There’s a movie coming out soon that–from a Gospel perspective–has an awesome story of love:
…love that does not judge based on the outward appearance but looks into the heart…
…love that sacrifices, that willingly leaves comfort and wealth behind, accepting separation and lowered status…
…love that is powerful enough to break a curse and redeem the soul everyone thought lost….
What an opportunity to point out the parallels to Christ and the Good News.
But two minutes of questionable content can ruin all of that, if someone is so inclined.
If you haven’t heard all the hooplah, there’s a scene in the new live-action Beauty and the Beast which shows a man having feelings for another man, thus inviting a firestorm of judgment by concerned Christians on social media. Some are even going so far as to say that Belle’s love for Beast is an encouragement toward bestiality, further proof of the Magic Kingdom’s depravity! (/sarcasm)
Numerous Christian leaders have come forward to condemn the inclusion of a gay man having a romantic interest in another male character. It doesn’t help Disney’s cause that this news broke alongside another boundary-pushing moment, this time in a cartoon on Disney XD.
During a scene depicting a school dance, at one point all the pairs of students kiss. If you look away from the main characters and pay attention to all the shaded characters included as props for the scene, you’ll see that there are some same-sex couples mixed in with all the heterosexual couples.
This didn’t escape the Religious Right’s notice, and–coupled with the scene from Beauty and the Beast–a number of big-name leaders are calling for a boycott of all things Disney. (Good luck. Run down the list of all their affiliates and companies they’ve absorbed, and there’s a high chance you’re enjoying some Disney entertainment without realizing it.)
The biggest fear all these leaders have? We can’t have Disney pushing an agenda of “normalizing” homosexuality.
Here’s the thing: When we’re talking about between 2% and 10% of the population, it may sound small, but that’s a pretty sizeable group. That’s between 7 and 35 million people in the US. (Here’s a good break-down on that controversial 10% number.)
Not good enough? Not a big enough population to deserve any sort of attention?
Imagine someone claiming that every leftie on TV or in a movie was part of an agenda to “normalize” being left-handed. Picture a public figure claiming we should boycott a company because of their agenda of normalizing red hair. The population demographics are roughly the same. (2% average for red-heads, with some populations like Scotland and Ireland boasting 13% and 10% respectively. 10% for left-handed people across the board.)
Including a group, putting a token character or token couples into a scene–that’s not an agenda of normalization, that’s recognizing their existence.
Do we consider Uhura and Sulu in Star Trek as part of some aggressive agenda? African-Americans make up ~12% of the US population, and Asian-Americans make up ~5%.
I think rationally we can look back and say, yes, Gene Roddenberry was pushing boundaries. But he was displaying the reality that yes, there are people who are black or Asian. At the time, it may have riled some viewers, but now we generally look back and applaud his forward vision and inclusive casting.
I can already hear the argument coming: “Well, it’s different with homosexuality, because I believe it’s a choice.”
Let’s go with that. A lot of things are choices, and we see them normalized if not glorified all across media, yet there’s little outcry against it.
Sexualized characters? Heterosexual relationships outside of marriage? Infidelity? Promiscuity? Where are all the boycotts for all the companies that engage in “normalizing” this behavior?
Greed? Jealousy? Pride? All of these character traits are constantly on display–quite often it’s the hero or heroine who engages in these sins. Sometimes there’s a moral to the story and the downside is shown, but quite often, there are no consequences to this kind of behavior. Is that the good Christian message we want?
What about overweight characters? Perhaps we let the “agenda of gluttony” slip by under the radar because most often, fat characters are used solely as comic relief–an issue that merits its own post. Or perhaps we can look at the congregation filling the pews in real life and so we shy away from this one… it hits too close to home, or too near to the all-you-can-eat place we’re going to after the service.
Violence is the biggest one of the bunch. Some movies make it a point to display the horrors of war or the cruelty and heartlessness of criminals or villains, and maybe there’s an argument for why those depictions matter in the context of those stories. (Saving Private Ryan, for example, would probably not be as hard-hitting without the hyper-graphic rendition of the Normandy landing on D-Day.)
But how often do we watch entertainment that includes graphic violence? How often are our children exposed to such movies or TV shows? Some studios avoid all the gore and blood, or present enemies that are probably more tolerable, like armies of Ultrons or robotic aliens. But having visited the theater for a number of recent movie releases that fall under the Disney umbrella, I can say that our culture sees no serious problem with kids watching a ton of violent content.
Why aren’t we protesting the normalization of violence–something we all hope our children will never witness in their entire lives? And yet a movie with positive messages and powerful potential allegory is subject to boycott because “oh dear, it has one of the gays in it, and I wouldn’t want my kids to think that’s normal even though they’ll likely encounter actual gay people all throughout their lives.”
It’s a fact. Redheads exist. So do lefties. And so do homosexuals. Pretending they don’t is a foolish plan. Actively protesting anything that acknowledges their existence or recognizes them as fellow human beings?
The only agenda we’ll impact that way is our own.