Exposing Kids to Fairy Tale Romance

May 30, 2023

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Today's question says, "Is there a connection between introducing romance, even innocent romance, in movies and books at a young age, ie Disney animated movies, et cetera, and a child's interest in romantic relationships, dating, sex, or porn?"


Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello, friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, "Is there a connection between introducing romance, even innocent romance, in movies and books at a young age, ie Disney animated movies, et cetera, and a child's interest in romantic relationships, dating, sex, or porn?" Great question. Thinking through, should we introduce our children to romance at an early age or not?

And before we dive into this question, would just ask that if you have found the content of this podcast to be beneficial, would ask that you would consider liking and subscribing to make sure that you don't miss any future episodes, and also ask that you would write a review and share this content with those within your sphere of influence so that we can equip as many children as possible to understand the truth of the biblical worldview.

Now, thinking through this question is an interesting one. If we introduce innocent romance at an early age, are we setting our children up for an early interest in romantic relationships in dating, in sex, in pornography? Now, I would say to answer this question that potentially. We could potentially be setting them on an unhealthy trajectory if we are consistently introducing them to romance and making it a major focus of all of the media that we're consuming and everything that we're talking about. I've seen parents in the past make the mistake of every time their child spends time with another child of the opposite sex that they tease that child about a potential romantic relationship, or they're just constantly feeding their kids movies that contain romance in them. And we want to make sure that we are helping our children develop a healthy, biblically based understanding of who humans are, that we're image bearers of the holy God, that we were primarily designed for relationship with God, and then relationship with one another, and our relationships with one another are not just romantic relationships.

We don't want to make the mistake of teasing our kids at a young age about being interested in a boy or a girl that they're friends with because not every relationship between a boy and a girl or a male and a female is a romantic relationship. This is something I even find very interesting as a single female in my thirties, that every time I mention having a friend who is a male, people are like, "oh, oh, are you interested?" And I'm like, man, do you think that I only view people of the opposite sex as a potential marriage partner? These are my brothers in Christ. We're going to be spending the rest of eternity together. So maybe who knows, maybe one day God will bring someone in my life who I will marry, but everybody else is someone I'm not going to marry, and I can still care about that person as an image bearer of the holy God. So we need to be careful to make sure that we are not placing an unhealthy focus on romance or romantic relationships with our children.

And anytime we are talking about romance or they are watching something that has a romantic theme throughout, we need to make sure that we look at it through the biblical lens, that we're talking about God's good design for marriage, God's good design for sex and for sexuality. So we need to make sure that we're pointing it towards the ultimate purpose, that God has given us romance to lead to marriage, to lead to family, and God has given us marriage and family ultimately to point us to a picture of Christ and the church, and God adopting us as his sons. So we just want to make sure that we're giving our kids an accurate picture, and we're not giving them this idea that their hope somehow lies one day in finding a spouse or in having a romantic relationship, that they know that our hope is only and always in Jesus because he has reconciled us to God.

He's given us new life, and he's brought us into God's family so that we can spend eternity as God's children. They need to know that our ultimate hope is always and only in Jesus. It's not in romantic relationships, it's not in marriage, it's not in sexual fulfillment, it's not in family, it's not in a career. It's not in possessions or respect or popularity or anything else that we can find in this world. So we need to be careful with how we are introducing our kids to these concepts of romance, especially as portrayed in movies.

However, on the flip side, I do think that sometimes we as Christian miss the inherent value in fairy tales. That fairy tales, any good fairy tale, like any good story, is ultimately pointing to the story of stories. Now, when I was a third grade teacher, one whole unit in our reading curriculum was based on fairy tales, and we would read through fairy tales for a month of third grade. And so I would always teach my students a specific formula that almost all fairy tales follow, and that in most fairy tales, the main character is a girl. And at some point in the fairy tale, she finds herself far away from home or in distress. She's in a difficult situation. So it's a girl who's far away from home and is in some situation of distress. And in the fairytale, there's almost always some villain who is out to get her. Whether this villain has locked her in a tower or has taken her prisoner or has made her live in the cellar near the ashes. There's always some villain who's out to get her. And then how does the story resolve itself? That some prince shows up to rescue her from her distress and saves her out of this problem and brings her to his home, usually his palace.

Now, if we're just thinking of this in terms of earthly romantic relationships, that yes, this is going to lead to disappointment. Prince charming in human form does not exist. We don't want our kids to just put all of their hope in romantic relationships because life here on earth is not like a fairytale. However, when we look at fairy tales through the lens of the gospel, fairy tales are ultimately pointing to the greatest tale of all times, which is the gospel. Because when you think of that formula, there's a girl who's far away from home and in distress, a villain is out to get her, and eventually a prince shows up, rescues her from her troubles, and carries her off to his home. This is exactly what we find in the grand story of reality, that we as a human race find ourselves far from our true home, far from a relationship with God, and we are in distress because of the weight of our sin and living in this fallen broken world.

So we find this pattern, we're far from home and we are in distress, and there is a villain who is out to get us that scripture is clear that Satan is the enemy of our souls, and he is doing everything that he can to destroy us. That also just the world, this fallen sinful world, the culture around us is out to distract us from the truth. And we know that we as humans have inherited Adam's sin. And so we are fighting daily against our own flesh. That Satan, the world and our own flesh are the villains out to get us. And ultimately, a prince, the prince, the only Son of the most high king, has shown up to rescue us from the schemes of the devil, the schemes of the world and the schemes of our own corrupt sin nature. And he is given of himself the ultimate sacrifice so that he can rescue us, bring us out of the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of light, and ultimately take us home to live in his eternal kingdom forever.

That's what fairy tales should point us towards the story of stories. No, they shouldn't just point us towards earthly romance. They should point us towards the greatest story that was ever told. And if we can use fairy tales to teach this redemptive story and show our children how these narratives ultimately point towards the gospel, we're not going to be ensnaring our kids in some false hope that a romantic relationship or a marriage or fulfillment of their sexual desires will ultimately fulfill them. Because none of those things will. Only through our relationship with God are we ultimately fulfilled.

Now, when we think through the fairy tales nowadays, a lot of times, specifically Disney fairy tales and other fairy tales that are being told by different movie production companies, they are following a false gospel. They're not actually preaching the true gospel. When you think about feminist fairy tales that have recently come out about following your heart and rescuing yourself, this is pointing to a false gospel of self-help and self-actualization.

I remember back when I was student teaching my last year of college that all the girls in the classroom where I student taught, they were obsessed with the singing group, the Cheetah Girls, which was, I think it had spun off of a Disney Channel show that's so Raven and Raven Simone was one of the singers in that. And I remember they loved this song. It had something to do with Cinderella. But I remember listening to the lyrics and thinking, oh my goodness, this song is so against the gospel. Because the lyrics to the song went, "I don't want to be some Cinderella sitting in some dark, cold, dusty cellar waiting for somebody to come and set me free. I don't want to be like someone waiting for a handsome prince to come and save me. No, I will survive. I'd rather rescue myself." This song about girl power and female empowerment, and self-actualization, it sounds all well and good, but when we think about it, it preaches a completely different gospel. "I can save myself, girl, just get up and wash your face and stop apologizing, and you do you," which that's totally a false gospel. And so we want to make sure that our kids are equipped to understand this.

I mean, even think about one of Disney's most recent films Enanto. I really enjoyed the film. I thought it was great music. It had a fun storyline. But think about who is the villain in that story, in that fairytale, the grandmother is the villain, and why is she the villain? Because she doesn't let everyone fulfill their own desires and make them feel like they're as valuable as they are. Now, should the grandmother's behavior have changed a little bit? Yeah, probably. But instead of actually having evil as the ultimate enemy in this fairytale, it's just, oh, this person who's holding you back from being the real you, they're the villain.

So we want to help our kids see the difference between fairy tales that point to the gospel and fairy tales that point to a false gospel, because we can use fairy tales to teach deeper truths. So in response to this question, can fairy tales be used to get our children inappropriately excited about romantic relationships and dating and sex, and potentially even pornography? Yes, those things, if not used well, can set our kids on the trajectory of looking for fulfillment in things that are never going to satisfy them. But if done well, if we teach them to dive deep into the narratives of fairy tales and look at, does this reflect the true story of all stories, the gospel of Jesus Christ, or is this teaching a false narrative, a false gospel of self-help, of self-actualization, which one is it teaching? We can go so much deeper and really equip our children to carefully evaluate every storyline that they encounter and hold it up against the truth and the goodness and the beauty of the biblical narrative.

Well, that's a wrap for today's episode. But as always, as we leave our time together, my prayer for you is that God would richly bless you as you continue to faithfully disciple the children that He's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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