By now, conservative parents know they have to be on guard when their children graduate from high school and go to colleges full of hedonism and liberal professors eager to indoctrinate students with leftist ideology. But, judging by a recent spate of children’s movies, parents would be wise to start guarding their kids’ worldviews at a younger age. Much younger.
This weekend, I found myself with a free Saturday; so, I packed my three kids up and headed to our local movie theater to see “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2.” It was a cute movie, full of fun food puns and adorable characters. The movie picks up where the original move left off. However, inventor Flint Lockwood’s machine, designed to turn water into food, has now morphed into creating food-animal hybrids. These hybrids turn out to be evil monsters who threaten the entire world’s safety.
The movie’s premise (spoiler alert!) goes something like this: Evil beings, who live in an isolated part of the globe, are waiting to destroy us. If they aren’t stopped, contained, and destroyed, they will cross the oceans and make it to our shores. In fact, they are targeting the Statue of Liberty, which means that freedom itself is at stake. One man leads the charge in protecting the world and destroying the creatures. But when a young, wide-eyed guy and his friends make the trek to kill the creatures, they realize they aren’t monsters after all. The so-called evil beings are simply misunderstood. They’re caring parents, just like us. Liberty isn’t really at stake. In fact, the man leading the charge against the so-called evil beings is an evil, deceptive capitalist trying to make money off the creatures’ destruction.
Of course, the movie seems so innocent because the “evil beings” in this movie are “shrimpanzees” and “tacodiles,” not Islamic jihadists. But the arc of the story, obviously echoes real-life events, should be noted.
Another kids’ movie being shown across America, the animated “Free Birds,” undermines religious belief. It features a smart, clever turkey named Reggie at a free-range farm somewhere in the midwest. Reggie is the only one who knows that the annual Thanksgiving slaughter is just around the corner. When he tries to warn his dumb friends of the upcoming danger, they turn on him. Turns out, the president of the United States happens to visit that farm and pardons Reggie who — in turn — somehow goes back in time to try to stop turkeys from becoming the traditional meal for the Thanksgiving holiday. Jackson Cuidon, writing for Christianity Today, points out what many irritated movie-goers also noticed:
You can already see the weird religious parallels starting to emerge: the stupid and ignorant turkeys at Reggie’s home, as they’re being carried off to be decapitated by the farmer, imagine that they’re going to “Turkey Paradise,” and celebrate the farmers as being kind and all-powerful rulers. Reggie’s flock is exclusive and stupid and collectivist and refuses to listen to the “reason” of people better than them, and, it is strongly implied, represent your average Midwestern Americans. The Indian turkeys of 1621, in contrast, don’t have any notable religious beliefs. But they look at death with an almost eastern mysticism-like transience. The death of an elder is commemorated by a circular air current of feathers that rises up out of their roost and blows away in the wind, here one day and gone the next. In most respects, the Indian turkeys are smarter and happier than modern-day American turkeys, and so it’s hard to see that point as anything but an endorsement of at least a-religious sentiment.
In case you didn’t notice this nuanced take-down of faith (spoilers ahead), the movie’s climax reveals that Reggie was right. “The Great Turkey” was not real. It was actually just Reggie, who posed as the deity because he realized the other turkeys needed something to believe in to give them more confidence and make life seem more palatable.
It’s reminiscent of Marx; “religion is the opiate of the masses” is not only meant to say that religion is a lie, but that it is all that keeps people living, all that prevents them from being immersed in the pain of living a terrible life. In this sense, religion is a falsehood told out of compassion.
And these are just two recent examples of kids’ movies attempting to subtly — or not-so-subtly — undermine traditional values. Remember when ParaNorman introduced the first gay animated character in an animated movie for children?
There’s an old English proverb that goes something like this:
“Let me make the songs of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws.”
For parents taking their children to their local movie theaters, this doesn’t necessarily mean we keep the kids at home watching old VeggieTale DVDs. However, we do need to consider the role that art plays in the shaping of our kids’ worldviews and start teaching our kids our values at the earliest age possible.
It’s a lesson Hollywood already knows too well.