Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crazy. Stupid. Illegal. My Letter to Steve Carell

Like many ministers, I face an occupational hazard when I go to see movies, watch television, read a book. The stories so often form as future sermons in my mind, that I some times feel all entertainment should be a tax deduction.

But, last Friday night, a friend and I went to see Crazy. Stupid. Love, seeking a complete diversion and an opportunity to laugh.

And I did laugh -- as well as cringe at some of the sexual messages, especially the attitudes about casual sex and the lack of any visible signs of contraception or STD prevention, no less sexual negotiation or limit setting. But, it was the end of the movie that really upset me, in that it portrayed illegal adolescent behaviors.

I contacted my friend Nell Minow, who is the "Movie Mom" for as well as hundreds of radio stations around the country. (Read her at

She encouraged me to write Steve Carell, the producer and star. I thought you might enjoy reading the letter I sent him. Even better, write him one yourself. I'll let you know if I receive an answer!

Mr. Steve Carell
Carousel Productions
4000 Warner Blvd
Bldg 144
Burbank, CA 91522

Dear Mr. Carell:

I am writing to you as a certified sexuality educator and an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister who is concerned that your new movie, “Crazy, Stupid, Love” models behaviors for teen and tween audiences that puts them at risk for legal action. I am the author of several books for parents on talking with their children and teens about sexuality, and I have worked with adolescents on responsible sexual behavior for many years.

There are several sexual messages in the movie that I disagree with, but I am most concerned about 17 year old Jessica giving 13 year old Robbie nude photos of herself that she took. It is illegal for anyone to create sexually explicit images of a minor, to possess such images, or to distribute them. Although it may seem nonsensical, several states have passed additional laws that make it illegal for teens to take and distribute such pictures of themselves to other teens. Indeed, because of their age differences, depending on the age of majority in the state, Jessica might also be charged and convicted as a sexual offender for exposing a minor to child pornography. In some states, she could face life in prison or have to register as a sex offender for life. Further, the gender of the characters reinforces a stereotype that teen boys cannot be victims of child sexual abuse, when in reality, a boy is most likely sexually victimized by a teenage girl.

These are fictional characters – but their actions may well be repeated by young people in your audiences. I know that your movie is out in general release, and I don’t know what can be done by Carousal Productions at this point to get out the message, “don’t’ try this at home”. But, I do know that PG-13 movies shouldn’t be modeling criminal behaviors as harmless or worse, acts of generosity.

I would welcome hearing a response from you. Please let me know if I can provide you with additional information.


Rev. Dr. Debra Haffner

1 comment:

Sara Ferguson said...

I agree with you that the depiction of a 17 year old girl giving a 13 year old boy nude photos of herself--as if that's just a sweet thing older girls do--was the most troubling part of an otherwise enjoyable movie. (And I didn't even think of the legal implications.)

I was also troubled by the portrayal of the young boy's behavior toward the girl as innocent. She repeatedly asked him to stop declaring his love to her and texting her; she told him that he was making her uncomfortable. Yet he persisted, and his behavior was depicted as not only acceptable and kind of cute, but as something that true believers in real love do--as equivalent to his dad's trying to save his marriage. But it's not. The boy was engaging in harassing behavior. It is not a good message to send, that it's ok for boys to disregard girls' boundaries, and that doing so counts as love. It's creepy. There could have been a sweet story line about a boy's crush on an older girl, but that wasn't it.