Youth Culture Window
Two normal teenagers thrust together for one sleepless night of club-hopping in New York City. Hookups, drinking, crude sexual jokes… teenagers are loving Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, starring voluptuous Kat Dennings and Juno’s Michael Cera. It’s the modern day Fast Times at Ridgemont High… but with only a PG-13 rating.
My dad had American Grafitti- clean by today’s standards, but pretty edgy for its time. In the 80’s my generation had the R-rated Risky Business and Fast Times. Teenagers in the 90’s (my first youth group) had Dazed and Confused, also R. The new millennium must have ushered in a new standard, because Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is the same ol’ thing, but somehow it squeaked through with a PG-13.
Sure, Nick & Norah’s doesn’t have nudity. It just has orgasms, implied sex, non-stop sensuality, plenty of sexual references and crude humor. It seems as if the MPAA rating just doesn’t spell it out clear enough. Nick & Norah’s rating is: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including teen drinking, sexuality, language and crude behavior. Do you think that particular rating prepares parents for this?
- A gay band brainstorming band names: The Jerk Offs, Sh** Sandwich, D**k Ache, and Fistful of A**holes.
- Songs like “I’m Going to Screw the Man” or “Balls Deep.”
- Comments from girls like, “You’re practically blowing him with your eyes.”
- Gay and lesbian references throughout
- A discussion about orgasms (“Word on the street was, you never had an orgasm.” “I’ve probably had a million! How am I supposed to know?” “Oh, you’d know.”)
- A couple have sex (out of sight) in the back of the car, resulting in the lead character breaking out cleaning supplies, commenting about having to “clean up the mess.”
- A scene where we hear the “play by play” of two other people having sex (“your bra… I can’t undo this button on your pants… your hands are cold…”) and then we watch the studio’s sound meter as it records the girl’s orgasm.
If you’re offended by the above list… good! So am I. Just realize that many of our youth group kids will be watching this film in the next few weeks. After all, public high schools are even allowed to show PG-13 films without parents’ permission. Consider that on your kids’ next slow school day where the teacher pops in a movie.
I guess I shouldn’t expect anything less. For those of us who put our faith in God and His Word, we know that these are the world’s morals, not ours. In 1 Peter 1:15-16, Peter writes:
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." In Ephesians 4:17-24 Paul writes:
17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused.18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ.21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him,22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. In God’s word, we are consistently reminded that we are different than the world. The world lives for temporary pleasure and impurity. We, however, aren’t supposed to live that way. Both Peter and Paul (above) remind us, “But you aren’t like that!”
It’s really a shame. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist is a very creative film, cleverly written and well directed. Many audiences love the heart and the artistic expression of the lead character Nick through his “mix CDs” (much like John Cusack’s “mix tapes” in High Fidelity). Michael Cera’s boyish charm delivers once again. No doubt, this movie tells a charming story… sprinkled in manure.
The film also offers parents and youth workers a glimpse of real-world morals and teenage perception of real-world hurt. The characters are genuine and the dialogue is authentic. But unfortunately, Nick & Norah’s doesn’t reveal real-world consequences. Even though characters seem to experience some loneliness and pain, we never see evidence of “regret.” In Nick & Norah’s world, apparently casual sex doesn’t have any consequences. At least Cameron Crowe’s Fast Time’s at Ridgemont High showed consequences both physical and emotional.
Be prepared for polar reactions to this film. Despite the concerns voiced by some critics, pro-gay groups love the movie because of its lack of proverbial gay stereotypes. Some parent groups are calling it clean compared to other mainstream films released to DVD the same month (The bar was pretty low: Sex Drive, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno). I’ve even read some positive reviews from Christians.
So am I being too hard on this piece of “art?”
The film certainly has cinematic merit- it will probably become a cult classic. But I just can’t bring myself to praise such an irresponsible film. My concern lies in its abundance of immitatable behavior and its seeming lack of real world consequences. We have enough media lying to our kids right now. This is one piece of art that my kids don’t need to fill their heads with.
(See our official review of this movie here.)
, president of The Source for Youth
Ministry, is the author of numerous books including the new
Should I Just Smash My Kid's Phone?
, and youth ministry books like
Ministry By Teenagers
Connect: Real Relationships in a
World of Isolation
, and the award winning book
Do They Run When They See You Coming?
speaks and trains
at conferences, churches and events across North
America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his
. You can follow Jonathan on
, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help.
Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live
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