March 9, 2017 By Mark Brunke: March 17th is almost here! I’ve been looking forward to this day for at least half a year. No, I’m not a huge fan of Hermione Watson. No, Beauty and the Beast is not in my top 10 list of Disney movies. So why am I excited? Because I’ve got a cute and cuddly little princess of my own who absolutely adores the classic Beauty and the Beast. Angelina, my two-year-old daughter, and I have danced dozens of times to the songs from that classic.
But this Beauty and the Beast remake has added a bit of controversy to its theatrical debut. It was announced that LeFou, Gaston’s bumbling sidekick, will be portrayed as a gay character in this go around. And there will be an exclusively gay moment toward the end of the film.
As you’d expect, there has been quite a mixed response. Many celebrate the inclusiveness of Disney. Others have reacted with swift outrage at the pro-gay agenda in a children’s movie. I’m really not riled up either way. But it has changed my plans on seeing it. For those of you reading who are Christians with young children, I hope you find this helpful. But even if you are not Christian or if you disagree with me about homosexuality, I think you can find some good parenting advice here as well.
Homosexuality is a sin and so is a lot of stuff.
As a Christian, I look to the Bible for right and wrong. There’s no getting around the fact that the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin in numerous passages including Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. If you’d like more of my thoughts on that, you can find them HERE.
But just having a gay character in a movie is not going to stop me from seeing it. Movies are filled with sin. Action movies are rife with violence and murder. Romantic comedies usually contain or at least hint at pre-marital sex. I really don’t think I need to go on listing. Homosexuality is a sin. Sure. And so is a lot of other stuff in a lot of movies.
I choose to see movies with sin in them all the time. Why doesn’t that bother me? In short, because I’m an adult. At length:
Sin isn’t really the issue. Discernment is the issue.
Because I’m an adult, I know how to process what I’m hearing and seeing. I can run the choices and actions of the characters on the screen through my worldview, values, beliefs, and moral code. I can pick out what is right and wrong, good and bad from what I’m seeing in a film. In Christianese, this is called discernment.
So when I watch the Matrix, I can admire Neo for his self sacrifice and choose not to emulate his swearing. When I see Rogue One, I can admire the ethical dilemmas Cassian finds himself in and even admire his choice not to assassinate a certain character while still deeming his cold-blooded killing of an ally at the beginning as… totally not cool dude. As adults, we can discern. We can weigh through a lot of what we are seeing and learn from good examples and bad ones alike. We can also decide if seeing something will be too much for us to handle or too strong of a temptation to sin.
Children don’t know how to do this right out of the gate. Kids just believe, accept, and imitate almost everything and anything they see. After watching some Ninjago, I don’t really feel led to punch someone in the face but all my five year old wants to do is jump off the couch with a flying kick to my eye. Kids imitate. And it takes a lot of time, maturity, and parental coaching to help them learn how to discern.
So when it comes to movies and shows you know have characters or scenes that go against the values you want to raise your kids to have, here is my advice:
Shelter them before they can discern and engage in conversation after they can discern.
Our children need us parents to be the gatekeepers of what they see. When all they do is imitate, we need to be putting only good examples in front of them to learn from. That means we need to watch out for movies and shows with violence before our little ones decide to punch everything. We should probably avoid characters that lie so they don’t pick up on that little habit. And when it comes to matters of sexuality, we need to put examples in front of them that are right and true. Believe me, our kids pick up on a lot even at a young age. Angelina asked Christy the other day, “Where is my true love?” She got that from Snow White. A couple of weeks ago she gave me a long kiss on the lips with her eyes closed and then tilted her head to the side. She was copying the happily ever after kiss at the end of lots of Disney movies. So it’s our job as parents to put the right stuff in front of them.
But that’s only half of our job. It’s also our job to be teaching and instructing them with our words about right and wrong. We need to be using life lessons and calling on things that they’ve seen around them. And as we guide our kids we will notice that each of them matures differently in this area of being able to discern right and wrong. My five year old really has her head on straight when it comes to talking through what the good examples and bad examples of Ninjago are. So as their discernment grows, we can thoughtfully allow them to see movies and shows that include the occasional bad example. And it’s our job as parents to have an intentional conversation about what we just watched.
So let’s bring it all back to Beauty and the Beast. I’m not shocked by the inclusion of a gay character. I’m not even upset. But I will make a careful parenting decision with my own kiddos about what they are ready to see and what they are not. I don’t even really know what this “exclusively gay moment” will be. My guess is that two men will romantically kiss. If that’s the case, it’s a bad example for human sexuality and romance. My two year old isn’t discerning enough to process that, so we won’t let her see it. My five year old might be up to the task as mommy and daddy coach her through thinking on that one. I’ll be thinking about it. She might need a few more years. While Christy and I figure it out with our kids, I urge you to think it through for yours!