Movie Mom provides a very important resource to parents in reviewing new movies so they can discern which films are appropriate for their families. Our own organization has an entire division devoted to this very discipline. PluggedIn.com provides invaluable assistance to families attempting to navigate the world of popular entertainment.
In this role, she recently reviewed Focus on the Family’s brand new documentary Irreplaceable, a theatrically released look at the state of the family today. Two entire baseball teams do not have enough digits on their collective hands to give it the thumbs-down rating she felt it deserved.
By her standards, “Irreplaceable is indefensible” “pernicious” “smug” “demonizing” “phony” “does not even qualify as one-sided” “had no effective arguments” is “cynical, meretricious and hypocritical” and promotes “stultifying, rigidly conformist norms” via “immoral tactics” offering the viewer “a condescending sense of superiority” couched in “a poisonous message.” When done with all that, she finally declares she cannot “forgive Focus on the Family for this shoddy, hateful and dishonest film.”
It’s not a subtle point she’s making. She didn’t care for the film.
Her first cut at the film is that it violates key principles her parents taught her about effective argumentation. They told her that if one fails to do these two things, they “automatically lose [the] argument.” These are 1) failing “to state the other side’s view in a manner they approve” and 2) “fail to attribute to the other sides views the same good intentions you assume for your own.”
She holds that Irreplaceable fails miserably on both scores. A critic is entitled to his or her own opinion, but as the saying goes, they’re just not entitled to their own facts. A few points here, beyond the question of whether her fiery review passes her parents’ two criteria.
Yes, Focus on the Family advocates for marriage – as much as possible – being a life-time commitment between a husband and wife, that sex belongs in the protective confines of marriage and that every child – as much as possible – has a right to be raised by their own mother and father.
If that is radical, then we are radical. We plead guilty as charged.
Second, there is no boogey man in this documentary. There is no “other side” and no “them.” There are things happening to the family around the world that we, and millions of people, find concerning: an overly sexualized culture, the decline of marital permanence, declining respect for human life, gendercide, and the dramatically growing number of children living apart from their mothers and fathers.
The film ends by featuring families that do not fit in the “perfect Christian family” genre which in reality does not exist anywhere. It’s a myth. And – spoiler alert - the documentary concludes with precisely who is responsible for all these problems we see with the family today. The narrator – the viewer’s tour guide through the film’s exploration – concludes bluntly what the greatest threat to family is today: “I am” recognizing that he hasn’t been the husband and father that he should be. He hasn’t been the son and brother that he should have been. There is no blame-shifting, no scapegoating, no accusations of “those people” being at fault, whoever they might be. The problem with the family lies at home within every human heart. Besides, that is the only real thing any of us can really do anything about.
Movie Mom ends her review advising we all take the view that “a family is a family is a family.” This sounds nice as happy talk, but 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. Just three examples of such research are found here, here and here.
In the end, I would challenge the reader of Movie Mom’s review to go see the film. Don’t take my word for it, or her’s And let us know what you think.Glenn T. Stanton is the director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family and the author of the basis of the script for the film Irreplaceable. He’s also authored six books on various aspects of the family, his two most recent: Secure Daughters Confident Sons, How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity (Multnomah, 2011) and The Ring Makes All the Difference: The Hidden Consequences of Cohabitation and the Strong Benefits of Marriage, (Moody, 2011).