Monday, December 3, 2007

Films for the Whole Family

Here's how our December goes, maybe yours too:
Three breathless hectic weeks leading to the best day of the year, and then a couple of weeks to breath again. And during that breathing time, there may be time to watch some DVDs with the family. So what is a film for the whole family?

It can be challenge to pick a family film if the criteria include having no offensive material. You might think the problem is just with modern films. We tend to think things are worse today then it has ever been; with today’s sex and violence and offensive language. After all, things were always better in the good old days, right? Why can’t every thing be like the old Disney films?
So why not go with one of the first Disney films? Surely those were safe films.
Why not start with the first Disney feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It’s rated ‘G’, of course. It’s the retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale about a young girl waiting for her prince to come. No one would find any sexism here, would they? But if we used it for film night, there are some really scary scenes with the Wicked Witch, the Huntsman ordered to take out a heart and the spooky trees. There are people that who would be offended by the witchcraft in the film. (Some Christians don’t like to see any presentation of black magic; of course these days there are practitioners of Wicca who would be equally offended.)

How about the next Disney film? Pinocchio: a good moral tale of a puppet that learns to be a good boy. There is smoking in that film, though; on Pleasure Island with the cigars. The ratings board have made new rulings that say any smoking will move a ‘G’ to a ‘PG’, a ‘PG’ to a ‘PG-13’, etc. So these days, would it be a ‘G’ film? And then there’s the use of the word, ‘Jackass’. And it doesn’t refer exclusively to the donkeys.

The next feature film from Disney was Fantasia, classical music visualized in animation. This could be a great cultural experience. But if people are bothered by the occult images in Snow White, they’ll surely be thrown for a loop by the devilish images in the “Night at Bald Mountain” segment. The original version of the “Pastoral” segment had topless lady centaurs and black centaurs based on ethnic stereotypes of the time. The Chinese mushrooms in the “Nutcracker” portion are not exactly P.C.

The next Disney feature was The Reluctant Dragon which is just dated and dull.

The next was Dumbo. That film features drunkenness. Sure it is clown, elephant and mouse drunkenness, but alcohol abuse nonetheless. Modern critics look at the black crows in the film as negative racial stereotypes. And where is Mr. Jumbo? Is the film a statement on single motherhood?

Do you know what one of my favorite Disney film's it? Swiss Family Robinson. The novel it’s based on, about a family stranded on a deserted island; a truly Christian novel. There are elements of faith that remain in the film, such as the family’s prayer of thanks when they land on the island. But there are violent scenes with the pirates (arguably portrayed as offensive Asian stereotypes.)

Are there any films without anything offensive? I can certainly understand people who give up on movies altogether -- quite a popular Christian fundamentalist position through most of the last century. But as for me, I think God has used some films and TV shows to teach me about Him. Some films and TV shows have helped me talk to my kids about important issues.

If we want to live a life without any offense, we can drop out of the media world completely. But we'll also have to avoid all other human interaction as well.

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