It's been a while since I wrote my Honours dissertation, and nearly as long since I read it, but from memory, I'm still committed to the baseline principle:
We all watch things, and we all need to be able to understand what we're watching.
For my dissertation the theme was salvation in the cinema, and using whatever we're watching to communicate a biblical message of what salvation is. There is a salvific narrative thread in every story that has ever been told, though the means of atonement and "prize" of that salvation differ in each story.
I can remember interviewing young people and getting them to tell me what their favourite films were. Whether the discussions were one-to-one, or in small groups it was noticeable that their favourite films often included a high percentage of films that were rated with a certificate higher than their age at the time of interview. It also included a large number of films and genres that contained material and themes that made me uncomfortable to watch as an adult. Part of my conclusion was not to suggest that we have to subject ourselves to those things we feel uncomfortable about, but rather just be willing to enter into a dialogue with the material and the young people watching it, in order to help them understand what they are seeing and where God fits into it.
This week I'm returning to my thinking because I've just finished watching "13 Reasons Why"...
And it was a valid question to have been raised when I posted my intention on Facebook... "Why would you want to?!"... I guess it goes against my dissertation to give the answer "because my young people are watching it..." But that's the answer I gave, and I'm sticking with it.
I'll go into my own reflections on "13 Reasons Why" in particular in another post that may or may not be written concurrently with this one, but I think I'm changing my mind when it comes to some subject matter and young people's viewing habits.
There will always be some things that I don't feel the need to watch, off the top of my head that's likely to be the really fanciful horror that is for scare's sakes without a hint of reality, films that deal with material I am already au fait with and just don't need to watch to know what they say, and Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell films, to name a few.
But if it's something that is doing the rounds with young people and it contains material that relates to where they are, how they might be experiencing life, or what their friends might be coming across or influencing them towards, I am persuaded to change my stance to engage with the material myself.
The reason is, if I can't even bring myself to watch it, how can I bring myself to talk about it with young people? How often in the past have I glossed over opportunities to engage in meaningful conversation with young people about real issues because I've been too scared of the content? How guilty am I of not tackling big issues from a faith perspective because I'm too embarrassed to mention certain words or talk about those taboo subjects? Looking back I have lost track of the number of times I didn't mention sex, or porn, or demonic powers, or rape, or suicide, or depression, or, or, or... The list appears to go on!
No more. It stops here. From now on I'm going to be aware of what young people are exposed to about topics and real issues, and I will be helping them engage with the themes and the material in a way that introduces them to the heart of God, and the light of his presence and helps them tread carefully through the minefield of modern life.
Remarcable is one man blogging about Youth Work, Theology, Family, Life and those other random things that come to mind.