What’s the Real Issue with an openly Gay Character in a Disney Film?

Perhaps its with a sense of inevitability that we greet the news that the live action remake of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is to feature the first openly gay character in a Disney  film.  Bill Condon the director of the film has stated that this is a ‘watershed’ moment for Disney in that it will convey to children everywhere that being gay is perfectly normal.[1]  Hot on the heels of this was the announcement that the new ‘Power Rangers’ movie is also to feature an openly gay character.  Director Dean Israelite told the Hollywood Reporter: “she’s questioning a lot about who she is. She hasn’t fully figured it out yet.”[2]  Added to that, now ‘Doctor Who’ is now going to have an openly companion.   Now there is much that we can say about this starting with the obvious that the Bible teaches that the right and best place for sexual intimacy is within marriage between a man and woman (Genesis 2: 20-24 and 1 Corinthians 7:1-5).   And no doubt these issues may have been exaggerated  to generate publicity!   But I wonder whether that’s the main issue here?  After all, for many years there have been films and television programs that have set out to promote the gay lifestyle.

What I feel is the real issue here is that these are aimed at children!  As such, they are just another example of the increasing sexualisation of childhood.  Coupled with concerns about possible new legislation concerning sex education in schools, it seems more and more children are being force to engage with adult themes!

Now before someone tries to raise the old cliché that the Bible takes a negative attitude towards sex, it’s worth noting that the Bible  contains one of the most beautiful, and sensual, celebrations of love and sexual intimacy ever written in ‘The Song of Solomon’.  However, what is interesting to note among the heady mix of romance and frankly erotic imagery in the poetry is the recurring phrase: ‘I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases’ (The Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4).  One might wonder what bearing that has on the subject of the sexualisation children.  But Tremper Longman rather helpfully notes that: ‘the daughters of Jerusalem are surrogates for the reader.  We too are to learn the same lesson: Wait for love to blossom; don’t try and stimulate it artificially.’[3]  Surely what these filmmakers are doing is the complete opposite by trying to force such issues into the medium of children’s entertainment and make children engage with sexual themes whether they want to or not!

The Bible makes it very clear that the gift of children is a blessing from God (Genesis 1:28).  It is notable that Eve acknowledges this with the birth of Cain with the words: ‘I have produced a man with the help of the Lord’ (Genesis 4:1).  That being the case we shouldn’t be surprised that the Bible also has a lot to say about the raising and instruction of children.  One particularly relevant passage is Deuteronomy 6:4-9 with its emphasis on the instruction of God’s law within the family and the home.  When doing Dedication Services I have used verse 7 with its instruction: ‘You shall teach them (God’s laws) diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.’  The point being that there is nothing unusual or freakish about having God’s Word at the centre of family affairs, it’s completely natural.  After all it has a bearing on the moulding of a child’s character.

The apostle Paul when writing to the church at Ephesus gives this instruction: ‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’ (Ephesians 6:4).  Here’s a warning not just that fathers should not treat their children unfairly or harshly, but also that they should allow them to develop naturally within the framework of biblical teaching.  A rather good example of this balanced approach was found in the attitude of JC Ryle (the first Bishop of Liverpool) when bringing up his sons.  A friend of his sons noted that Ryle, with his gigantic figure and stentorian voice, appeared rather formidable, but that he was  actually  kind and hearty.  He noted that: ‘the atmosphere of the house was devotional; daily Bible readings, somewhat lengthy family prayers, and a good deal of religious talk.  But all was quite wholesome and unpretentious.’  Ryle coached the boys at cricket, football and fostered their love of books and wrote wise and interesting letters when they were away at school.[4]

This is surely the balanced approach that Christian parents would do well to emulate as it allows children to flourish, enjoy growing up and develop to their own personality, with consideration to Christian values and lifestyle.  It is not about them being a carbon copy of their parents or what others are trying to force on them.  And it runs contrary to the agenda of these film makers and a society that is trying to force children to grow up too soon.  It’s about time we let children enjoy their childhood as they used to be able to do.  We should let them be  free from adult obligations and pressures as that is the Christian way as it is God’s way and therefore,  the best way!

[1] http://attitude.co.uk/world-exclusive-beauty-and-the-beast-set-to-make-disney-history-with-gay-character/
[3] Tremper Longman, Song of Songs, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Company,2001) 115.
[4] Marcus L. Loane, John Charles Ryle, 1816-1900 (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1983), 52.

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