Ellen DeGeneres made quite a stir this week when she mentioned that the new Pixar movie, Finding Dory, includes a transgender stingray – becoming “stingrhonda” in the movie. News sites around the world jumped on the story. Teen Vogue published a website article on this topic in which the article’s author expressed acceptance, and even joy, at the progressive inclusion: “Instead of treating being transgender as an ‘adult’ topic, the movie including ‘stingrhonda’ will show kids that transgender people — or in this case stingrays — are a normal part of life … and that’s pretty awesome.”
As a bit of a disclaimer, I have not seen the movie. I cannot affirm whether DeGeneres was perhaps joking or whether there is actually a transgender stingray (some say it’s a joke but I’ve seen no official word). I wouldn’t be surprised if DeGeneres was joking and I wouldn’t be surprised if “stingrhonda” is in the movie. Moreover, I wouldn’t be surprised if Christian parents, who claim the Bible’s authority and its teachings on gender, orientation and sexuality, still take their children to see the movie. Some families who homeschool their children or send them to private Christian school in order to better protect them from the influences of this society would likely still go see the movie. Why? Because it’s summer, we all loved Finding Nemo, and we just can’t imagine not seeing Finding Dory. So, should I boycott Finding Dory?
Let me back up just a moment. I am from a Southern Baptist family and grew up in church in the 1980s and 1990s. Because of this, I clearly remember the Southern Baptist Convention’s call for a boycott of Disney. I remember the reasons – Disney was leading the social charge toward complete societal acceptance of homosexuality as a norm. I remember the laughter from observers. I remember the Southern Baptist families who thought that the boycott was completely ridiculous, went to Disney World as planned and continued to buy every product and attend every Disney production that was available. Alas, the boycott was unsuccessful and the Southern Baptist Convention called for its end after eight years. Not surprisingly, the reasons for the boycott have not diminished at Disney – they have actually become standard throughout all of the entertainment industry and beyond.
Because some Christians felt Disney should have been boycotted and others, clearly, did not, a more revealing question should have arisen: What could Disney do or promote that would finally make you say, “I’m out. No more Disney”? Seriously, what could they have done to make you stay away?
To be clear, I’m not trying to jump on Disney. The Disney boycott is a very public example from the past. But it highlights the questions that should still be asked today. What needs to happen in entertainment for me to finally just say, “I’m out”? Do I really need to boycott, or would we collectively send a stronger message if we all used more daily discernment. Discernment is front and center in Paul’s admonition to the church at Colossae:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. – Colossians 3:1-7
The real problem is not that we are unsuccessful in a public boycott of companies who cross the next line that had seemed so unlikely to be traversed. The problem is that millions of Christians are daily subjecting themselves to the filth of this earth – and asking for more. The “when you were living in them” of Colossians 3:7 is resolved as “today – I’m living in all of those things today.” The problem is that we willingly desensitize ourselves to every form of evil in the vacant search for happiness through entertainment without taking seriously Paul’s admonition.
I do not carelessly use the pronoun “we” in these sentences; I am guilty of stooping to be entertained. Streaming services have brought the vilest, late-night, subscription channel programming to our living rooms to be binge watched by Christians without filter. Extreme profanity, nudity, illicit sex acts, drug use, murder, rape, incest, polygamy, greed, homosexuality, gluttony, nymphomania and literally every form of biblically-identified evil are consumed based more on a judgment of how compelling the storyline is rather than how lowly, in a Colossians 3 sense, the programming is. We’ve got to do better. I’ve got to do better. It affects us more than we likely understand. It affects our joy and our gospel witness.
Rather than calling for a boycott of Finding Dory, I would like to call us to really consider our daily entertainment options – which may exclude Dory. “But every show is deprived because every show depicts life.” I get that. I’m asking that we avoid the things that we know are dark and lowly. Avoid the shows that if you edit out the “bad stuff” then you wouldn’t have much of a storyline left. So, based on that standard, maybe you still want to see Dory. At the end of the day, it’s not my job to decide what you should or should not watch. Are you comfortable with the fact that it is your job and it should be Spirit driven according to the principles of Scripture? What could your favorite show, movie or franchise do that would make you say, “Enough”? Let’s begin to restore a conviction-based approach to entertainment and see how that might affect our own joy, peace, and gospel witness to the world.