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 Vice is an extremely intense and potentially quite disturbing alternative news show. There are many shots of dead and bloodied bodies lying on the ground, relatives standing over the bodies of loved ones and screaming, disembodied limbs blown off by bombs, etc. Subjects graphically describe violent acts, such as what happens when a child suicide bomber as young as 6 detonates explosives strapped to a loaded vest. Viewers will see young children smoking and carrying enormous firearms, and will follow reporters into scenes of great tension. They will also explore aspects of the prostitution trade, and may hear sexual acts described. Many guns appear onscreen and are sometimes fired; we see footage of suicide bombings, very young kids in military camps, men beating themselves bloody with chains, and the like. All that said, this is an excellent, absorbing, smart show, and very mature teenagers and adults will appreciate the complex takes on terrifying international news stories.
What's the story?
"News From the Edge" is how HBO aptly bills half-hour VICE, which explores scary and/or wacky news stories from across the world using correspondents largely culled from Vice magazine. Reporters travel to such inhospitable locations as the workspaces for the illegal gun-makers of the Philippines, or to prisons in Afghanistan who hold failed suicide bombers to find out why, and how. The answers may cause you to sleep restlessly at night, though the reporting is unfailingly smart and fascinating.
Is it any good?
Vice-the-show nails the same tone as Vice-the-magazine: Smart, aghast, intrigued. It's nice to sit on a comfy couch watching someone else risk his life transporting former prostitute/slaves from North to South Korea crouched in the back of a van, or joining a motorcade with Philippines Governor Mangadadatu, who survived a 2009 attack by a political rival that left his wife, sisters, lawyers, aides, and many journalists dead. We see the wife and sisters dead, by the way, bloody, face down; cut to the face of the man who lost his family.
Yes, this is some disturbing stuff. It's hard not to watch and wince. But you want to watch nonetheless, and after you're done, you'll want to shudder and give thanks for the safety and security you (hopefully) have. If teens watch (and carefully consider if they should), definitely watch with them to gauge how freaked out they are by the stories -- and how much they learn.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the news. Do you think this show is reporting real news? How is it different from a traditional news show? Is it better? More entertaining? More or less valuable?
How do you think the makers of Vice want the viewer to feel when they are done watching the show? Do they want to inspire action or emotion? What brings you to this conclusion?
Does it trouble you that the subjects featured on Vice are often people of color, and the Vice reporters are white guys? Does that dynamic create an "us against them" feeling?
Have you read Vice magazine? Is this the sort of show you would have expected to be connected to that magazine? Why or why not? How is the subject matter on Vice-the-HBO-show different from Vice-the-magazine?
For kids who love true stories
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.