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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mr. Robot centers on a socially anxious tech genius who moonlights as a vigilante, using his skills to squash everyday evil in a darkly disappointing world. Strong, unbleeped language includes "f--k" and "s--t," and the main character uses illegal drugs to manage his mental health (albeit in a highly measured way, not as an addict). Sex is strongly suggested but not actually shown, although naked bodies are visible from the side, and brand names and logos (such as McDonald's and Forever 21) are part of the landscape.
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What's the story?
By day, hyperintelligent introvert Elliot (Rami Malek) is "just a tech" at a New York-based cybersecurity company, where he works as a programmer alongside his longtime friend, Angela (Portia Doubleday). But after hours, he doubles as a black-hooded vigilante who pries his way into people's lives to expose the evil lurking within. It's a carefully crafted system that, along with measured doses of morphine, helps keep his crippling anxieties at bay -- until a mysterious stranger named MR. ROBOT (Christian Slater) extends Elliot an invitation to anarchy.
Is it any good?
In spite of its borderline-terrible title, Mr. Robot is darkly intriguing, and lead actor Malek is a big part of the draw. From his scathing inner monologues to his socially awkward silences -- not to mention his abnormally large eyes that project a near-constant state of alarm -- his character is both oddly endearing and a little bit frightening, the sort of fellow who spends his nights bringing bad guys to justice but could just as easily be a serial killer.
Yet as withering as Elliot's analysis of the world can be, it also raises important questions about the choices we make and the lives we lead. Trouble is, Mr. Robot's unbleeped language, illegal drug use, and murky messages result in a drama that's too mature for most teens and much better suited to adults. So let older kids watch with caution -- or better yet, try watching with them to compare notes on the show's social commentary and how close it comes to the truth.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Mr. Robot's central character and how he functions as an "antihero" or a deeply flawed protagonist we still want to root for. Are antiheroes meant to be role models? How can we learn from them -- and even like them -- in spite of their flaws?
How does Elliot's view of the world compare with your own? Is society as consistently disappointing as Mr. Robot would have you believe? If so, how would you change it?
How have television standards for strong language changed over time? Does hearing (or not hearing) words such as "f--k" and "s--t" on a show such as Mr. Robot make you more or less likely to use them in real life?