Disney’s assault on children and what to do about it
Recent events have made clear what we should have already known about Disney; namely, that it has become a force for evil in our society which must be stopped. This article will explain why that is the case, as well as what we should do about it. As a Southern Baptist, I will particularly focus on what Southern Baptists should do. In short, the Southern Baptist Convention should condemn Disney when it meets in Anaheim this summer. Although Southern Baptists galvanized the conservative evangelical world by initiating a boycott against Disney in 1997, it is unclear if we still possess the backbone needed to speak with a clarion voice now, even though the gravity of the situation is far clearer. We regularly condemn evils over which we have no control – last year we condemned the Uyghur genocide – but do we have the fortitude to speak clearly when doing so requires us to put our cultural capital at risk? Since there is no time like the present, I have attached draft resolutions to this article to test this very question.
Disney’s current state has been recently unveiled with startling clarity. This unveiling has its genesis in Florida’s recently enacted Parental Rights in Education Act, more popularly known as the “anti-grooming” bill or the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. That legislation seeks to instantiate in law the modest proposition that parents (rather than government schools) should be the ones to decide when and how to have discussions relating to sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity with their young children.
Disney initially lobbied against the anti-grooming bill behind the scenes with Florida governor Ron DeSantis. But Disney has since gone nuclear, apparently having been commandeered by a hysterocracy of activists. “Our goal as a company is for the law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts, and we remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that,” Disney declared in a condemnatory public statement (emphasis added). To atone for its initial public silence, Disney purchased a five-million- dollar indulgence from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). And in videos of Disney meetings leaked to Christopher Rufo last week, the Company’s leadership vowed to take action and join the HRC’s campaign against the state of Texas over Greg Abbott’s recent policy of prohibiting doctors from practicing genital mutilation on minors. Leadership went on to discuss new plans to enforce gender neutrality in their parks and processes for ensuring that LGBTQ+ voices are given prominence by Disney management. Disney’s Pixar brand reinserted a previously-deleted gay kiss into its upcoming Buzz Lightyear origin story.
But the leaked videos revealed a more subtle plot at Disney, one that’s been in motion for far longer than Disney’s recent public political stances. In the videos we are told that Disney is, and has been, very intentional and methodical about forming the moral character of children in a very particular way. Disney is, as the gender theory wizards would say, “queering” its content. This queering has been apparent for quite some time, and you don’t need a PhD in Gender Studies to recognize it. My Southern Baptist pastor friend Jeff Wright is not a Judith Butler student as far I am aware, but he picked up on the deliberate gender bending in the movie Encanto in his recent piece for The Federalist.
Indeed, many recent Disney characters have a synthetic feel, as if they were created in a lab, and that’s because they were. These are the results of methodical sessions where content creators whiteboard lists of “feminine” and “masculine” tropes and ensure that the two are thoroughly scrambled. Now, Old Disney productions sometimes gave us exaggerated, buffoonish presentations of the archetypical and binary male and female character types so common in folk tales from around the world (e.g., the princess, the witch, the stepmother, the knight). But such excesses were the result of the unnatural amplification of naturally resonant themes, ubiquitous in folk stories. They are different in kind from New Disney’s studied queering of its stories and characters. Old Disney presented nature on steroids; New Disney presents anti-nature. This modern assault on the naturally occurring, sexually dimorphic archetypes that appear in folk stories across cultures and epochs is the very essence of what it means to “queer” content.
The dominant view has been that Disney (and places like it) incorporate queer content in response to market demands or, more altruistically, out of a desire to create social conditions that are tolerant of sexual/gender identity minorities. In other words, Disney is simply a mirror of society. This dominant view is wrong for a number of reasons. For one thing, it ignores how the content of entertainment and education–the heroes that are curated for children’s consumption, what is portrayed as virtuous or vicious–plays a causal role in moral formation. If you adopt this viewpoint, you probably think it’s mere coincidence to see a Disney executive (and activist) in the leaked Disney videos proudly announce that she has two children, one of whom is transgender with the other pan-sexual. But with approximately 40% of Generation Z claiming LGBTQ+ identity, you don’t need a PhD in Statistics to realize that pervasive messaging in entertainment and education has had its effect.
But there is a more fundamental problem with seeing Disney as merely mirroring a changing society. Such a viewpoint misunderstands the true aim of queer activism: not merely equal rights, but perpetual revolution. Queer theorists are often quite frank about this aim. To take just one example, consider David Halperin’s definition of the “queer” in his 1997 book Saint Foucault as “whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence” (emphasis in original).1 In other words, no status quo is stable, no equilibrium can ever be reached under this theory as yesterday’s activist goal becomes today’s activist target.
Predictably, this perpetual revolution sought by queer activists results in psychological distress. This distress is the natural result of individuals making choices that are contrary to nature and that alienate them from society, their parents and their own bodies. Furthermore, the arbitrary, ever-changing nature of the perpetual revolution itself creates psychological terror. Consider how Generation Z, the generation catechized in expansive sexual liberation, anti-bullying, anti-racism, and all other manner of critical theory delivery systems, is also the most mentally-ill by a wide margin on a wide variety of metrics (clinically diagnosed mental illness, suicide and suicidal ideation, substance abuse). In some cases there is a direct linkage between moral revolution and mental distress: thousands of young adults who were permitted to transition as minors only to discover that they regret the choice and cannot reverse things, despite what they might have been told to the contrary by doctors and other trusted adults. Those who doubt me, and have strong constitutions, can read the detransition stories cataloged at PeakTrans and in many other corners of the internet. In other cases, the linkage between the perpetual revolution and the stress is less direct. If you read the list of factors that are apparently causing Generation Z to be a historically stressed-out generation, it reads like a top-10 of activist action items. Generation Z is stressed out by systemic racism, anti-LGBTQ+ bigotry, climate change, guns, and more. The particular sources of stress may vary, but the general psychological profiles are very similar.
Because this psychological distress is so predictable, we may be forced to conclude that activists–consciously or otherwise –aim to use psychological distress in children for their own purposes. Indeed, under a certain evil logic it is a feature rather than a bug that applied gender theory and other applied critical theories result in widespread stress, depression, addiction and other psychological struggles. The activist seeks revolution in all circumstances. Yet it is a truism that people will not revolt unless they are suffering. So, if you are an activist in a society that doesn’t look something like 1917 Russia in terms of real, material struggle, you have a challenge. In such a case people must be awakened to the false consciousness that masks the oppression that is perpetually present, but hidden from the conscious minds of those who are oppressed. Critical theories provide the solution for perpetual revolution, as they are designed to foster revolution irrespective of objective social conditions. Go back and consider David Halperin’s definition of queer. The definition requires as a logical necessity constant revolution against the “normal, the legitimate, the dominant” whatever that might be, without reference to how objectively good or bad the “normal, the legitimate, the dominant” conditions might be. Queer theory and activism are best understood as frameworks designed to foster revolution in all times and places, by means of causing psychological distress.
In this way, Greta Thunberg is the epitome of her generation. She displays the appropriate level of angst, instrumentalized toward appropriately revolutionary ends. She is the exemplary child that every faithful revolutionary should seek to raise. Accordingly, progressive social media circles teem with proud parents announcing precisely how their young children are disturbed by the latest outrage. We should conclude that, under the regime of perpetual revolution, children are instruments used by adult activists, and the psychological distress of the child is useful for demonstrating the revolutionary virtue of the adult activist. This is exactly what we see in the leaked videos when a Disney executive (an activist speaking to other activists) proudly announces that she has two children, one of whom is transgender, with the other pan-sexual.
Contrast the perpetual revolution sought by the activist with the Christian viewpoint, which has a fixed goal: the redemption and restoration of humanity and the world through the work of Christ, restoring and perfecting nature–which God created as fundamentally good–by undoing the effects of sin and the fall. Unlike the perpetually revolutionary mindset of the activist, the Christian mindset adopts a posture of gratitude, first to God as the ultimate cause of the world’s and our existence, and second to one’s parents as the proximate cause of one’s existence. Under the Christian paradigm, social reform is a hopeful endeavor, capable of achieving real good by seeking to align society with objective standards of justice and creating conditions that encourage people to develop in accordance with the nature God has given them. The Christian viewpoint is better for individuals and better for society. It prepares people to receive the gospel,while even those who don’t receive it are protected from the excesses of a society in open rebellion against God and nature itself.
In sum, it is a mistake to view Disney’s recent actions as the actions of a corporation caught in the crossfire, trying to find a happy compromise between the demands of its religious audience and the individual rights of sexual minorities it employs. Instead, Disney must be viewed as very present danger; an organization that has been commandeered and weaponized against children by activists. Love for our children, and those of our neighbors, compels us to speak clearly regarding the nature of Disney’s actions. As we seek to resist these evils we pray for those caught up in them at Disney itself. We desire their salvation and well-being too, even as we are compelled to fight vigorously against the destructive nature of what they are doing.
In 1997, Southern Baptists had far more cultural capital than we do today, and yet we put that capital at risk over circumstances that appear quaint in retrospect. Disney had recently begun offering health benefits to gay employees’ same sex partners. Ellen DeGeneres, then employed by Disney’s affiliate ABC, had recently come out. And the movie “Priest,” produced by Disney’s affiliate Miramax, had featured a gay priest as its protagonist, prompting the Catholic League to initiate a boycott against Disney in 1996. The 1996 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention established a committee to work with Disney to push back on Disney’s apparent embrace of the gay agenda. When the SBC’s 1996 Disney committee report was met with silence, the 1997 meeting of the Convention weighed in with a resolution.
The 1997 boycott is often used today as example of how boycotting is a bad strategy. But there is a decent case to be made that the boycotts achieved provisional success. The socially progressive Michael Eisner departed, Miramax was spun off and Disney undertook a number of projects tailored toward evangelical audiences – most notably, a high budget adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The SBC and others formally ended their boycott in 2005, citing the foregoing as grounds for claiming a victory. Social mores with respect to LGBT issues significantly shifted between 1997 and 2005, and the pace of change quickened thereafter. The Disney boycott appears to have had little impact on such broader social trends. But at the very least it can be said that the Disney boycott ensured that Disney stepped out of the vanguard of the moral revolution. While we must admit that social conservatism lost the battle on LGBTQ+ issues in general, it is unfair to make the 1997 Southern Baptists the chief culprits in this failure.
Although it’s now en vogue for Southern Baptists (or former Southern Baptists) to mock their boycotting predecessors as embodying the very worst of Southern Baptist stereotypes, the SBC’s 1997 actions represented the views of the median 1997 evangelical. The Disney boycott that has become synonymous with the Southern Baptists actually was part of a broad-based movement. The American Family Association and the Catholic League initiated boycotts of Disney in 1996. Other conservative evangelical churches joined in condemning Disney following the Southern Baptist’s 1997 action. The executive council of the Church of God–the 4 million member Pentecostal flagship denomination–adopted a boycott. And the 1997 general assembly meeting of the Presbyterian Church in America, without technically calling for a boycott, declared in laconic fashion: “We abhor what Disney and other corporations do to promote the homosexual lifestyle.” Other conservative evangelical impact organizations such as Focus on the Family and Concerned Women for America followed the SBC’s lead.
No doubt, any contemporary Southern Baptist attempt against Disney will be mocked by some of the more cosmopolitan Southern Baptists of 2022. Such a boycott would represent a return to 1997, which is viewed with embarrassment. For many, it would appear, the 1997 boycott serves as a stinging reminder of Christianity’s lost cultural power and its harsh memory saps any desire to fight. So we see Russell Moore, among many others, making a habit of mocking the Disney boycott. And so we see that in 2022, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist convention is actively promoting Disney, having worked out a discounted ticket program for SBC attendees and promoting Disney to its email list of potential 2022 messengers. Although many conservative and Calvinistic Baptists–Tom Ascol, Al Mohler, Andrew Walker and others, along with the Conservative Baptist Network and the Capstone Report–have spoken with clarity regarding recent revelations about Disney, most of those with power inside Southern Baptist entities have been silent or outright scornful toward the idea of bringing back the boycott. But given the moral gravity of our current condition, half measures will not suffice. We are compelled to speak with a strong, united voice as a Convention.
The primary strategic goal of the 1997 boycotts was to change Disney’s course of behavior. The primary strategic goal of the 2022 boycott is to use our resolution platform to speak with utmost clarity, urging Southern Baptists and society at large to oppose Disney’s plans.
Resolutions serve a limited function in Southern Baptist life. They have no binding power on the churches that make up the Convention. They merely reflect the collective view of a particular gathering of the Southern Baptist Convention. In keeping with this framework, the 1997 boycott resolutions “urged” Southern Baptists to do particular things–to refrain from patronizing Disney, for their leaders to become educated on the issue, to pray, etc.–but the resolution had no authoritative or hierarchical effect. And yet, SBC resolutions are noteworthy because they represent the unified voice of approximately 14 million people. As such, major publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post and the Atlantic cover them. SBC resolutions can at once be rallying cries for the faithful and objects of scorn from the watching world.
Typically boycotts are initiated with the tactical aim of changing a corporation’s incentive structures and behaviors. They are predicated on the assumption that corporations, being ordered to the creation of profits for their shareholders, will respond rationally to boycotts by changing their behavior to appease the aggrieved constituency. If such is the rationale for a boycott, success is measured based on whether the corporation’s behavior changes. On that metric, the 1997 boycott had short-lived success.
But in 2022 things are different. In 2022, the boycott should be driven by the conviction that Christians and everyone should stop patronizing Disney (irrespective of whether that “boycott” changes Disney’s behavior), because Disney intends to do evil things with the resources and the children we entrust to it. For one thing, given what we’ve learned about Disney’s agenda and how it is thoroughly mixed into the pudding, we should urge all Christians to avoid exposing their young children to such content, purely because of the substance. Love of neighbor compels us to take steps to reduce the likelihood that our neighbor’s young children will be exposed to such content. Disney has told us very explicitly that one of its express purposes as an organization is to oppose legislation that protects Florida’s children. Disney has told us very clearly that queer activism has been intentionally woven into its programming. Disney has transitioned itself into the media and entertainment arm of the HRC. It has made the people of Florida and Texas its enemies, and indeed, has made parents its enemies. Southern Baptists should use a resolution to speak clearly regarding this evil.
With the foregoing considerations in place, I ask Southern Baptists to consider adopting the following resolutions when they meet in Anaheim this Summer.
*Image Credit: Pexels
Resolution On Moral Leadership and The Walt Disney Company
WHEREAS, Everything Christians possess of time, money, and resources is given to them by God as a stewardship for which they will give an account before a holy God; and
WHEREAS, Those who have been entrusted with children also have a stewardship before God regarding their service as parents and the moral formation of their children, and in such capacity have greater responsibility for their stewardship and must give a greater accounting; and
WHEREAS, We are commanded in scripture to love our neighbor, and this love compels us to seek the good of our neighbors and their children; and
WHEREAS, God reveals in scripture that special condemnations await those who would sin against children; and
WHEREAS, Recent actions taken by, and revelations made about, The Walt Disney Company have made clear that it (i) has adopted a policy of actively and publicly opposing the political will of states who have enacted just laws for the protection of children from sexual predation and (ii) has methodically constructed programming content aimed at children that seeks to normalize and encourage deviant sexual behaviors and to confuse sexual identity, to ends that are called abominable in scripture, that oppose the created order and that result in suffering and death; and
WHEREAS, We realize that we must do what lies before us when it is right through a proper use of our influence, energies, and prayers, particularly when it affects our nation’s children; and that through the power of God’s word, our clear declaration and intent may not only protect our own children but also stir the hearts of our countrymen;
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, That the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Anaheim, California, June 12-15, 2022, urge every Southern Baptist to refrain from patronizing The Walt Disney Company and any of its related entities; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to encourage their neighbors to do the same; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists to use whatever other ethical means may be available to them to strive to cause The Walt Disney Company to be frustrated in its plans and, unless it changes its course of action, cease to exist as a company; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we urge our pastors and church leaders to become informed regarding these issues with respect to The Walt Disney Company and other companies engaged in similar practices and to teach their people accordingly, for the protection of their souls and those of their children; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That we urge our local and federal political leaders to become informed regarding these issues with respect to The Walt Disney Company and other companies engaged in similar practices and to take all lawful steps to minimize their influence and power in society; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, That we pray that God would use these actions to cause the plans of such companies to be frustrated and, unless they change their course of action, to cease to exist as companies.