Disney And Culture

Pop culture, and Disney right along with others, has been pushing agendas that clash with God’s moral standards for as long as there has been pop culture.

Much ado is being made about Disney and their up and coming movie, Beauty And The Beast, because the writers/producers incorporated a gay character into the story. This “bold move” is supposedly ground breaking.

The fact is, pop culture, and Disney right along with others, has been pushing agendas that clash with God’s moral standards for as long as there has been pop culture. Perhaps we have unconsciously believed that fairy tales were safe places, that the taint of sin would not spoil a happily-ever-after story told to children. After all, fairy tales came into being in part as cautionary stories to lead children into right moral thinking.

The fact that the movie makers have included a gay character has gotten a lot of people’s attention. But honestly, I’m more frustrated than I am outraged. Why does the gay issue catch our attention more than, say, the ancestor worship of The Lion King? Why were Christians not outraged at the nature worship in Avatar? And why do we love Star Trek in spite of James T. Kirk’s philandering?

Just yesterday I watched an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that included binaries—people who were neither male nor female. Undoubtedly this concept was an early introduction to the transgender lifestyle, but what I also noticed was that the thinking of these people was limited. They only could choose between 1 or 0. Things were either black or white.

This kind of limited view seems to be infecting our American culture. We are either all in or all out. We support wholeheartedly or we have complete antipathy. There are no in betweens. We apparently can’t discern good parts from immoral parts. Or we believe that any immoral part taints the entire work.

I have news. We humans, because of our sin nature, are all tainted, so it’s pretty impossible to have a work of fiction without tainted parts.

But here’s where I started. Why are we outraged by a gay character but not outraged by Superman, in the 1978 movie, sleeping with Lois Lane? Why didn’t Christians boycott Sleepless In Seattle or Pretty Woman or any number of other movies that have been made since, which depict people involved in sexual relationships outside of marriage?

Have Christians truly decided that sex, any sex, between a man and woman is OK, but sex with someone of the same gender is the unforgivable sin?

Don’t misunderstand. I think our culture is wrong to normalize sin. But I think it’s wrong to normalize serial marriages or living together in place of marriage—not just homosexuality. I think it’s wrong that pornography has been accepted into our culture as normal, that deviant S&M sexual behavior is considered proper material for a best-selling book and movie.

In other words, I don’t think Disney is groundbreaking by pushing our society away from a Biblical standard of morality. I think it’s simply joined the crowd. And why wouldn’t it?

From a human point, Disney wants to make as much money as possible. They have determined that the left-leaning liberal way which is “inclusive” and “tolerant” is the way of the future. They don’t want to be left behind. (Pun intended).

But we Christians also have Scripture that clearly tells us society will become increasingly twisted. Isaiah gives this warning:

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight!
Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine
And valiant men in mixing strong drink,
Who justify the wicked for a bribe,
And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right! (Isaiah 5:20-23)

My contention is that our culture has been calling evil, good, and darkness, light for some time, and we’ve not exposed the lies.

We’ve also not infused pop culture with the truth, at least not in a meaningful way. I think J. R. R. Tolkien did in The Lord Of The Rings, and C. S. Lewis did in Narnia, but I’m hard pressed to think of other books or movies written for the culture at large that have stood so clearly for Biblical morality and truth.

I realize that Christian authors have learned a lot and grown a great deal in skill. I realize that Christian film making is in its infancy and is experiencing growing pains.

But I have a greater concern—that we who are creating stories are missing the way we can influence others the most.

I’m not one who believes that Christian fiction is a tract or too preachy because there are Christian characters. I think stories that encourage Christians to live godly lives are necessary. But isn’t that what The Lord Of The Rings did? Isn’t that what Narnia did? And yet both were equally accessible to people who aren’t Christians.

Those stories inspire and encourage, but at the same time they suggest that what we have here and now is not all there is. There is a High King who is coming. There is a Land further up and further in. We hunger for what we have only tasted in story.

All this to say, we need to strengthen our discernment muscle. We take in garbage every day—in the music we listen to, the videos we watch, the TV programs we tune in. That’s to be expected because the world is a reflection of the sin nature of us all. Believers are to be light pointing to Christ. We ought not expect to find light coming from the darkness.

And yet, on occasion, beauty comes from the ashes. The image of God which He stamped upon Humankind at creation, shines through, and we are stunned by beauty, whether music or story or painting or photography or some other form of creating.

Unlike the binaries, however, we must stay alert, think deeply, and see the whole—the beauty, and the Fall. By recognizing that some parts of culture reflect Human sinfulness and some reflect the stamp of God’s image, we can be on guard. We can take an important step to expose that which violates God’s moral law:

Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them (Ephesians 5:11).

We expose deeds of darkness, I think, by pouring light on them. When we hold up Christ, when we show Him as the One who rescued us from the kingdom of darkness, the distinction between the two is clear. Mordor or Gondor? Aragorn or Sauron? The White Witch or Aslan?

No one needs to explain the dangers of Mordor or the evil of the White Witch. The stories showed us. The stories exposed the evil and put a longing in our hearts for the light and glory, for the hope we have in heaven, for the restored relationship with God available in Jesus Christ.

So what’s the big deal with Disney? They do what people do. We believers need to praise the parts that reflect God’s image and we need to expose the parts that reflect our fallen condition. But that should be standard operating procedure—not just something we do because there’s a gay character in the story.

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.
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  1. ionaofavalon says:

    Very true, very true. We overlook the above for the sake of the good things in the story, so… perhaps we should do the same with BATB. It is still a good story, even with this whole LeFou fiasco. I too, am more frustrated than angry about the principal.

    • I agree, Tamra, though I don’t know as I’d characterize it as overlooking the sin. Rather, I think we simply need to say, That’s wrong. We need to recognize it, examine it in light of Scripture, and then move on. Will it spoil the whole movie? Maybe for some people, but I think it’s more important for us to realize ALL sin is egregious to our holy God. But He left us in the world for a purpose, so we need to engage our culture, not hide from it.


  2. Sounds to me like a call for biblical spiritual and emotional maturity. Amen! We all need more of that! Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Yep, that’s pretty much what it is, Brennan. And a call to exercise discernment so we don’t gullibly and glibly consume everything or reject everything on the basis of the current cultural hot button issue.


  3. So well said. The modern double standard among Christians where we find it easy to turn a blind eye to fornication, adultery, and other illicit relationships in our media — even telling ourselves that scenes of sexual nudity can be OK for the sake of “art” — but act shocked and appalled when two women hold hands or men exchange a kiss on screen, is hypocritical. We don’t get to whitewash the sins we find personally appealing or at least understandable, while loudly condemning the ones we don’t.

    That being said, I’m not interested in the BatB movie whether LeFou is portrayed as gay or not. Despite my long-standing love for the fairytale and the great lesson it represents (as G.K. Chesterton so succinctly put it, “a thing must be loved before it is loveable,” a highly Christian concept of love which we rarely see in media), I haven’t seen a thing in any of the trailers to convince me that a live-action shot-by-shot recreation of an already classic Disney animated film has any reason to exist at all. It looks like a cynical cash grab to me, and I’ll be greatly surprised if there’s any quality of innovation or surprise to recommend it.

    • Excellent points, RJ. I may stay away from the movie based on that line of thinking, too. The animated film is a classic! There’s no way a realistic version could improve on it, I don’t think. It’s just another sad example of film making taking the easy way out. Why come up with a new story that might be, you know, creative, when we can just remake one we know people already love?


      • I admit I was pretty skeptical about the live action version of CINDERELLA as well, but that turned out to be a rather lovely movie with a surprisingly fresh take on the story and a thoughtful message about kindness that wasn’t in the animated movie. Whereas this one seems to follow the animated version practically note for note (songs very much included), and that just seems pointless to me.

        • Sparks of Ember says:

          Actually, I’ve heard the movie expands Belle’s character quite a bit and spends more time developing the relationship between her and the beast. And the movie also features 2 interracial couples. I was not excited about Cinderella based on the previews and didn’t see much difference in the movie aside from when the king passed away, which I loved. So it’s difficult to judge the nuances of the live-action from the previews.

  4. Onisha Ellis says:

    It bothers me because the idea of questioning ones sexual identity is being nudged onto our children. I agree with your points about all of the other sins in literature and movies, but to me, this is deeper.

    • Onisha, I should have made a distinction between the discernment we need for our own lives and that which we need for any children we’re responsible for. I’m greatly concerned about the younger generations, too. They don’t have a refined ability to discern. They don’t know Scripture well, they aren’t aware of the harm that can come to them when they see sin portrayed as normal. I think part of a Christian’s responsibility to expose sin is to give the needed guidance a young person needs.

      But we need to do so Biblically.


  5. Autumn Grayson says:

    I think my main problem with the way the homosexuality is being portrayed in popular media is the fact that they tend to stick to a similar narrative in most stories, usually ignoring all the side issues that make a big difference. People act like it’s such an unusual thing to write about gay characters, even though everyone and their brother is writing gay characters now(especially if you look in the indie comic community online) Or the fact that LGBTQAetc supporters cry for representation, yet hardly ever represent people like asexuals in their stories, as if it’s hard for them to write stories about people that choose not to obsess about romance or sex.

    And then, more importantly, there seems to be the subtle narrative that homosexuality and questioning one’s gender identity is definitely right for society, and that those who disagree are rarely right about anything. They depict most people that disagree as backward, ignorant, stupid, or evil. And they want to introduce the issue to little kids this way. Rather than subtly teaching people that disagreeing with homosexuality is evil or stupid, why can’t they be as open minded as they claim to be and present all sides of the issue? Many people disagree with homosexuality in the same way they disagree with someone who eats nothing but junk food. They may disagree with it and think it’s unhealthy, but they don’t hate the eater of junk food or want to hurt them.

  6. Sparks of Ember says:

    This. Yes!
    Am I thrilled about the agenda – no. But I don’t understand the stink everyone is making considering the content they choose to overlook in other movies.

What do you think?