So I have a toddler – if you haven’t figured that out by now. I’m currently engaged in a discussion with my wife as to the right time to show our little man his first movie. We are of the strict “no screen time, no movies before three years of age” school of parenting – but three is right around the corner. I think I’m making headway with my case; so now we’re down to debating the right first real movie (he’s seen some small cartoons like Mickey’s Playhouse already – albeit to my wife’s dismay).
My suggestion is Pete’s Dragon. For those who don’t know, this 1977 Disney classic is the magical story of a cartoon dragon named Elliott who saves abused children and finds them loving homes. In this movie, Elliott rescues a young boy named Pete from the evil clutches of the Gogan family and finds him a place with a single woman who is a lighthouse keeper (played by Helen Reddy), who lost her fiancé in a boating accident. Out of her kindness and his vulnerability and need, she gives Pete a home.
It is in these simple story lines that I find comfort in old Disney; in the purity and goodness of their heroes. I’m advocating for Pete’s Dragon because my little boy is so gentle and kind, with such a sensitive little soul that he requires tender nurturing; because I fear for him in a world that can so often be overwhelmingly evil.
But even more specifically, I’m pushing for Pete’s Dragon because I want my little boy to be able to distinguish good from evil. I want to give him the tools to judge not only between heroes and villains, but between heroes and anti-heroes. I want these crystalline stories to teach him to know right from wrong. And I want him to be able to readily spot evil in a world where goodness is often unpopular and at times misrepresented – or even illegal (as is oddly the case in so much of the unfree world).
Because, at least back then, old Disney knew the secret, and used it in the careful portrayal of their villains; that anti-heroes and villains can be known by their hate. It is their hate that drives them, that motivates them and gives them energy. They use their hate to divide, to segregate and to inspire. They use hate’s ugly cousin envy to gain advantage. In the Disney movies these anti-heroes and villains would be dirty, ugly and uncouth; reflecting like a mirror what is in their souls. Unlike in old Disney, the anti-heroes and villains in real life are smoother and more polished – making them more difficult to spot.
In this, I am confident old Disney can help my little boy.
There are those who will call my nostalgia simplistic and reductionist – that’s ok. That’s their right; my right is to teach my son the difference between right and wrong, good and evil – love and hate. To fill my little boy’s life with Elliott the dragon and his epic fight against the hate-filled Gogans; and of Helen Reddy standing upon a lighthouse singing her persistent enduring commitment in waiting for the return of her love. To fill my little boy’s life with love – which is the only true and effective protection for his tiny soul against the villains and anti-heroes of this world.