"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
February 16, 2015
On Media and Role Models
by Sydney Bone

Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid is a total hoarder. I mean, check out these lyrics:

I've got gadgets and gizmos aplenty
I've got whozits and whatzits galore
(You want thingamabobs?
I got twenty)
But who cares?
No big deal
I want more

Lucky for her, she marries rich. Prince Eric can buy her all the forks she wants. And if his castle is like the other Disney castles, Ariel marries into at least a thousand salad plates. And hoarding is just one line in a long list of dangerous messages in children’s movies. Don’t believe me? Here are a few other examples.

Credit for these images: Christine Gritmon and Nick Nadel from TheFW.com.

Everyone loves Frozen for its departure from the “wait around for a man to save me” theme of movies past. However, having strong and nuanced female characters came at the expense of their male leads. Anna’s two choices for a man were an evil jerk who left her to die and a loveable guy who had some major hygiene issues. How are we supposed to teach our boys the importance of bathing if Kristoff smelled like a barn and still got the girl?

And what about life after the “happily ever after”? In practically every kids’ movie ever, the main characters are orphans. You won’t find any lessons about listening to parents there. And basically all princess movies end with a kiss or a wedding. How can I learn about dealing effectively with conflict in marriage without an anthropomorphic lizard singing about whose turn it is to take out the trash?

Maybe the answer lies in movies made for an older audience? Nope. Most live-action movies avoid dealing with realistic marriages and happy families, too. It’s like they want us to think that every family is dysfunctional, while simultaneously feeding us the lie that if your marriage isn’t perfect and your spouse rarely brings you flowers or shows up outside your window with a boombox, you should just get a divorce.

And don’t get me started on the celebrities! My husband and I got married the same weekend as Kim Kardashian and that basketball player. We pride ourselves on the fact that we can now measure the length of our marriage in years, not days. Meanwhile ol’ Kim’s on husband number two. Or is it three?

The point is, she has tons of impressionable girls watching her. Why can’t she be a better role model?

TV and movie stars are just people. It must be difficult to have your every move watched, your every mistake analyzed. And they became famous because of their talents or beauty, not because of their exceptional moral fiber and integrity. Although there is nothing wrong with hoping they won’t be so messed up, we shouldn’t blame society’s problems on their poor examples.

And why do we expect movies to show us how to live our lives? There are good people in the film business, but there are bad people as well. And the primary goal there is profit. They make money by getting people to pay to be entertained.

Although some uplifting shows have done well at the box office, we have to remember that someone in this industry is paying to advertise Fifty Shades of Grey before YouTube videos of nursery rhymes. Our interests are clearly not their top priority.

Media play a large role in our culture. And there is nothing wrong with hoping it won’t glorify destructive behavior. If the movies our kids insist on watching all the time teach a life lesson or two along the way, great. If not, we can try to find more uplifting shows.

Or, we can remember that, as a prophet of God told us in The Family, A Proclamation to the World, the primary responsibility for rearing and teaching children falls on their parents.

When we expect movies to teach our kids life lessons, we’re literally handing over our God-given power as parents. Although we’ve been warned of the profound influence of media on our behavior, in the end it only has as much power as we give it.

We can talk all we want about the unscrupulous people in the entertainment industry, or we can work hard to make sure those individuals are not raising our children or making our choices for us.

Let’s focus more on real life role models than animated characters. If we seek out good people and spend time with them, their virtues will start to rub off on us. If we strive to be good people, our kids can learn from our example.

In the school that is life, let’s make the word of God our core curriculum. Movies and TV are just recess.

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About Sydney Bone

When Sydney Van Dyke was five years old, she wanted to be an inventor like her grandfather. She grew up surrounded by engineers and decided that was what she wanted to be as well.

She went to Utah State University to earn her BS in Biological Engineering. While there, she met and married fellow engineering student Jarret Bone. They are the proud parents of Emelia Rose, born the summer before they finished their senior year of school.

Sydney Bone is now adjusting to the change of pace that comes with being a stay-at-home mom. She loves having time for her family, with some leftover to explore the things she loves to do.

Sydney still wants to be like her grandfather, but she is now focused on emulating his kindness and generosity, rather than his impressive professional qualifications.

Sydney is currently serving as a gospel doctrine teacher in her home ward.

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