gay subtext.

            The “experts” they present are not experts the dictionary definition of the term as basing their analysis on data and study. They present these “experts” as representing eternal truths that are under attack from heathens and feminists with no reference to what we actually know from serious academic research. If the “traditional” families of the 50′s were so ideal, why did the people who grew up in them want something different? What is the real impact of “non-traditional” family structures? What can we do to help young people make better decisions about marriage? Wouldn’t it be nice to see this film address those questions instead of vague exhortations to be more responsible? Of course people should be more responsible. Will this movie encourage greater responsibility or just more smug insularity among people who already buy its message?

            As I also said in my review, to have one “expert” say “if anyone tells you how to fix the world, run” is to pretend that this is not exactly what they are doing. The selection of “experts” and the omission of diverse families is slanted.

            I don’t ask Focus on the Family to be tolerant. I ask them to be honest about their beliefs and their quest to promote their view of the world to allow for a candid and open conversation about issues we all agree are critical and ways we can address the lack of support for families who need it.

            You and I can each agree that the other is making our point here. Which proves my point that this movie does not promote a genuine discussion on these crucial issues, just more division and fear of difference.

          • JB

            Ms. Minow, in order to debate we have to first agree on the point of the movie. I don’t see it as opposite sex marriage versus same sex marriage. In fact I don’t believe that same sex marriage is even mentioned. If a movie focuses on the positive aspects of opposite sex marriage, is is anti gay simply because it doesn’t mention gay marriage? A documentary does not have to show both sides. This movie had nothing to do with gay marriage. Your last response focuses largely on what you believe they were trying to say versus what they said. This is dangerous. You still have not provided one quote from the film that is bigoted, intolerant, or anti-gay.

          • Nell Minow

            Endorsing loving, healthy families with responsible parents is the point of the movie I do agree with. Endorsing “traditional” families based on unqualified “experts” and presenting it as contrary to some unnamed force’s efforts to “fix the world” that have damaging results is a point of the movie I don’t agree with.

            They cannot present one form of family as superior without (a) documented support from actual experts, which they don’t have, or (b) without sending a message of implicit dismissal at best and disapproval at worst of anyone who does not fit into that formula.

            If a movie argues the benefits of one kind of family, yes, I believe it is arguing that other kinds are less valid or less healthy, and, as I said, many of the people writing to me about it are happy to agree that this is what the movie is saying and they support it. So I am not the only one to take that message from the film and so I think it is fair to say that is what they said. I think the message I got from the movie was consistent with the way the movie made its case. If you got another message from the movie, I am glad to hear it, and glad to have those who read these comments see your point of view.

            But if you think it is possible to make a movie endorsing one kind of family without implicitly denigrating others, then we do disagree on the point of the movie.

          • JB

            Ms. Minow, I do believe that you can endorse healthy families with a mom and a dad without denigrating same sex families. There are documentary films that endorse the benefits of Islam and Atheism, but I do not believe they are denigrating to those with different faiths, unless the films are explicit about their views directly against another faith. There are documentaries on benefits of being a Vegan. Does that denigrate meat eaters? Of course not, unless they explicitly take the view that all meat eaters are bad people. Just showing the benefits of one side does not imply a negative about another.

            That being said, I do not recall any comments from this film that spoke out about homosexuality or same sex relationships. I do believe that there were a few cases in which the film denigrated some areas of society. I guess if the viewer was a father who abandoned his wife and children or a parent who selectively aborted their child because of her gender, you could probably plead your case and would have every right to feel denigrated by this film and feel that it was intolerant.

            You have in a few of your comments spoke out against the lack of “experts” that give their opinion in this film. They are authors, sociologists, philosophers (one of them being a contributor to beliefnet, Eric Metaxas), one of the world’s top neuropsychologist Anne Moir, a law professor Helen Alvare, and Carey Casey who is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering. While you may not agree with their views, they are still experts in their fields.

            Again, Ms. Minow, you have every right to give this film any rating you want, but it is your reasons of it not showing both sides and being hateful that I disagreed with and found it to be hypocritical. You labeled this film hateful, dishonest and intolerant, yet you have yet to give one specific (other than omission) of any of these three labels.

            If it doesn’t state both sides and that is an “F grade”, great, just be consistent.

            If you complain that the film is intolerant because their views are contrary to yours, that is OK, just be honest that you don’t like Focus on the Famliy or what they stand for. Don’t hide behind claims of hate, dishonesty, and intolerance when you have not provided any specifics to back it up.

            I believe this is another example of intolerance being defined as
            anything that the liberal or progressives don’t agree with. Even Bill
            Maher (who is pretty liberal) has come under fire for his comments
            regarding the inability to say anything without being called homophobic
            or intolerant. I believe this review is one of those cases. One sided
            films that speak out about gay marriage, abortion, women’s rights, and
            labor unions, etc…. are hailed as bold and great while films about the
            pros of a family with a mom and a dad are seen as intolerant, hateful,
            bigoted, and slanted.

          • Nell Minow

            Thanks for your comments, JB. I understand that Focus on the Family is going to respond to my review on Beliefnet and I look forward to seeing what they have to say.

            You are right that I don’t like Focus on the Family and I don’t agree with their positions. But if they expressed those views more openly, I would at least respect them. Instead, their positions are reflected in this film in a manner that is dishonest because it promotes the “traditional” family in a one-sided and prejudicial manner.

            I don’t say a documentary has to present all sides equally. I do say it has to accurately describe the positions it is disputing in order to have any credibility. As I said before, the fact that they do not mention marriage equality has not prevented people from getting the message, as I have heard from people who have written to me to say they endorse it.

            And I made it clear that the primary reason for the F grade, not the positions it took, but the slanted and distorted portrayal of the facts about “non-traditional” families and who it is that is trying to “fix the world.”

            We will have to disagree on the credibility of the “experts” in the film and whether it is possible to advocate for one ideal without denigrating other options.

            As I said in my review, advocacy can be a bridge or a moat. It is a shame that this film missed the opportunity to reach out to a broader range of families that are damaged and hurting to help them feel supported by the community. Instead of spreading a message of compassion, it adds to a closed loop of self-congratulation for those who are already believers.

            This isn’t about “tolerance” — that’s not a particularly useful term. As your comment shows, it can be turned around to justify tolerating the intolerant.

            My concern is about having a fair, honest debate about vital issues. I really wanted this film to be better. I would love to see a documentary that would inspire people to be more committed to their families. It is a real disappointment to me that this one does not make that case as well as it could.

          • JB

            Ms. Minow,

            You state, “slanted and distorted portrayal of the facts about “non-traditional” families”, but you have not given any concrete examples of slanted or distorted facts given by anyone in the film. Instead, it is merely an opinion that Focus on the Family didn’t bring same sex marriage into the conversation. I believe if you were being fair, you would have to admit these are completely different.

            I think your cards are pretty much in the open now if you cannot even agree that the people giving their opinions in this film are “experts.” This tells me that you are truly closed to actually openly debating the merits of this film because your views. Before this film came out, there were countless reviews of Irreplaceable by the LGBT community who had not even seen the film yet. This film was given zero chance by the LGBT community. Shameful, because as you said, many of the themes in this movie, we can all stand behind. This movie could have provided a deeper discussion with people with both points of view coming together to condemn many of the things that were discussed in this movie i.e selective abortions based on gender, increase in fatherlessness, the need to be fathers to young men and women who do not have one, but again, it turned into the same rhetoric that Christians are “anti-gay.” I believe that this caused many who are advocates of same sex relationships to tune out because it was from a Christian point of view. That is truly a disappointment.

            Thank you for your time and I appreciate all your responses and hope that in the future you will give all the films you review the kind of scrutiny that you gave this one.

          • Nell Minow

            JB, I really did approach the film with an open mind. And I appreciate Focus on the Family’s decision not to make any explicitly anti-marriage equality statements in the film and keep the message more positive, even if, as I said, some audience members came away with that message as shown in their comments. But it is important that you understand that my criticism of the film is much broader than whether or not it endorses marriage equality. Because I care very deeply about the challenges facing families, including paternal abandonment, it is a great disappointment to me that this film did not do a better job of exploring the source of those problems and more specific solutions.

            But for me that was outweighed by slanted portrayals of the threats to families like the reference to gender selection abortions you mention, which was inflammatory and not supported by data as a widespread issue. To raise that without raising the much more serious problems that occur when safe abortions are not available is an example of the kind of slanted reporting I refer to. The reference to those who promote the idea of consequenceless sex is another example of an issue that did not need to be raised in such a demonizing fashion. I say that not because I think it is a good idea to advocate consequenceless sex; on the contrary. But I do not think it helps the discussion to focus on a tiny minority (if any) who promote the most extreme positions instead of a more sincere and constructive approach to understanding why some people felt that “traditional” notions were repressive and unsatisfying. This is what I refer to as slanted and distorted. And to return to a point I’ve made previously, if you are going to criticize those who try to “fix the world” by telling people how to behave, you should have some humility about recognizing when you are doing that very thing. That is another example of a slanted characterization.

            I very much appreciate the civility and respect with which you discussed your concerns. I truly believe we agree on the issues more than we disagree, even if we do not agree on the film. If its primary purpose was to spark discussions, then indeed it has succeeded, at least in part. I wonder, though, if you have any sense that the movie is indeed reaching those who are in need rather than those who already support its message. Are you affiliated with the film in any way?

          • JB

            Ms. Minow,
            I am not affiliated with Focus on the Family or with the film itself. My reason for even commenting in the first place is because I read your reviews and for the first time, I saw a review of a film that I felt was unfair and biased. This, in itself, is fine because you have a right to your opinion and have a great forum to discuss it. My contention was that your review was inconsistent with past reviews on other similar movies and held to a different standard without sufficient evidence to back up the review other than that it omitted other points of view or that it implicitly denigrated the gay community.

            My intention is the same as yours regarding trying to find some common ground and building a bridge between our views. Throughout the discussion I feel that you and I have come to agree on a number of things. I think that we both agree that the increase fatherlessness has caused damage to children around the world specifically in the US. I think we also agree that the “hook up” culture is not a particularly healthy one and has both physical and emotional consequences. While you and I may differ on our views of abortion, I think we can agree that aborting a child just because it is a particular gender has damaging effects emotionally and has potential social effects down the road. I think we are in agreement that this was a one-sided documentary told from a biblical point of view. We also agree that groups should not comment or review a film and ask for a boycott without seeing it first. I think we are both in agreement that this film was not perfect and could have done a few more things to engage non-Christians.

            That is a lot of agreement :) I believe that we disagree, however, that the film was somehow homophobic because of past views by Focus on the Family or because it did not discuss same sex families. I will try to answer your questions in order from your last post.

            I may have misused the term “Christian” point of view. I should have used the term biblical point of view. I am not sure if Focus on the Family’s intent was to reach out to the LGBT community to rally for support. I doubt it. I also think that if they were to actually reach out to the LGBT, they would not be welcomed anyway (see previous comments regarding boycotts etc… before seeing the film). I understand why there is animosity towards them from the LGBT community. I believe Christians have been painted with a very wide brush by the media because of a few outspoken churches i.e. Westboro Baptist. I think that you would find that most churches that are centered around Christ do not show hatred nor are they anti gay. They may not agree with the LGBT lifestyle, but they don’t hate the people. I believe that this gets to the core of our disagreement.

            Can a group or individual not support Homosexuality or same-sex marriage, but still love and show compassion to homosexuals? I believe that you and I probably differ on our answers. I believe that society has deemed one homophobic, intolerant, and a slew of other terms if one does not fully embrace or support the idea of homosexuality.

            Since this is beliefnet, I feel comfortable in sharing where I derive my point of view from. As a Christian I am expected to be as “Christ-like” as I possibly can be realizing that I will fail and need Him. If so, I should take his examples of how He loved others. I think of the adulterous woman who was going to be stoned by a group of men for her affair with a man who was not her husband. Jesus stepped in on her behalf and showed the group of men that they were being hypocritical because they had also done things that were sinful in God’s eyes. He said that one who was without sin could throw the first stone and they all walked away. The only person left was Jesus. he did not yell at her, He did not hold up signs with anti-adultery sayings, He did, however, tell her to stop committing adultery. I see this as being loving and compassionate to the person while not embracing adultery. I would agree that the Christian church has not done a good job in showing this love and compassion to the LGBT community and has to start building a bridge so good dialogue can happen.

            You asked what my definition of a “traditional family.” I would say that a traditional family consists of a mom and dad with or without children regardless of race or religion. I believe that there are specific roles that make men and women different and ultimate a perfect match to raise children together. Does this mean that single parents or same sex marriages cannot physically raise children? Of course not, but it is my opinion that a family with a loving mom and dad is what is best.

            I am very thankful for the discussion and it has made me think about things from a different point of view. I hope it has done the same for you. I appreciate the offer for lunch and may take you up on that if I am in the DC area.

          • Nell Minow

            I am also very thankful for this discussion and appreciate your courtesy and willingness to engage on these issues we both care about. I hope you do come to DC as I would love to continue this discussion. All best to you and your family.

  • NEWipOP

    The author of this review was taught very well by wise parents.

    “My parents taught me that you automatically lose an argument if you(1) fail to state the other side’s views in a manner they approve or (2)
    fail to attribute to the other side the same good intentions you assume
    for you own.”

    • Nell Minow

      Yes, my parents are wonderful! Thanks.

  • HFJennings

    Hmmm. My MIL won
    tickets on the radio and dragged me to this last night. I was really nervous,
    and was expecting a full slam on the “homosexual” agenda, which would
    have made for an awkward car ride home with my uber-conservative MIL. But since
    mother’s day is approaching, I went with her. The film would have been
    more honest if it addressed same-sex partnerships head-on, but there was nary a
    mention of homosexuality, and after thinking about it, I believe that same-sex
    marriages is a “side-issue” of the main idea in this film, and that
    for whatever reason, the makers decided to talk around it. The focus was
    on the family- specifically, creating strong family units and defying the
    “hooking up” culture that is so prevalent today.

    I
    think when we (especially feminists) hold tight to a woman’s freedom to leave
    her abusive husband, we forget that the majority of divorces in the U.S. are
    in, what I believe the guy referred to as “low-impact” divorces-
    those splits where the kids really didn’t realize anything was wrong, and then
    their whole world is turned upside down. That especially resonated with me- my
    dad left because he had “fallen out of love” with my mom and had
    “found happiness” with someone else. What happened to commitment? To
    sacred marriage vows? To putting your spouse and children before yourself?
    Sacrificial love is swept under the rug in favor of “whatever makes you
    happy- even if it makes everyone else in your life very unhappy.” Your
    review states that that fathers being there for their children is
    “something everyone agrees on, but you would not know that from this
    film.” Yet when people are interviewed on the street, “do what makes
    you happy- if you’re unhappy with someone, leave them and find someone else who
    makes you happy,” is uttered over and over again.

    As far
    as “solutions” that are offered- the solution is maintaining a solid
    family unit which are the “building blocks” upon which the state is
    made. My gay friends who have kids seem to believe in that- they put their
    children and each other first, before friends, career-building, etc. As far as
    how to help people who are in bad situations- the point was made during the
    abortion segment that when women are choosing between having an abortion and
    having the baby, they receive promises that they will be supported if they have
    the abortion, but no one comes forth and says they will be supported if they
    decide to have the baby. The idea is to build strong families, which then
    provide a stronger support system for those who are all alone.

    Many
    moms (or dads- no reason dad can’t stay at home) need to work, for financial
    reasons, but it is not wrong to believe that staying home (if financially
    feasible) with the kids benefits them more than working benefits me, so I will
    sacrifice that part of my life to be there for them. Feminist sensibilities
    rage against that- but that’s what sacrificial love is- what Jesus modeled.

    The
    point of the documentary was not about saving abused women- it was about
    sacrifice, keeping your commitments, and providing future generations with
    models of strong family units. And since most kids are conceived via a mom and
    dad, it just makes sense that the basic family unit is a mother, father, and
    kids. And if there is no father, seeking a “father figure” for
    children (via the church, through sports or education) is recommended.

    I
    thought the Aristotle vs. Plato bit was effective: are families the building
    blocks of society, or are individuals ultimately autonomous, and the state
    should “take the place” of the family unit (providing basic needs)?
    These are philosophical ideas that will be debated until the end of time.
    Focus on the Family believes the family unit is the basis of a strong society
    and moral culture. Unfortunately, their definition of family does come across
    as rigid, since families have looked different throughout the ages. However, I
    tend to agree that strong families build strong societies. There’s nothing
    hateful about this underlying premise- it explains why evangelicals are ultimately
    politically conservative and wary of government interference.

    I do
    not support Focus on the Family; their “values” don’t entirely align
    with mine. I do not believe women should “submit” to their husbands,
    and I believe homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice, that same-sex marriage
    is ethical and fair, and that kids who are in stable homes, regardless of who
    is raising them, fare best.

    However,
    you are implying that their “insidious” anti-gay message trumps any
    other point the ever-nodding bald New Zealand guy was trying to make- that
    ultimately selfishness breaks families apart. It was certainly not the smartest
    documentary, nor the most cohesive, and (like most documentaries with an
    agenda) was very one-sided. However, your response was downright polemical!
    Engaging in conversation instead of writing a vitriolic
    “review” might have been more effective in this case.

    • HFJennings

      I don’t know why the formatting came out so funky. My apologies.

    • Nell Minow

      HF Jennings, I am more grateful than you will ever know for the thoughtful, kind, respectful views in your comment. I agree with almost everything you said.

      I thought a lot about writing such a negative review; given the coded language used in the film, it was difficult to be very specific about what I thought was wrong. Certainly, one reason for my reaction was that when they asked me to watch it, I specifically said I could not review it if there was any suggestion in the film that gay or blended or single parent families deserved any less love and support than “traditional” families. I was assured that this was the newly inclusive Focus on the Family and that there would be nothing like that in the film. Nevertheless, I felt that it had a strong “dog whistle” subtext that was anti-marriage equality, and that view has been justified by the many comments I have received praising the film for taking a stand against homosexuality.

      I also objected to the way that the “experts” in the film characterized those who do not agree with them. That is the primary reason for the F — as I said in the review, you automatically lose an argument if you can’t present the other side in words they agree represent their views. Feminists are not responsible for the increased divorce rate and if you want to reduce the number of abortions, yes, provide more support for pregnant women but also (as statistic prove definitively) put more money in sex education and making contraception available. The repeated exhortations to the audience without any specific commitment to policies that help to strengthen families was one reason the film was such a disappointment. The bigger disappointment was that this is such an important issue and there are so many ways we can come together to do better, and yet I felt the strong message of this film was exclusive rather than inclusive, judgmental instead of compassionate. As you can see through the comments, I am happy to engage in conversation about these issues with anyone who will discuss it in an honest, constructive, respectful manner (and even with those whose comments are insulting). But I wanted to make the strongest possible statement against what I see as a dishonest film. I’m fine with advocacy. But if you are not willing to be fair to the other side in explaining your position, if you demonize those who think differently while you preach forgiveness, if you use the word “family” and exclude everyone who doesn’t look like Ozzie and Harriet, I will express my contrary opinion in the strongest terms, even at the risk of sounding polemical.

      Again, I am truly grateful for your comment. If I thought this movie would inspire a majority of its audience to come to the same conclusions you did, I’d admit I was wrong. But given most of the responses I have received, I think it just reinforced the smug sense of superiority of people already persuaded of FF’s views, wasting a very real opportunity to inspire troubled families to re-connect and recognize that the greatest happiness comes from families that take responsibility seriously and are deeply committed and generous to each other.

      • Brian_Dell

        “exclude everyone who doesn’t look like Ozzie and Harriet”

        Can you provide a quote from this film that supports this contention?

        In my recollection a speaker in this film mentioned Leave It To Beaver and then promptly said that sort of family was “unrealistic” or something like that, at least for some people given their backgrounds. Nobody proceeded to lecture this speaker for making the comment. As for aspiring to Ozzie and Harriet or the Beaver’s family, such aspirations are quite understandable and nothing to be ashamed of.

        • Nell Minow

          Mr. Dell, there is nothing at all wrong with Ozzie and Harriet or the Cleavers. Those were wonderful families. As I said, it is excluding other kinds of equally wonderful families that concerns me.

  • Klarissa dela Fuente

    This movie offered me and others a lot of healing and lead us to contemplate how to live a more loving, forgiving, selfless, free, and joyful life.

    • Nell Minow

      I am very happy to hear that, Ms. Fuente, and I hope others are similarly inspired to greater kindness and compassion and support for families of all kinds.

      • Klarissa dela Fuente

        Thanks so much for your reply! I would love to continue the dialogue if you have time.

        Some of the most responsible, committed, generous people I know come from non-traditional families. Everyone has the right to live and love as they please and deserve the utmost dignity, respect, and protection under the law.

        I suppose my question for all of us to ponder (and would be awesome if you could reply) is: do we need a civil institution specifically geared to unite children with their moms and dads, and if no, then why not?

        I only ask this because I have one person in mind who was raised by two loving and committed mothers. He is a successful adult now, but growing up he felt deprived of knowing his father and experienced many identity issues. Should others in similar situations legally have the intrinsic right to know who they biologically came from?

        Again, thanks for your time!

        • Nell Minow

          Ms. dela Fuente, I thank you very much for your comments. The question you ask is a very difficult one to answer. I could say that if society were more broadly accepting of diverse families, your friend would not have felt the absence so sharply, but all of us have identity issues and I don’t think even the most loving family is enough to make up for the unanswered questions of biological heritage, or the experience of having parents of different genders. As Mama says in the play “I Remember Mama” when asked if she would like to be rich, “It would be like being 10 feet tall — good for some things, bad for others.” No set of parents can be everything to any child and every one of us wonders at one time or another if it would not have been better to grow up in a different house, time, income level, race, with a family member who shared our interest/allergies/eye color.

          I think children should be able to reach out to their biological parents. But I also think those parents have the right not to respond. We don’t want to scare people away from making it possible for people who very much want to be parents to have children. The law is moving in that direction, and I am glad for that.

          • Klarissa dela Fuente

            Thank you again for engaging in conversation. My intention is to understand other perspectives and exchange insight.

            I agree 110% that it’s possible to have identity issues no matter how loving or accepting a family may be. However, can you agree that through a recognized, healthy relationship to one’s own mother and father that it can help the child develop properly and allow him/her to feel a sense of security? If yes, then shouldn’t society recognize, protect and promote this?

            Government stats show that children are far more likely to undergo adverse family experiences if they are not living with both their biological parents (compared to living with 1 or 0 biological parents in household). This is noteworthy.

            I agree the law is moving in the direction of making it possible for couples to be parents, though I also foresee the law moving toward polyamory, wedding leases, and open sexual relationships if we solely define marriage as an adult-centric institution.

            As far as my friend, I will definitely ask him if he would’ve had a better experience had society been more accepting. It would be beneficial to know his perspective. If you would like to read his testimony, “Growing Up With Two Moms: The Untold Children’s View”, you can find it here: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/08/6065/

            Looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you again.

          • Nell Minow

            That was a fascinating essay and very well-written. Clearly, your friend has had to deal with a number of obstacles. But I was sorry to see him citing the completely discredited work by Mark Regnerus. This is not a question of scholars disagreeing. His own university has disciplined him for failing to meet the basic standards of academic scholarship and his work has been thoroughly refuted by every other study ever conducted. When it has been presented in court, judges have consistently ruled against its being considered as valid. http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/03/04/mark_regnerus_testifies_in_michigan_same_sex_marriage_case_his_study_is.html Furthermore, on the points raised by your friend, it is possible and indeed prevalent for same-sex parents to make sure that their children have closely involved opposite sex family members or friends as role models to make sure that they have access for the kinds of examples and questions your friend raises. As someone once wisely wrote, no one is enough to be anyone’s mother. All of us, even in “traditional” families, need to make sure our children have many people in their lives to help them learn who they are. To your main point, however, I think the laws should change to strengthen and support families and we should do much more to encourage stability, starting with imposing requirements to make sure no one gets married without some financial and relationship counseling first.

          • Klarissa dela Fuente

            Hi again Ms. Minow. I went to DC a few weekends ago and absolutely loved it. I hope I can come back again soon to see more of the historical sites!

            I actually went there for a cousin’s wedding, and I was able to reflect on different family types within my own family. Please bare with me as I explain.

            My dad is 1 of 8 siblings. 3 of them have “traditional” families, 1 is single, and the remaining have been through 1 divorce or more. Basically, most of my cousins on my dad’s side of the family come from “alternative” families.

            Though us cousins have turned out “ok” because our families are so close, I can’t overlook the fact that many of our challenges are different. Some have to bounce from dad to mom every other week, or get to know mom’s new live-in boyfriend, or have only seen dad once because he’s in another country. It is interesting to note that all of my cousins still desire marriage and children despite their family situations. This tells me this is an innate desire.

            I guess my point is, after careful reflection (and in addition to your point about financial and relationship counseling), that government should promote marriage as the unity of one man, woman, and any children they bear… not because it is “ideal”, but because it is an intrinsic reality. Not all marriages result in children, but all children have a mother and father. I don’t think Focus on the Family is morally relativistic, I think they see a truth and want to promote it. Just like 2+2=4, it’s reality and we may do more harm than good if we fight to change it.

            In addition, we can still protect, love, dignify and be compassionate toward those in “alternative” situations. We just don’t need to re-define “family” in order to do so.

          • Nell Minow

            Many thanks for your thoughtful comments, Ms. dela Fuente. I believe that intimacy is an innate desire for most people, and that we should support all loving families, and the right of all children to be with loving parents. I wish Focus on the Family had the courage to present the issues more honestly, doing justice to the real issues it distorted and evaded. So I do not agree that there is “truth” in some of what they said, and I am sorry they did not take a more constructive approach to strengthening and healing families who need help. I do support their call on adults to take responsibility for their own families and for those in need. I wish they shared your warm heart in supporting those in alternative situations.

            I’m glad you enjoyed visiting our beautiful home town and hope you come back again.

    • Nell Minow

      Thank you for writing, Ms. dela Fuente. I am always glad to hear from someone who sees more in a movie than I do and I hope it continues to inspire you.

  • Brian_Dell

    My review:

    This film will do little to cause a rethink amongst those who believe Focus on the Family supporters have something to apologize for. The reasoning chain offered by the central character where he says a lack of respect for one concept implies a lack of respect for another would find objections from many quarters. Stylistically, this person’s body language is too endorsing of what the person he is interviewing is saying for the thesis that he is on a journey of investigation to really work.

    Rightly or wrongly, were this film screened in the U.S. Capitol building, a majority of Congressmen would likely endorse it, at least partially. That fact alone makes this film of interest to students of American society, and this film creates an opportunity to learn more about the Focus of the Family perspective. As such, it provides a window into a social group.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Mr. Dell.

  • http://www.glenntstanton.com Glenn Stanton

    Worth noting two different pieces on Irreplaceable for all those here participating in the dialogue. There is another review of the film here on beliefnet which takes a very different and appreciative take on the movie, calling it “a winner”. http://bit.ly/1oQ6cWv

    Another piece, a response to Movie Mom from myself, the co-author of the film, which the editors at beliefnet were gracious enough to accept and post. http://bit.ly/1v6bRMB

  • Pingback: Focus on the Family Responds to My F Review of “Irreplaceable” - Movie Mom

  • Dr. John D. Van Dyke

    Is this the same Focus on the Family that James Dobson started!? The James Dobson who wrote (the now widely discredited and shameful) “The Strong Willed Child?” That one?

    • Nell Minow

      Yes, that is the one. Dobson ran the organization himself from 1977-2003 and served as chairman until 2009.

  • Ryan Rasmussen

    Nell, I’ve read your review twice now and still find it hard to believe that you could ascribe words like “pernicious” “smug” “condescending” “hypocritical” “cynical” and “meretricious” to the film Irreplaceable. I have no idea what “meretricious” means but the other words you used are ridiculous… You don’t like the world view it espouses so you trashed it. It’s that simple. The idea that the film “loses the argument” because it doesn’t (1) “state the other side’s views in a manner they approve or (2) fail to attribute to the other side the same good intentions you assume for you own” is also ridiculous. The film is not trying to win an argument. It is advocating a position on family and marriage that is based on scripture. Of course, it is possible for children to be raised by someone other than a father and a mother and still grow to be healthy. But, the ideal situation for any child is to have a loving mother and father to raise them as God intended. I think Focus on the Family affirms that we should love, support, and encourage people who are in other situations, but we should also celebrate and promote the ideal. To do so is not smug, hypocritical, or condemning of others. It is certainly not pernicious! Your reviews make an impact on people’s lives. I hope that you will be more responsible in how you use your words in the future.

    • Nell Minow

      Mr. Rasmussen, I appreciate your taking the time to share your views. Part of my frustration with the film is the way it fails, in my opinion, to advocate effectively (beyond its already-convinced base) for the kind of healthy, responsible, loving families we all want for every child and parent. To promote something as “the ideal” means that you are saying by definition something else is not as good, as you acknowledge. I only wish Focus on the Family had the courage and integrity to make their case for what they consider the “ideal” in a manner that is not dishonest. If they are going to describe the cultural forces they consider a risk to families, they have to be willing to describe them fairly. Their failure to do so undermines the film’s ability to deliver its message.

      Of course they are trying to win an argument, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They are trying to win an argument with the cultural forces they think are detrimental to families. You cannot win an argument (in this case, which kind of family is “ideal” and how best to achieve it) unless you are willing to take on the other side’s best argument in a forthright manner. Instead, this film slants and distorts the views of those with whom they disagree. If you read my review twice, then you know I made it clear that I didn’t “trash” the film because I disagree with its “world view.” I disagree with its tactics, which are more about distorting the facts about those they do not consider “ideal” than about helping families. And meretricious means lying by making something look better than it really is.

      I especially appreciate your commitment to love, support, and encouragement for all people, and if you make a movie about it, I’m sure I’ll give it a better review. Best wishes to you and your family.

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