When we learned that we were soon going to be parents we began to revaluate some areas of our lives. This has been for the good and has led to multiple life changes. But when we learned on Friday that we would be having a daughter (Evelyn Grace; you can see the ultrasound video here), I began to think of other things. It seems that many people are concerned that if we protect our children from the world they will grow up to be socially inept, or that this protection will only encourage rebellion in later years of life (an objection I just don’t see in Scripture, c.f. Proverbs 22:6). And so many parents give their children a liberal dose of “the world” to make them well-rounded.
Though this post could relate to many things, music, mass media, public schools, etc, I pose the question for a specific purpose. It seems many people blindly accept the messages of Disney without really contemplating the meaning of the messages. It has led me to think, that many of the “beloved classics” are actually a bad influence on raising a child in the covenant—and this entails more than just some of the magic that is involved; that, I must admit, is one of the least of my concerns. Clearly Disney has produced a plethora of movies, and not all of them necessarily carry bad messages, but as we have considered them more and more, we have become more and more convinced that Evelyn will not be watching these beloved classics—at least not until she is old enough to understand her place as a true covenant child and distinguish between fantasy and reality.
For instance, consider The Little Mermaid. I haven’t seen the movie but I do know something about it. Ariel, in one of the scenes sings a song called, “Part of Your World.” In this song she is singing about the gadgets and gizmos that she owns. But the whole song seems to be one of dissatisfaction, and greed, “You want thingamabobs? I've got twenty! But who cares? No big deal, I want more.” Then she goes on to sing about the things she wants. Call me crazy, but this is strikingly pathetic, and greedy. It is the idea that one never has enough, and the only way to be happy is to get more, more, more. In the words of John Piper, “Stuff, stuff, stuff…It’s killing us.” This world is built on the need and desire for stuff, and her song seems to encapsulate this idea. Why would I ever find it cute to have Evelyn dancing around singing this song? It’s appalling!
Another common theme that seems prevalent in the Disney movies I have seen is disobedience, often against parental control. Just think, Ariel disobeys her father and goes to explore the world, Simba goes into the uncharted territories (after singing an incredibly individualistic song called “I Just Can’t Wait to be King”), Jazmine leaves the palace grounds to go seek adventure outside. Mulan pretends to be a guy in order to enlist in the army, breaking the civil laws of the land (something Robin Hood is notorious for too). Most of the time this breaking of authority, while being implied as “bad” is pictured and imagined in such a way as adventuresome. But it’s a direct violation of the fifth commandment! Children were killed in the Old Testament days for disobeying their parents (thank goodness for grace!). In the Law of God, disobeying parents is mentioned right alongside not committing murder, or adultery, etc. Is this something that I want Evelyn exposed to at such a young age?
The worst part of all this is that I am being dead serious. Need we mention that Beauty and the Beast seems to propagate free love? Who cares if a human loves some big gross beast, we ought to love whomever we want (this is of course founded on Disney’s backing of homosexual relationships). And Lady in the Tramp shows the fun and romance of having a “good girl” fall for a “bad boy.” Cinderella, though not horrible, seems to instill in many girl’s minds that they are Cinderella and should wait for Prince Charming (seems rather worldly), and how many girls never outgrow that childhood fantasy? In Pinocchio we here the ever annoying song, “Let your conscience be your guide”…umm “The heart above all things is deceitful.” This isn’t all one giant conspiracy theory on my part nor is it an ignoring of the Christian liberty we have in Christ. I don’t think these movies are intrinsically evil, that’s counter Scripture (c.f. Mark 7:14-23). And I don’t think all Disney movies have bad messages (I mean seriously, The Fox and the Hound is a classic!) and that if you watch them you will grow up to be a horrible person. But I certainly don’t think they do much to help instill in your children a love for the gospel and rejection of the world. We are charged, in our child's baptism, to "strive, by all the means of God’s appointment, to bring her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?” (BCO 56-5). And as parents we want to ensure that we do everything to remove every obstacle that stands between our child and the cross.
So I’m asking for thoughts (especially from parents!). Is there redemptive quality to Disney movies? Is all of this one giant conspiracy theory? How do you, as parents, protect your children from the world that they might be “infants to evil” (1 Corinthians 14:20)? Am I raping my child of their "deserved" childhood?