My wife and I had a rare opportunity to watch a movie together the other night, and after about half an hour of looking though every available title on Netflix and Amazon, wesettled on Secretariat, the story of the great triple crown winning horse. After we settled in and the movie started playing I realized this was a Disney movie. With two (soon three) little girls, Disney has become a very important part of our cultural life, and I pretty much knew what to expect before the first scene even began. It would be a well-filmed movie with decent acting, hackneyed lines, mild tension in the plot though nothing too serious, and a happy ending.
Surprise surprise, after two hours things had gone exactly as I had predicted they would. Though the writers tried to shoe-horn some mild marriage strife and even some Vietnam-era politics into the film, the movie glossed over these potential conflicts and ended on an uplifting note. It was a well-done movie, though far from great.
And you know what? There\’s nothing wrong with that. In a time when even Superman gets a gritty reboot it\’s nice to know that there\’s a studio that can provide decent family entertainment that offends neither artistic or moral sensibilities. While Disney generally doesn\’t produce Oscar-caliber movies, it also rarely releases true stinkers. Even Star Wars fans have hope that Disney will do a better job with the next three Star Wars moves than its creator did with the previous three.
And I say this as someone whose tastes generally run in a much different direction. My three favorite movies are The Godfather, The Godfather Part 2, and Seven, with Goodfellas right behind. These are not movies that will be aired at many a family movie night – well, not until the girls are a wee bit older.
Yet there is so much filth and nastiness in our culture that it is refreshing to have a studio that does not contribute to the degeneracy of our culture. No, not everything Disney produces is exactly a perfect fit with Catholic moral theology, nor are we going to find many explicitly Christian themes in its movies. But what can be counted on are movies of good if not spectacular artistic and moral worth. Another reason to not discount Disney\’s value in this regard is because so many efforts to produce films with explicit religious or politically conservative themes are, well, not great. Though the producers of these films have terrific intentions, their efforts fall just a little flat. It is thus important to have an institution like Disney that can produce good films that freshen up the culture in a credible fashion.
It\’s perhaps a testament to what lurks out there that above-average movies of non-repugnant moral worth is to be so highly cherished. In a better world one could roll their eyes with less guilt when the Disney logo appears before a movie begins. But when one reflects that the alternatives are some trashy reality show produced by MTV, or yet more sequels of mindless car chase movies, or anything Lena Dunham produces or says, you\’ll take what you can get.
So, the next time you\’re watching a movie and the Disney music starts blaring, don\’t sneer and snicker. Yeah, you might have to plunk down a few bucks later on to buy the costume that the lead character in the movie was wearing so as to give your four-year old the perfect birthday party, but would you rather have her dressed as Snooki? I didn\’t think so.
© 2013. Paul Zummo. All Rights Reserved.