Tuesday, September 6, 2011

#2: True to Life

Pinocchio, 1940
watched August 28, 2011

(c) Disney - I'm sorry, I'm still learning blog photo protocol. anyone know how this works when I'm not using my own photos?
Since I watched Snow White before the announcement of this blog, Pinocchio was the first one I invited people to watch with me. I was surprised to hear how many strong opinions there were about this film before I even watched it! A few people even said they would not watch it with me because it was too scary.

You guys are such wimps. 

(Though, granted, it probably was one of the scarier Disney movies I've seen. So I'll give you that.)

This is one of the only Disney films that I have seen that is true to real life. Not the part about puppets becoming real boys. (That would be really freaky, if you think about it.) Or the talking cricket. Or that if you make a wish on a star a blue fairy will come down to grant you that wish. Okay, I suppose there is still a lot that's not realistic. Although, you can live and breathe inside a whale. That part is totally biblical!

But in most Disney stories, the setting is some idyllic, beautiful place, where you can't help but feel optimistic and happy. In Pinocchio, we find ourselves in a world where the main character is exceedingly vulnerable, prone to being deceived, captured, and even abused. His father seems powerless to keep him from harm. Doesn't this sound a little more like real life? Often those who have the advantage abuse their power and oppress those less powerful. The people we hope will protect us are unable to for reasons beyond our control. This is a much darker, and realistic, view of the world than is normal for Disney movies.

And perhaps that is why so many of us squirm and even refuse to watch this kind of Disney movie. We have become so used to receiving those warm, happy, fuzzy feelings from Disney, that anything different is unacceptable. We can no longer handle the realism that Pinocchio portrays. Despite producing films like Pinocchio, Disney has certainly impacted the inability of children (and adults, myself included) to accept things that are unpleasant.

This is both unhelpful and helpful. On the one hand, it keeps us from acknowledging the presence of abuse, violence, and suffering.
I flinch when I see Pinocchio thrown into Stromboli's cage, and cry out in frustration when the fox and the cat swindle him once again. I'm deeply disturbed when I watch the young boys (albeit 'disobedient' ones) being captured and turned into donkeys, because it reminds me that there are in fact young children in the world who are enslaved and abused. 

But on the other hand, it is that very essence of wanting the world to be good that makes us yearn for the kingdom of God. Something in us knows that all the evil that surrounds us can't be the best there is. When the film comes to a resolution, I shift more comfortably in my seat and let out a sigh of relief. We are brought back to the theme that evil does not have the last say. And thankfully, this is also true to real life.

So, although Disney movies can and have made us a little too soft to the realities of darkness in the world, the tried and true happy endings we have come to expect also remind us that there is hope. And that's alright with me.


  1. I like it, Laura. It would be fun to look at the parallels between Jonah and Pinocchio and speculate on why Disney borrowed from the Biblical imagery.

  2. Haha I had no idea a sermon could be made out of Pinocchio. Deep.

  3. My father's favorite. I want to think about the sermon part for a bit but a quick note: Lampwick's transformation sequence is one of the scariest things ever committed to celluloid... ever.

  4. Ahh sooo good!!!! I remember hating this as a kid right when Pinocchio gets enslaved. I had to accept that the world was bad. I love that you just say it, our world is not as it should be or is intended. One of the top blogs for me :)