More Twilight Reactions

Posted on: 11/29/08 7:46 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I don’t normally spend so much time talking about one film. But it’s amazing how much of a pop culture phenomena the movie Twilight has emerged to become. As I reported in an earlier blog, the film opened at over 70 million, and teenage girls everywhere are falling in love with the “perfect” mate they find in the lead character Edward.

Polarized responses have been flooding in. “It’s not so bad.” “It’s ridiculous! Why would you even fathom watching it with your kids!” “It’s fantastic!”

In light of all the buzz, I wanted to post two fantastic responses I read recently. The first, a personal word from the blog of Christianity Today’s movie guru Jeff Overstreet. I think he really nailed the problem I have with the whole Twilight Saga. Here’s just a snippet:

The love story makes the relationship between Jack and Rose in Titanic seem like a mature, adult relationship. At least those characters had dialogue, when they weren’t just shouting “Jack!” “Rose!” “Jack!” “Rose!” “JACK!!” “ROSE!!”

In this film, there’s not much shouting. They just stare at one another with deeply constipated expressions. Somebody could have a lot of fun on YouTube with the long sequences of Edward and Bella gazing at one another, simply by overlaying the sounds of  noisy, unpleasant bodily functions…

The idea of romantic conversation or intriguing dialogue in Twilight is deeply insufficient as well. A single episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or even Moonlight has better dialogue and stronger characters. Heck, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog is more substantially romantic than this.

Sure, the basic “Beauty and the Beast” elements are at work here. They will always work. I’m not going to deny that the Power of Myth is at work in this story. What disappoints me is how poorly it is developed, how many opportunities for thoughtful storytelling are bypassed for the sake of including long sequences that amount to “How far can we go without actually fornicating?” If you want a good vampire story involving a fascinating, monstrous vampire and an engaging heroine, check out Robin McKinley’s book Sunshine. Now THAT would make an interesting movie!

But don’t tell me that this is a love story. This is a lust story. You have to get to know someone to really be “in love” with them. Otherwise, it’s just hormones. Good luck with everything after.

Then I love this email from one mom to another- a friend (one of the moms) forwarded it to me. This really gives you a peek into the mind of teenage girls in regards to this film.

I don’t think I can explain my full opinion about Twilight without writing a whole dissertation. In a sentence, I think the books/movie are very mixed in terms of being good or bad. It is chaste in the sense that the characters don’t go far, but I’ll tell you also that it is VERY sensual and intense even. I knew (my daughter) was going to see it, probably this weekend, and I took the opportunity to see it with her. We talked about it. I liked the movie, but I like sappy tales of romance. (My daughter) is ga-ga over Edward, the lead role. It’s not hard to see why.

I can’t say I’d recommend it, but if my child were interested in it, I’d definitely see it. It’s not an Oscar worthy movie or anything. I can completely see why teen girls have gone crazy over it. Edward is perfect. Plain and simple. He denies himself for the girl, Bella. He is so taken with her that he watches her sleep. He is strong enough to save her from a car falling on her and other vampires trying to kill her. He sacrifices himself for her, even to the point of death if necessary. I could go on.

(My daughter) said, “I want an Edward.” I said, “Every woman wants an Edward. He’s perfect. I want an Edward. But, he doesn’t exist. Not in human form. Actually, Jesus is Edward. Jesus is the only one who can fulfill every longing, every need, etc.” She listened, but then she said, “Mom, can you just let me enjoy my teenaged moment, here?” I loved that. She was so real, so caught up in the romance. I’m not sure that’s good, but I’m not sure it’s all bad, either. We had such a great conversation about what she is looking for in a boyfriend/husband/mate. It was SO good in terms of what she was willing to talk about BECAUSE the movie opened that part of her up. I’m so glad it was ME who was there to answer questions and talk instead of her friends. Now, of course, she’ll be able to obsess over it all with her friends, but she’d have done that anyway.

I could go on and on. I loved the movie. The books are even better. However, it’s definitely not something I’d just openly recommend. Very mixed. Certainly, many teens and people would find it sappy and stupid and worse. It is. But, it certainly taps into the longing and romance and idealized perfection we, and teen girls, seek. Good stuff for discussion.

That is my very brief (believe it or not) take on the whole Twilight phenomenon.

I thought both of these provided some great insight.

You can read the barrage of comments on my original blog on the subject here.

In the Middle of Nowhere

Posted on: 11/27/08 10:16 PM | by Jonathan McKee

For Thanksgiving my family and I went up to my brother’s… in the middle of nowhere.

Okay… it’s not really nowhere, but he lives in a small Northern California town, population 368. One grocery store, one “farm and feed supply,” and the next town up (17 miles away) has a McDonalds!

My brother is a pastor in a small country church that brings out almost 200 people (from his and surrounding towns). It’s a fun town. Everyone waves to each other as you pass them on the roads. Most people farm or ranch. Good people.

For Thanksgiving day we go out to my cousins, who live in an even smaller town. They have a 900 acre ranch. 30 to 40 of us ate a Thanksgiving meal together. Then some cousins rode quads, others went on a walk on the property… I went skeet shooting with my son, my brother and a heap of cousins (then, just for fun, we decided to experiment and see what shooting a 12 gauge slug into a gallon jug of water would do. Wow! Very cool!)

At night we ate another meal together and everyone got out their guitars, banjos, violins, etc. My daughter Ashley has been learning guitar from my dad… they both played. My dad played banjo (no Deliverance jokes!), and my son played the uke. One of my cousins (my son’s age) is an amazing fiddler. We had quite the little band, half of which were 15 or under.

From my brother’s 8 month old daughter, to my 80-something grandma… fun for all. We sang worship songs, Christmas carols, even some really old bluegrass. It’s not necessarily my style of music, but it’s my style of family fun.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

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Landmark Cyberbullying Trial

Posted on: 11/26/08 6:57 AM | by Jonathan McKee

Many of you may remember the case about the girl and her mom who created a face MySpace account with full intent to hurt a girl that they didn’t like. Their plan worked. The girl did get hurt… she committed suicide. (We mentioned it in a Youth Culture Window article a while back.)

The case is now in the hands of the jury.

Drew (the mom) is charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of unauthorized computer access for allegedly violating the MySpace terms of service by creating a fake profile for a non-existent 16-year-old boy named “Josh Evans.” She faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for each charge.

According to prosecutors, Drew conspired to create the account with her then 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, and a then 18-year-old employee and friend of the family named Ashley Grills, for the purpose of inflicting psychological harm on 13-year-old Megan Meier, who then committed suicide.

Meier had angered the Drews by calling Sarah Drew a “lesbian.”

Meier, who suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts, fell in love with the fake “Josh,” prosecutors said. She killed herself only after he turned on her, and told her “the world would be a better place without you.”

Read the whole article here.

Why We Need Change in Youth Ministry

Posted on: 11/24/08 9:41 AM | by Jonathan McKee

A couple weeks ago we launched a new podcast– one where my buddy Brandon and I interviewed Mark Oestreicher (CEO of Youth Specialties) about his new book, Youth Ministry 3.0

The discussion was fascinating, a much needed conversation about “why we need change in youth ministry.” Marko blogged about it yesterday, plugging the podcast and outlining the “7 Sins” he shared with us. He has started a Facebook group about the book, and several people on that page are plugging our podcast and talking about it (for those that like to listen to a recording, rather than read a book).

I haven’t really gone on record about the book yet, so I figured I’d share my 2 cents.

My two cents on Youth Ministry 3.0

First, I think the book is a must read for youth workers. It is one of those books that will stretch you- a needed stretch for most. It forces us to think out of the box when it comes to why we do what we do.

It’s a fact that many of us in youth ministry tend to gravitate toward a expected list of “do’s” in our youth ministry. In other words- when it comes to our specific ministry, most of us tend to think about “Wednesday night youth group, Sunday morning, our small groups, etc.” We’re very “program” focused. Marko’s book questions that kind of thinking, explaining why it might have worked decades ago, but doesn’t work now.

Even if you don’t agree with all of his conjecture (i know I didn’t), his history of youth ministry is fascinating, his insight into the needs of today’s teenager was perceptive, and the questions he raises are not only relevant, but necessary. It’s a must read for any youth leader, and a great conversation starter in youth ministry leadership circles.

How far do we take this?

I think the over-reactions to this book could be scary. I hope that people won’t abandon their “programs” all together. One of the biggest thrusts of Marko’s book is that today’s teenagers are looking for belonging. Many of our small groups and youth groups provide that for some of our kids. It would be a shame to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

“Programming” has become a bad word in the last two years in youth ministry circles. It’s actually pretty amusing. In my Connect Training, I try to help people understand this phenomena by introducing to “people,” Loni Lovem, and Peter Programmit. In the workshop I describe Peter and his extreme use of slick programming, focus on numbers, etc. Then I talk about how Loni Lovem emerged- really as a polar reaction to Peter. She wants to be anything BUT Peter, so she refuses to do anything with programming and tries to just go and “love kids.” Go where kids are at and just love em. But don’t try to organize anything, because that would be “programming,” and programming is BAD!

In this seminar I propose questions for each side. I ask Peter questions like, “Do you really know the kids that are coming to your programs?” and “If a kid is missing one week… are they missed?” I ask Loni, “How do you make first contact with kids? Do you stand out front of a high school campus after school in an overcoat and say, “Hey kids, do you want some candy?” and I ask her, “Where is a safe place where these kids can ‘belong?'” (you can hear me go through this whole scenario in my workshop at YS this year- YS sells mp3’s and CD’s of their sessions here)

There is not easy answer to this tension. The answer is obviously a balance. That’s why I like Marko’s Youth Ministry 3.0. A lot of people reside on the side of Peter Programmit. Marko’s book comes from the trenches of Loni Lovem and provides a needed extreme pull toward her side. I just hope that this “pull” doesn’t prompt youth leaders to drop existing venues where kids can connect right now (in fear that they are just “programs!”) These venues can be effective instruments in our toolbelt, that can help even Loni provide a safe place where kids can go once she makes contact. That’s the key. We need to be “going to them” (something Peter needs to learn) but also be open to being part of venues (something Loni needs to get over!) where kid can connect.”

That’s my quick two cents.

Now That the Movie “Twilight” is Released…

Posted on: 11/21/08 3:44 PM | by Jonathan McKee

Last night (Thursday) I was at a movie screening for the new Disney film Bolt (a great film by the way). On the way out of the screening, the sidewalks around the theatre looked like the front of a Barnes and Noble bookstore the night before the last Harry Potter release. Hundreds of teenagers huddled in blankets (yeah, it’s actually cold here in Sacramento in November) waiting for the doors to open to the highly anticipated Twilight.

The particular Regal Theatre I was at was showing three midnight showings of the film, showings that have been sold out for quite a while.

Don’t be mislead in any way- this film is quite the pop culture phenomenon.

A lot of parents are asking me, “Should I let my kids see this film?” A question I have yet to answer with just a “yes” or “no.” instead, I share my concerns (like in our Youth Culture Window article and my blog about it) and then leave them with, “it’s your call.”

I had two people screaning the movie for our ministry so we could pass our “two cents” on to you. The first was Lynda, a youth worker who volunteers with a small group of girls at her church. Her girls were all going to see the film, so she figured that she might as well join them so they could talk about it. She has read all the books and emailed me her educated two cents at 2:54 AM last night:

Ok… lets just say that normally when I read a book, then watch the movie version, I am very disappointed.  Not the case with “Twilight.”  I thought they did a good job of condensing it down.  There were parts that were added to keep the flow going, but it was done well, I thought.  I felt like I was watching cliff notes for the book.  (Hope that makes sense…)
 About the sensuality….  the scene where Edward has Bella tell him that he is a vampire… they talk and end up lying shoulder to shoulder, she is breathing heavy…. (the laying shoulder to shoulder wasn’t the sensual part, it was the looking at each other & her just being “breathy”…) the anticipation, I guess, of what is to come of this relationship.
The “bedroom” scene : she is in bed talking to her mom when Edward shows up.  He wants to kiss her, but not sure he can control himself he tries to lightly kiss her, she leans up into him for a more active kiss (that’s when we see her in her underwear), then he ends up pushing her away.  It seemed like it was less than a minute, you saw her in her underwear for like 20 secs….  out of place yes, super sensual, no.  I thought the other scene was more sensual.  They do end up laying next to each other, talking, she eventually falls asleep, and cuddles up next to him.

Todd, our movie review guy shares his two cents in his review of the film here on our movie review page. He really enjoyed the film and gave it a score of “Theatre Worthy.” I love his “two cents” to parents about whether kids should see it. Here’s just a snippet:

I really only found one concern: the sensuality. A very vulnerable young girl is sneaking around with a guy, lying on her bed in her underwear with him, and kissing him. The snuggling stops right there- so you decide if that’s a good message or not. (Is it good that the film has no sex? Or does the film mislead audiences that snuggling in your undies is harmless? Kids are hearing a lot of mixed messages right now. Trojan’s campaign seems to hint that sex is unavoidable and protection is the only answer. Who is right? …or are both messages misleading?) Regardless, these are discussions that you want to have with your kids.

Good stuff! 

INSERT: The film did record numbers in it’s opening weekend, bringing in over $70 million.


Posted on: 11/20/08 3:58 PM | by Jonathan McKee

A decade ago I wouldn’t understand this at all… but I almost did a backflip yesterday when I went to the gas station and saw only $1.99 per gallon.

I thought the days of less than $2 were gone. Once we passed $4… I thought that was the point of no return. This past summer I did several speaking trips where i remember putting gas in the tank for $4.60 a gallon. (ouch… it hurts just thinking about it!)

Being from California, most other states’ gas prices actually look pretty good comparitively. When i’m speaking in another state, it can be up to 50 cents a gallon cheaper. California is usually one of the highest.

That’s probably why I was soooooo ecstatic when it hit $1.99 at my local station yesterday.  (I wonder how low it is in other states right now?)

Imagine how happy I was when my I filled my Nissan Sentra for only this much!

Woohoo!!!! We have grocery money left!

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Movies This Weekend

Posted on: 11/19/08 1:14 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This weekend there seems to be a lot of movie options. As a movie fan… I’m intrigued.

I get to a see a screening of the new animated BOLT tomorrow night (Thurs). I’ll be adding my two cents to our movie review page Friday. Todd will be screening Twilight, to post a Friday review of that highly anticipated (clarification: highly anticipated by teen and tween girls) film. I’ve already chimed in on that film in my blog and youth culture window page.

Our movie review page also will have the review for the new Bond film up this weekend- which I am told- was very good. Right now we have the review for Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (in Theatre’s now) which Todd scored “Theatre Worthy”, as well as some rental releases including Wall- E (loved it- a score of “Worth Buying”), Kung Fu Panda (loved it), and Tropic Thunder (which Todd didn’t like, but I have to admit was a funny satirical look at Hollywood actors. Careful… really bad language).

A note about Kung Fu Panda. I watched it with my family last night. Usually I’m ahead of the game with movies. But with this one, my kids had seen it, and I hadn’t. They loved it and told me I would too. I was cordial, but inside I was thinking, “Oh brother.” I really didn’t think the previews looked that good.

Boy was I wrong!

It was really fun. I’d give it a score of “Worth Buying” using our movie review page scoring guide. First, it was really funny. Jack Black is a riot. Second, it was actually clean. Animation films of late don’t always achieve that. But this film had about one joke in the entire movie that the most conservative would object to (when the Panda is kicked between the legs and he exclaims, “Oh my tenders!”) The film is actually rated PG for “martial arts violence.” LOL. The film is G… trust me.

Pop some popcorn. A lot of good movies.

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Evangelism for Hot Women

Posted on: 11/18/08 10:04 AM | by Jonathan McKee

I’ve seen about every kind of evangelism training out there… but this method?

This girl seems to think that missionary dating is the answer. Of course, she says that it helps if you’re “hot,” like her. (Paris Hilton couldn’t have said it any better) She claims, I want to use my beauty for GOD, and want to encourage Christian women (my sisters in Christ) to do the same, according to the Great Commission.”

Wow. What if you’re not hot?

Her site proclaims, “Calling all Hot Women of the LORD!!!!”

Her pitch:

Not only can we date hot guys (as only hot Christian girls could do), but hopefully we can lead them to God and help them get saved them from the burning fires of Hell. I’ve outlined a few tips to help you get a date off to the right start, step-by-step. Jesus saves through hooking up with cute heathen guys!

It’s hard to know if this is real. I thought maybe it was… until I saw some of the items she has for sale. T-shirts for you or your dog (yeah, I’m serious.) Or… the classic “Flirt to convert” thong! LOL (does this thing have a “two cliffs” illustration in the back?)

I had a link to the site… but someone just emailed me with the fact that a few of the member’s entries on one of the dating “sub pages” were rabbit trails to porn sites… so you’ll just have to take my word for how pathetic it is. 

Here’s a screen shot.

(ht to Darin)

Just Four Minutes

Posted on: 11/17/08 7:38 AM | by Jonathan McKee

It’s finally here.

Those blog subscribers who are youth workers have been hearing us talk a lot about a fun little resource we’re launching on our web site at THE SOURCE, and that is “4-Minutes.”

No… not the Madonna song.

“4-Minutes” is just another way we at THE SOURCE can provide you with training and ideas about youth ministry topics. The format is video and the content always varies. Sometimes we will just be interviewing an author or speaker you may recognize. Other times we might be taking a peek at a youth ministry on the front lines and what that type of ministry actually looks like. Sometimes it might just be a lot of fun! All this… in less than 4 Minutes!

In our first goofy little episode, Furby and I simply introduce “4 Minutes” and brainstorm some of the guest and topics we will have… and we say the word “stuff” A LOT!!!!

(click here to see the video if you get received this via email or RSS feed)

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I Want a “Virtual” Divorce

Posted on: 11/14/08 3:28 PM | by Jonathan McKee

This sounds like a Coen Brothers film (Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading…), but no, unfortunately, the story is very real. Reuters reports:

A British woman is divorcing her husband after discovering his online alter-ego was having an affair with a virtual woman in the fantasy world of Second Life, media reported on Friday.

Amy Taylor, 28, said her three-year marriage to David Pollard, 40, came to an end when she twice walked in on him watching his online character, Dave Barmy, having sex with other virtual women.


Yeah, you read it correctly. And if you peeked at the entire article linked above, you’ll find that this couple met online; then the wife had suspicions about his online activity, so hired a virtual private eye, who spied on him having virtual sex with a virtual prostitute. That’s a lot of “virtual!” 

Yeah. You can’t make this stuff up.

Funny enough… the story is getting a lot of press with a lot of people blogging about it. I’m in my hotel in Harrisburg, PA right now and I just saw this story running on CNN. The reporter was actually pretty sharp. After making fun of it a bit, he talked about how people should “get a life” instead of wasting so much time in virtual worlds. He went on to talk about the fact that this affair was probably a true emotional affair. I think he’s right on all accounts (they do need to get a life, and it was a real emotional affair)

Second life is a popular virtual world where kids and adults create characters called avatars and explore virtual worlds, meeting people, picking up on people, etc. Much like, the site that David and I wrote that Youth Culture Window article (The Hotest Virtual Teenage Hangout… a Little Too Hot) about a few months ago.


(ht to Alec in Scotland)