John Lewis: Good Trouble Parent Guide
Older kids and teens should take the time to watch this portrait of a living American hero.
Parent Movie Review
“Every generation leaves behind a legacy. What that legacy will be is determined by the people of that generation. What legacy do you want to leave behind?” – John Lewis
John Lewis: Good Trouble lays out the legacy of this civil rights leader and Congressman. Through interviews with Lewis and his contemporaries and documentary footage, this film illuminates his experience in the Civil Rights Movement and his contributions as a politician and legislator.
Historical documentaries often face a challenge in relating to a modern audience – especially to kids and teens who might not be interested in what they see as irrelevant past event. Thankfully, this documentary is especially effective in connecting the struggles of Lewis and other Civil Rights activists to ensure voting rights with contemporary threats to the franchise in a number of American states. There are so many important issues in modern politics that it can be hard to focus on one problem long enough to see effective change. This documentary, by highlighting the sacrifices people have made in order to vote makes the issue more immediate and personal.
Even more impressive is the portrait the film paints of John Lewis himself. Not only by highlighting his political experience and bipartisan work on important legislation, but by showing his personal connection to thousands of people across the country. Some of the most emotionally effective scenes are those in which the Congressman is surrounded by people, all of whom are clearly inspired and personally affected by him. And then there is Lewis’ reaction to them – kindness, patience, and deliberate, genuine interest in the people he meets.
John Lewis: Good Trouble is almost devoid of content concerns, apart from some documentary footage of the brutalities against protestors. I would say this is largely suitable for all ages – if you can keep the kids sitting still long enough. Documentaries as a genre aren’t always the most accessible for young kids, but older kids and teens should absolutely take the time to watch this portrait of a living American hero.
The title, Good Trouble, refers to a line frequently used by Lewis in speeches: “Get in trouble, good trouble, necessary trouble.” According to the documentary, Lewis has been arrested 45 times in his life, all for protesting for justice, liberty, and equality. His dedication to ensuring that “liberty and justice for all” means more than an empty slogan has come at personal cost – but his legacy demonstrates that there is such a thing as good trouble.Directed by Dawn Porter. Starring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, John Lewis, and Martin Luther King. Running time: 96 minutes. Theatrical release July 3, 2020. Updated July 3, 2020
Watch the trailer for John Lewis: Good Trouble
John Lewis: Good Trouble
Rating & Content Info
Why is John Lewis: Good Trouble rated PG? John Lewis: Good Trouble is rated PG by the MPAA for thematic material including some racial epithets/violence, and for smoking.
Violence: There are several clips of historical footage featuring police brutality and violence against peaceful protestors. A number of people are shown in this footage with serious injury.
Sexual Content: None.
Profanity: There are occasional uses of racial slurs in historical footage.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None.
Page last updated July 3, 2020
John Lewis: Good Trouble Parents' Guide
Civil Rights demonstrators were subject to unbelievable violence and personal risk. Why were people so willing to take these risks? What prompted the counter-protestors to react so brutally against people quietly demanding equal treatment? What parallels does this have today?
Biography.com: John Lewis
Equal Justice Initiative: Segregation in America
What laws has your area passed about voting rights? What can you do to ensure that your vote counts? Where does your representative stand on these issues? How can you hold them accountable?
The Guardian: Which US states make it hardest to vote?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
John Lewis has authored two graphic novels: the first, a trilogy titled March, which is his perspective on his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and how it shaped his life. A sequel, Run, focuses on Lewis’ life following the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Lewis has also written a book, Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America, which offers his perspective on modern political and personal problems. Voices of Freedom, by Henry Hampton, tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement through interviews with participants. Freedom’s Daughters by Lynne Olsen focuses specifically on the contributions of women to the Movement, and in the struggle for equal rights since the Civil War.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a modern story of the dangers of being a black man in America, told as a letter from Coates to his young son.
Related home video titles:
The obvious choice is Selma, which tells the story of the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, and in which John Lewis appears as a young civil rights organizer. Mississippi Burning tells the (slightly fictionalized) story of the investigation into the murder of three civil rights workers who were brutally killed in Mississippi while trying to register African-American residents to vote. Dr. Martin Luther King was not representative of all black leaders at the time – to see another side of the story, watch Malcolm X, starring Denzel Washington as the titular revolutionary thinker as he struggles to hold people to account for the treatment of black people in his country.
As John Lewis points out repeatedly, voting rights in the United States have been crumbling for years. A Supreme Court decision and inaction in the Senate mean that fewer people are eligible to vote, and more people are removed from registries and subjected to voter ID laws. Suppressed: The Fight to Vote focuses on the effect those decisions have had on the 2018 elections. But voting rights are not limited to what happens in the polling place – gerrymandering of districts (which has been legal in America for decades) has a disastrous impact on free and fair elections. Slay the Dragonis a documentary about how gerrymandering distorts the will of the voting populace.