By Adam Brown –
I can hardly believe that in just a little more than a month, you will be turning seven years old. It seems just like yesterday that Mom and I were bringing your 4-pound-little-self home from the hospital. Adopting you into our family, and being your Dad, is truly one of the great joys of my life.
Over the course of your first seven years, I have introduced you to the world of Disney Movie Classics. From Snow White to Moana, we have watched a virtual pantheon of animated daughters navigating their relationship with their fathers.
I still remember (before we had to shelve it due to the evils of a sea witch and her demon-eels), the joy I felt at your befuddled confusion that Ariel would choose Prince Eric over King Triton. Why, you wondered, would she leave her dad? And, for him! Exactly.
Herein lies the heart of the matter.
Among many other theological problems, these movies seem to have increasingly embraced the role of a strong and rebellious heroine who resists the loving care and authority of her father. Most troubling of all, she often eventually succeeds, leaving her father with no option but to recant.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the worst offenders.
The Little Mermaid
Triton is very clear that Ariel is Not to Go to The Surface. So, what does she do? She goes to the surface, trades her voice for a pair of legs, and tries to get the prince to kiss her within three days. It’s a father’s worst nightmare! Ariel actually fails in her quest, which ignites a chain reaction that concludes with the transformation of the King into a polyp with a lifetime membership in the garden of lost souls.
I would do for you exactly what Triton did for his daughter. But, how about we avoid all that by just not going to the surface in the first place?
Although daughterly defiance is not a major theme in this movie, Jasmine’s father is portrayed as a bumbling fool with no actual ability to shepherd his daughter’s heart. Neither is he equipped in any capacity to protect her from the wiles of Jafar, the Sultan’s own approved and appointed Royal Vizier.
This is not an image of fatherhood I want for you; neither of me, your earthly father, or of God, your heavenly Father. God is a perfect shelter for you and I, though flawed in many ways, will always seek to protect you from the ills and evils of this world.
What’s so wrong with Kokoum? Pocahontas admitted he would be “a handsome sturdy husband who builds handsome sturdy walls.” What’s more, her dad, the Chief, who knows and loves his daughter, selected him for her. No matter. Pocahontas doesn’t want handsome and sturdy. She wants to see “what’s around the river bend, just around the river bend.” John Smith is just around the river bend, that’s what. And, Selah, do you remember what happened in Pocahontas 2? John chose adventure on the high seas over a life with Pocahontas. The Chief, it seems, was right after all.
Since I desire what is best for you in every way, I want to play a key role in helping you to find your future husband. Aside from choosing Christ, choosing a husband is the biggest decision you will ever make because it comes with lifelong consequences. I will not abandon you in this decision.
Conscripted by the Emperor to protect China from the Huns, Fa Zhou may have been aging and in poor health, but it is a father’s joy to lay down his life for his family if need be. Especially in Chinese culture, but equally so in Canada, it is not right for a daughter to rob her father of his honour in this sacred duty.
You are not to risk yourself for me. I lay down my life for you.
Maybe bunnies shouldn’t be cops. That’s not a crazy conclusion, is it? And yet, Judy never even stopped for a second to seek or to listen to any of Stu Hopps’ counsel. She just bounced into Police Academy as if her father’s opinion didn’t matter.
Selah, my opinion does matter. God has entrusted me to keep watch over your soul until the day you are married, at which time your husband becomes accountable before God. Please seek and listen to my counsel.
Similar to King Triton, Chief Tui is very clear: No One Goes Beyond the Reef! So, what does Moana do? She goes beyond the reef. Twice. Even though she successfully returns the heart to Te Fiti, her defiance could have ended very badly. The Chief had his reasons for trying to protect his daughter and his tribe.
I know that my rules will not always make sense to you. There will be times when you feel prevented from doing something daring. Please know in these moments that my rules are never meant to hold you back. They are always in place to keep you safe and to help you to flourish.
A Disney Princess to Emulate
I know that I am the one who introduced you to these movies. Just know that, in spite of all the fun we’ve had watching them together, the characters and worldviews of these movies are not always worth imitating or embracing.
There is, however, one Disney Princess, that I encourage you to emulate. Her name is Belle. She loves to read and she loves her father. Indeed, her loyalty to her dad is a wonder to behold. And, though I never want you to trade places with me if I am ever captured by a Beast, real or metaphorical (remember what I said about Mulan), you are permitted to admire the strength of her character and the beauty of her devotion.
The thing about Belle is this. Although she, like you, was beautiful on the outside, her true beauty was on the inside (1 Timothy 2:9–10). That’s what I want for you.
I love you, my little girl. Don’t grow up too fast.