Theology and Politics in Raya and the Last Dragon

Theology and Politics in Raya and the Last Dragon The Garrett Ashley Mullet Show

Sometimes I think we have grown immune to what the acronym ‘PG’ in a movie rating actually signifies. What is ‘parental guidance’ anyway? Is it merely parents watching a film with their children, oohing and aahing and laughing along with their sons and daughters?

Too often, we imagine that a movie is safe so long as it does not contain sex and violence – at least the kind of violence where blood and viscera are shown. And if my children do not learn crude terms from a film, that means the dialog and messaging are clean. And so long as we do not see more than a baby’s bare bottom very briefly, all ages are welcome and we can step out of the room to attend to our adult responsibilities while the little ones are distracted for an hour or two.

What we too seldom consider is the need for us as parents to be active agents in the cultivation of the worldview our children develop. They need to apprehend what is true, good, and beautiful, and to differentiate these from what tis false, bad, and ugly.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a beautiful film. In terms of visual artistry, you could not ask for a higher standard. The colors and textures are vivid. The characters and costumes are dynamic, and the cinematic scenes are well framed and proceed like a parade and feast for our eyes.

Beyond this, however, the danger may be the greater for how susceptible a piece like this leaves us to being distracted by the shiny object.

Disney Films as Morality Plays

I feel the same concern with Raya and the Last Dragon that I felt after watching another Disney animated film four years ago. In my piece published June 27, 2017 at On The Rocks Blog, ‘The Morality of Disney Movies and The Problem with Moana,’ I explained how we need to take care regarding the statements and impressions embedded in these stories. And here I will recommend again Mark Pinsky’s book, ‘The Gospel According to Disney: Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust.’

We do not want to be kill-joys as parents, watching popular films and tearing them to pieces bitterly or malevolently. Nor do we want to fall prey to the same error the Apostle Paul warns against in Colossians 2:20-23.

“If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of man? These are matters which do have the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and humility and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.”

Better than saying “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch,” we as parents can and should teach our children to be discerning in light of what God says is true, good, and beautiful in the Bible. 

By all means, watch Raya and the Last Dragon with your children. But be sure to really, truly watch the film with them, and listen to what is being subtly communicated in every scene and line of dialog. And help your children learn these things as well.

Just “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

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