1. I LOVED the 2019 movie Aladdin with a few hesitations and I believe there are several life lessons in the fairy tale that you can talk about with your kids.
2. If you’re NOT going to have discussion with your children afterwards, then don’t take them to this movie! Sure, it’s fun to watch, but how is it shaping their beliefs? Be sure to take the time to talk through good and evil, the powers that are true and not true, and about their own choices in life.
3. This blog post is about parenting choices in media and helping our kids navigate truth. Parenting topics are so polarizing, but I don’t want this topic to be that way for us. I know we live in modern-day America where everyone takes a side on an issue and then only defends, labels, argues and accuses, but wouldn’t it be awesome if we could listen to each other even if we don’t see things eye-to-eye? I know I want to sip a cup of tea while I listen to your ideas and chat about our viewpoints, chuckle at the differences and, ultimately, learn from one another’s unique perspectives.
If you’re good with these three things, then let’s get started!
Last Saturday I took two of my daughters to watch the newly released movie Aladdin. You’re probably going to gasp a little at this next thing – none of us had seen the first one. I know, I know, we must live in a hole or something. Well, when the first Aladdin came out, I had just gotten married and graduated from college. I had never been drawn to cartoons so I never was compelled to see it.
Fast forward 27 years, we have seven children – five are grown while I’m still raising two daughters, ages 14 and nine. Most would say I’m a pretty strict and conservative mom. I have definitely been careful about our selection of what they watch, especially when they’re eight years old or younger. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t make it freerange tv viewing after age eight. I utilize www.pluggedin.com to help me navigate current movies, games, etc as a great parent resource. In fact, with my tweens and older, I tell them that before they come to me and ask me about seeing a movie, they need to look it up on Plugged In and read through what it says about the movie first. If they still want to ask me, then I’ll have them read it to me before we discuss it. If it has content that they’re too embarrassed to read to me then that seems to weed out plenty of movies without me having to say “no” at all. (Ope, now, wait a minute, I can feel you starting to feel defensive and take sides about your parenting choices. Please, let’s just chat and be okay with not thinking exactly alike. I can respect your parental choices even if they differ from mine, plus I just really want to be friends!)
EIGHT is GREAT:
Why eight years old? For several years I read and read and read books on child development. Since I had so many children of my own, I was always researching to figure out why one was doing “this” or what would help “that”, and it resulted in lots of reading. Consistently child development studies suggest that in the first seven years of life a child is shaping their WORLDVIEW – their understanding of how the world works, what is good and what is bad, what is more important and less important, what is acceptable human behavior and what is valuable in life. For this reason, I am extremely careful with what a child hears, sees, and experiences in the first seven years. Yes, it’s a lot of work to protect their developing moral sensibilities, but it is so worth it! Just as we build some protection around a seedling tree until its roots are deep, likewise, we should put some safeguards around our young children’s minds while their worldview is being developed.
If we want to help them decipher right from wrong, we need to make it really clear what is right. I didn’t want to muddy the waters of their worldview with a bunch of cartoons that had witchcraft, black magic, sorcery, violence, or even sarcasm and rudeness Mostly, in the first seven years of life I tried to choose wholesome, life-giving, positive materials that were GOOD EXAMPLES of how to interact in HEALTHY ways. Children’s shows today seem to be full of lots of BAD EXAMPLES geared toward ages that aren’t yet capable of deciphering the good examples from the bad ones. They’re just taking in all of the behaviors and it shapes their understanding of what human interaction looks like. We had a guideline in our home that we kept shows that were not top-notch in worldview development to a very minimal amount until age eight. I didn’t absolutely forbid them – my little girls watched Tangled, for example, but not daily, just occasionally. I didn’t let them have a steady mental diet of Arthur because of the bad attitudes on the show. (Wait a minute, now. I’m not wagging my finger at what you’ve let your kids watch, I’m just explaining my own ways while being perfectly content for you to have differing ways from mine. This isn’t too painful, is it?).
This brings me to my first observation about Aladdin:
Point #1 – SORCERY:
Aladdin’s sorcery is a pretty heavy amount and I would be careful about allowing young children to watch it. Personally, I wouldn’t. If you do, maybe you could at least wait until it comes out on video, so they see it on a small, less impactful screen. Partly it would be scary to young children, but even more important to me is that when they are little, they’re not ready for the complexity of evil powers. Sorcery is a real power and it is evil; we aren’t to dabble with it. The Bible speaks a great deal against sorcery, magic, fortune tellers, and more. Isaiah 8: 19-20, 2 Chronicles 33:6, Deut. 18:9-12 are just a few of the examples from scripture.
Twice in Aladdin, “the ultimate power” is mentioned in reference to a genie. Interestingly enough, the movie makes clear that while a genie is ultimate, he is not all-powerful. This was a great opportunity to talk with my girls afterwards about POWER – that there really is an Ultimate Power, but it’s not a genie. The One True and Living God of the Bible really is the Ultimate Power and the cool thing is, He is NOT limited in His power AT ALL. Job 42:2 says, “I know that you (God) can do anything, and no one can stop you.” Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” He can literally do ANYTHING! Do you have an example of a time in your life when God did something amazing? You could always share examples from the Bible, but if you have a personal example to share with your child, that would be even better!
Point #3 – GOD, THE TRUE ULTIMATE POWER IS ALWAYS GOOD AND NEVER EVIL:
In the movie, the genie’s power was sometimes good and sometimes evil, depending on who his master was. We found ourselves wishing that the good-hearted genie could make decisions and use his power only for good, instead of being a puppet of whoever was his current master. The movie helps us to love good and hate evil, and that’s a great quality in a movie! (Some shows these days seek to get us to cheer for the villain. I’m not a fan). The antagonist of the movie, Jaffar, had an evil heart and, in the moments when he was the master of the genie, we all feared what would happen next. This sounds a lot like Satan, defined in the Bible as a liar and a thief who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). He is all evil, all the time. However, we don’t need to fear him. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God gives us another promise that we do not need to fear evil in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Your child needs to know that while there is evil in this world, the One True God who is all powerful is also all good and He is with us always!
Point #4 – WE ARE A LOT LIKE THE GENIE, WE HAVE LIMITED POWER THAT IS GOOD OR EVIL DEPENDING ON THE MASTER WE ARE LISTENING TO; WE SHOULD LISTEN TO THE GOOD MASTER:
Even though the main genie had a kind heart who wanted to do good, his power was used for evil, when he had a bad master. Genie didn’t have a choice about who his master was, but we do! We have a choice – a good master or a bad one. We want to choose the good master. And the very cool thing is, the Good Master (God) is loving and generous and wise. He remains a gentleman, even as the Ultimate Power, not forcing us to do anything but hoping that we will do what He says because what He says is for our good. God doesn’t control us. His power in us is optional.
If you would like to teach your kids more about additional characteristics of the One True God, I would recommend the simple book, The Attributes of God for Kids by Lydia White, available on Amazon. (This is NOT an affiliate link and I don’t get anything for sharing this book with you. I just liked it for my nine year old. Attributes of God for Kids
And so it is that a fairy tale about a genie can be a wonderful springboard for discussion with our children about who God is and who we are in Christ. My husband’s favorite music artist is Andrew Peterson. In one of Peterson’s songs, “Windows in the World,” he points out the moments of truth and goodness that God has provided all around us. It’s a song about how the little things we see in our every day life are glimpses into our longing for heaven and the good God who shares truth with us all. Help your children find as many of these glimpses as possible!
Walking this parenting journey right along with you,