Monday, February 18, 2013

Innocent Entertainment or Sin-Centered Cinema?

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Proverbs 4:23

Oh great, here comes a rant about how children’s movies corrupt the world and will be the ruination of us all. No, my goal is not to slam children’s movies. My goal is to present you with some observations that have caught my attention in children’s films—Disney in particular—that concern me, and to get you thinking (this is The Thought Box) about what children really watch.

Families—Think of the children’s movies you’ve seen. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Jungle Book, Cinderella. Now remember how many of those movies had a family with both parents. Not very many, eh? Movies portray families as broken instead of whole. Perhaps a character may have both parents, but rarely do you find a family with both parents living together contentedly playing a key role in a film. Kids watching these parentally challenged movies do not observe how a complete family interacts, but just how one parent interacts with the character, and how one parent can play the role of two.  Now, I understand that a broken family can be essential to a plot like Cinderella, but overall, why not show how God designed families to cooperate as a whole? Instead, children observe single parents or separated parents running or attempting to run the family rather than the unity God designed.

Authority—Authority is continually mocked in children’s movies, portraying authoritative figures as weak and inept. Have you ever noticed that in kids’ shows, parents don’t seem to know what their kids “truly” need, and they often don’t listen to nor believe what the kids tell them (like in How To Train Your Dragon)? Policemen play the bumbling fool or cold-hearted villain, such as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, unreasonably restricting and not permitting characters to have fun or save the day. Sadly, cruel stepmothers or wicked witches often represent motherly authority, as in Cinderella and Tangled. In the movies, adults control cruelly, do not take kids seriously, or act as idiots.
When you look at Scripture, you find, “‘You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man’” (Leviticus 19:32), and, “…the authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1, NIV1984). However, young viewers notice from what they watch that authority in general goofs up. Kids—the smart, sensible characters—know much more than their foolish authorities, and this encourages them to rebel.

Rebellion—This is the biggest theme in Disney films (and found in other films as well). To name just a few examples: Ariel ignores her father’s warnings, Rapunzel sneaks out of her tower, and Mulan defies her father’s orders by enrolling into the army. Not only do characters rebel, they moreover get rewarded in the end for their disobedience. Ariel’s father gives her what she wants: human legs (and her dream man). After running away, Rapunzel realizes her mother held her back from a wonderful world, discovers the woman she called “mother” kidnapped her at birth, and finds her true love. Mulan—perhaps the best illustration—saves all of China.
Many are familiar with Ephesians 6:1: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right” (ESV). Yet they are taught by the movies to rebel, for this is right. Why obey when rebellion accomplishes more? According to what the children watch, “This is just a part of growing up. A little adventure, a little rebellion... that's good. Healthy, even” (Tangled).
God is very clear in the Bible about His view of rebellion. “An evil man seeks only rebellion, and a cruel messenger will be sent against him” (Proverbs 17:11, ESV). “Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:2, NIV1984). “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (1 Samuel 15:23, NKJV). Yet children are watching and absorbing examples to rebel, for everything will turn out fine in the end; after all, the children know more than their parents.

Other Themes—Themes such as “believe in yourself” and “follow your heart” also pepper Disney movies. While they may sound wholesome at a glance, a biblical look shows otherwise. “Believe in yourself,” says the movies. “Believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31, ESV), says God’s word, “…and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). What does “believe in yourself” mean, anyway? That if you believe hard enough, you can do things? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”: Christ, not myself (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).
“Follow your heart,” says the movies. “The heart is deceitful above all things,” says God’s word, “and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). Often, when movie characters follow their heart, they follow it no matter what it takes, even if it means rebelling.

Redeeming Qualities—If Disney and such children’s movies were filled only with such rubbish as I have portrayed, no one would have them on their shelves. Don’t get me wrong: there are positive values and virtues. Snow White shows kindness to the dwarves and receives kindness in return. Cinderella humbly works hard without grumbling. Many characters show loyalty to each other. And it is good to pursue your dreams if your dreams are biblical/where you feel God is leading you. However, after boiling it down, I don’t believe the good outweigh the bad.

            Some might be thinking, “You’re being over sensitive. It’s just a children’s movie.” That’s my point: children watch these things. I’ve seen my little sister’s altered behavior from watching a show where the main character manipulates to get her way. Afterwards, my sister whined and tried (note: tried; it didn’t work) to use the characters same tactics to get her own way. Do you think a four-year-old can discern for himself that rebellion and “follow your heart” are just silly qualities of a movie? You and I can watch the films and enjoy the animation and humor because we know that it’s just pure amusement, and we can compare the themes to Scripture. Young children don’t do that on their own.
 My main intention is not to never let children watch Disney. I’m urging you to watch it with them. Point out the good and bad qualities. Compare with them the character’s actions with Scripture. Teach them not to love the things of the world as the movie portrays. Train them how to evaluate the things they watch to “guard their heart” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV1984). Because I’m pretty absolutely sure God’s themes trump the movie’s themes.


Image by Leaping Lizard

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. It is one of the best I have read on this blog. Truly, it is the subtle themes which catch people off their guard when watching movies. I am often appalled at what people call "kids movies" these days. I think there are many themes of violence and human relations which shouldn't be seen until an older age-if at all. It behooves us to guard the hearts and minds of these little ones. Personally, I would recommend not only watching a movie with your child, but previewing it before they watch it. I can remember that the ONE time where are parents let the whole family watch a movie with them before having previewed it. The movie was horrible including foul language and arguments between the parents. I do think those few scenes I saw were a bad influence, so my point is to be careful! Think about what your children may act on based on what they see.

    So thanks again for a great post.