If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, or if you’re following me on Facebook or Instagram, you probably know that I love television, film, and the performing arts.
Over the past year alone, I’ve referenced Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen, ABC’s The Middle, Disney’s Frozen, and even Broadway’s Wicked. In my book Team Us, I managed to reference The Princess Bride, I Love Lucy, The Hunger Games, Lost, Full House, and Spiderman.
Here’s what you might not know though: I am really picky in what I watch. According to one of my graduate school professors, I was the first student in the film program I attended to ever ask for a PG-rated adjustment in the just-too-edgy required viewing list.
Though grad school is a dozen years behind me, I’m still cautious with the media I consume. And that’s not arbitrary. In Proverbs 4:23, Solomon writes, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (ESV). One way I can protect my heart is by diligently exercising discernment when it comes to what I watch. When it comes to media consumption, this kind of discrimination is a good thing.
So what are some ways my man Ted and I do this? Here are three principles that help guide our media choices.
1. We Read Trusted Reviews
Production value is of some value. After all, Ted and I do love excellence in artistry. The thing is, we read reviews to learn what content it includes. Is there nudity or explicit sexual scenes? Is the humor debased? Is the violence needlessly gruesome? How does it portray marriage and family?
Let me note that Ted and I don’t shy away from tough subject matter. I’ve been deeply moved by stories on issues such as the Holocaust, sex trafficking, and war. What we do discriminate against is when the exploration of these issues becomes wanton in the areas of sex, violence, or language. To me, such wantonness shows a lack of creativity, to be honest.
So where do we find trusted reviews? My favorite resource is Focus on the Family’s Plugged In. The reviewers offer thorough and detailed analysis from a Christian perspective. We also consult Movie Guide, whose sensitivities we appreciate.
2. We’re Picky in Whose Recommendations We Take
We’ve found that our standards and those of or family members are sometimes different. Not everyone defines the phrase “good movie” the same.
As a result, we tend to only take recommendations from those who are like-minded in what they consume. That doesn’t mean we discount recommendations from those who approach media differently, but we are much more inclined to consider a film or TV show from someone who exercises similar discrimination.
3. We’re Willing to Turn it Off or Turn Away
There’ve been times we’ve taken a recommendation from someone whose media discernment is different from ours, or we’ve failed to read a review first. When it turns out we’ve chosen poorly, we do one of two things.
One, if it’s clear that the show is consistently baseless in some area, we turn it off. We’re done. For example, we had several friends recommend the series Homeland. We failed to read reviews. Though we were drawn to the premise, it didn’t take long for us to realize we needed to turn it off and walk away.
Two, if it appears to be okay overall, but does throw in an occasional sensuality, we may continue to watch, but choose to forward through questionable scenes or avert our eyes. In Team Us, I mention how we did this with the series Lost.
So the next time you and your spouse consider taking in a film, TV show, or live play, why not do what Ted and I do? Read a review. Choose your recommendations carefully. And, if you find that your choice isn’t as “good” as you hoped it would be, be willing to turn it off or turn away.