By Mary Kizior
People love stories. We can relate to stories and glean valuable lessons about the inestimable worth of every human being from tales of heroism, adventure, and faith. Films are a great way for families to learn about the culture of life outside of the classroom. But with all of the violence, crude language, and portrayal of sexuality in the movie industry, how can you find pro-life films that are safe for your family to watch?
Uncover the main message
While there are dozens of movies about unexpected pregnancies, many of those films tend to be violent, crude, or hypersexualized, so that even if the single mom character does not have an abortion, the film portrays her decision in a way that does not respect human dignity. That’s why it’s important to look for films that do not just feature a pro-life topic but that are life-affirming and that build a culture of life.
The theme or main message of a movie tells you how it supports a culture of life. Films often have more than one message, so it can be difficult to determine if the film is truly pro-life. A life-affirming film will have a theme such as respect for the dignity of every person, protecting the weak and defenseless, understanding the importance of family, or overcoming disabilities in a way that shows us the inestimable worth of every human being.
To find these themes, look at the changes the characters undergo. Are their lives changed for the better because of their experiences (like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol)? If characters make mistakes, are there consequences and repercussions for them equal to the severity of the crime? Do the heroes and heroines respect their own lives and the lives of the people around them at all times? When we closely examine the motivations of the characters and how they behave in difficult situations, we can more easily see how they exemplify what it means to live a culture of life.
Decide the non-negotiables for your family
Every family has its own standard for how it allows or bans films from family viewing. Families with older teens might watch higher rated films that would be inappropriate for families with young children. Set guidelines for what kinds of films you will allow in your home and stick to them—even if it means forgoing a popular film because it would harm your children’s innocence. Because many great films contain a few negative scenes, determine the best way to deal with those scenes in your family situation.
For example, The King’s Speech is a powerful movie about overcoming disabilities, yet it contains a few scenes with harsh language. As parents, you must make the decision whether or not the film is right for your family. Do you avoid watching the film altogether or do you mute the objectionable scenes and discuss with your children why it’s important to monitor speech? Explaining to your children why your family doesn’t watch certain films or certain scenes helps them to understand how to practice discernment and teaches them how to protect their purity and innocence.
Follow up with a discussion
The best way for your children to benefit from watching a life-affirming film is to discuss the movie with them afterwards. The Culture of Life Studies Program has a growing database of downloadable film discussion guides for families. Each guide includes a summary, notes about possible objectionable material, and a short discussion about the pro-life themes present in the film. Discussion questions and answers are provided to help parents guide their children through discovering the culture of life in the story, and are followed by appropriate activities that reinforce the themes discussed. It is important for children to not only learn about the culture of life, but to also take what they have learned and apply it to other aspects of their lives.
Summer is here, but lessons about the culture of life should not end with the school year. Take some time during the vacation to continue conversations with your children about the importance of honoring and valuing other people.
Visit our website for a complete listing of our movie discussion guide collection. Is there a pro-life film that your family enjoys that you would like to see turned into a discussion guide? Send us your suggestions at [email protected].
Mary Kizior is a content developer for American Life League’s Culture of Life Studies Program, which stresses the culture of life as an integral part of every academic discipline. CLSP is dedicated to helping students become effective communicators of the pro-life message. Sign up for our e-mail newsletter to see how we can help you foster a culture of life at home and in school.