A recently released movie Cruella (PG-13) apparently shows the backstory of how Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians became so cruel. Loki (TV-14), a new series, puts a pansexual and gender fluid demigod (according to the comic books, at least) center‑stage to entertain the masses.
In the first instance, Cruella follows Disney’s cartoon feature 101 Dalmatians (1961). Both Cruella and her goons are comically obsessed with making coats out of Dalmatian fur. Save the puppies! (Sorry, I gave the plot away.) The antics of the villains are obviously ridiculous. Now, fifty years later, the prequel informs and entertains its viewers with Cruella’ past in order to see why she is so evil. And, according to our culture, the assumption is that it’s not sin within that makes one more the sinner. It’s one’s terrible circumstances that make for such a terrible person. Man is innately good, so if Cruella did not suffer, she could otherwise flourish in society. Whether or not the movie expressly articulates this worldview, I’ll never know, but this seems to be a recurring theme for entertainment. (Joker, anyone?)
As for Loki, once again, here is a cinematic production that stems from something typically offered to children (comic books). Some in our society will wait with bated breath to see if Disney advances its LGBT agenda through the shifty brother of Thor. Disney again asks its viewers to entertain themselves with a character who loves to sin, and maybe his sins will be more abominable than before.
I’m not trying to nitpick at two shows in particular or critique the entertainment industry as a whole. However, sometimes upholding the gospel means addressing a problem here and there (cf. Jude 3–4), and these shows are examples of larger, trending problems. That’s what concerns me most as a pastor and father. Here’s just a couple of items to consider.
First, our society’s common grace is increasingly eroding. We’ve gone from 101 Dalmatians to Cruella and from Dennis the Menace to Loki. When our society could put its collective mind on better things (cf. Philippians 4:8), it chooses to increase its appetite for evil instead.
Second, both of these shows stem from something first offered to children, and in the pull to complete a narrative, the viewer may not realize values change while characters stay the same. Broadly put, whereas children used to enjoy the triumph of good over evil, now those same people will enjoy the triumph of evil over good. And if their children join them in viewing, the children will be worse off than them in time to come.
With these trends in mind, here’s just a couple of thoughts from Scripture:
- Whoever the villains may be, wisdom is to avoid them because they seek to shed innocent blood (Proverbs 1:8–19). Don’t walk with them or tread their paths or enjoy their sin on a screen (cf. Proverbs 1:15). Defeating a villain is one thing. Glorying in a villain’s defeat of others is another.
- If the blood they seek to shed is not so innocent, remember the words of the Lord: “Vengeance is mine” (Deuteronomy 32:25). We are not the final judges of the sins of other men, and neither should we revel in the vengeance of others, however painfully the avenger may have suffered.
- Finally, though villains may not sit with you in your home, they can shape your heart through your ears and eyes (cf. Proverbs 4:20–27). If they are angry, wrathful people, make no friendship with them, even as patrons, lest you learn their ways and entangle yourself in a snare (Proverbs 22:24–25). Entertaining yourself with another’s lust for vengeance can tempt you to be like him.
Christ shows us a better way: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).
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