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Thirteen—A Movie Review

Thirteen—A Movie Review

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The movie Thirteen that was recently released in theaters, and in light of the ‘buzz’ surrounding this movie, four St. Louis-area youth ministers – Kathie Hammel (Holy Trinity), Christina Bockwinkel-Baker (St. Anselm), Heather Gallagher (REAP Team), and Paul Masek (REAP Team) went to see it recently. After the movie, we sat around for a while, in ‘shock and awe’ and processed this powerful film about the lives of two adolescent girls. Here are our reflections…

We all agreed that it would be probably be good for parents to see, too. As you know, many parents are in denial of the fact that this activity occurs in their neighborhood or could occur even in their home. Through a focused look at the main character of this movie, the audience is made aware of many warning signs of inappropriate and dangerous behavior, long before the mom notices these signs. All parents should be able to know and recognize warning signs for their own children and their children’s friends.

Additionally, it is not a movie for young teens to see due to its significant drug use, profanity, and strong sexual content. However, some older teens might benefit, if they can process the film and its contents with a wise, faith-filled adult who has already

  1. Seen the movie, and
  2. Believes that this particular teen would benefit from viewing and discussing it.

We encourage you to be aware that this movie is disturbingly graphic, and contains some rather explicit scenes not suitable for everyone, and which some might find offensive. For a detailed description of the profane, violent, and sexual content of this movie, hit this link –

http://www.kids-in-mind.com/T/thirteen.htm

Also, before you go to see it, we would encourage checking out the full review of this movie (rated as ‘adults, with reservations’) detailed on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website –

http://www.usccb.org/movies/t/thirteen2003.htm

which states, in part "While its raw unfiltered depictions of self-destructive behavior, including drugs and casual sex, are at times difficult to watch, director Catherine Hardwicke’s film strikes a cautionary rather than exploitive tone, effectively exposing the hypersexual, materialistic pressure cooker in which many young girls find themselves, especially when lacking parental vigilance."

We also agreed that such behavior does, in fact, happen among teenage girls in St. Louis, and even within the specific ministries and regions we represent – though we know some would rather be in denial of this fact. Admittedly, things will look different here in St. Louis and even in other regions of our country than they do in this movie, since we don’t have Boardwalks and Melrose Blvd. However, we in St. Louis do have ‘The Malls’ where teens do hang out quite a bit. And, though clothing and some behaviors might look slightly different depending upon where you live, this movie does in fact give us a powerful glimpse into the hearts of troubled teenage girls.

We believe that seeing this film was, for us, a wake-up call to continue to do what we are doing with renewed vigor and excellence, reaching teens with the Gospel and giving them hope and alternatives to what contemporary youth culture offers. There is an urgency to combat the lies being told to teenage girls in the mass media about how they must look, act, dress, etc.

Seeing the movie, and the ensuing discussion that followed, also emphasized to us the importance of ongoing formation of parents, when this is at all possible. The girls engaged in destructive behaviors in this movie came from dysfunctional families wherein parents had no firm foundation of faith or morals. Although we as youth ministers know our primary target audience is teens, we must be diligent in reaching their parents in creative ways so that they can be the parents God is calling them to be. We are also hopeful that the teens we are reaching today will be the parents of tomorrow (though hopefully not too soon!) and able to form the next generation on a solid foundation of faith, hope, and morals.

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