Religion is something we typically trend away from when it comes to conversation. Accompanied by politics, the discussions of faith, worship, and theology typically are off the table at family gatherings and amongst friends who don’t share identical beliefs.
Disney, founded by a Christian, has typically steered away from religious novelty in their films and shows, outside of mythology-based projects like Hercules (1997), or holiday-offerings at their theme parks, for this reason.
Although the Walt Disney Company heavily leans liberal in many instances, it’s never been “good business” to interject in the messy world of religion and personal beliefs systems of practicing faiths.
This unwritten rule was entirely understandable and adhered to until Disney acquired Pauline, a German adult television show that features an 18-year-old impregnated by Satan earlier this year, leading to loud outcries from Christians around the world.
Pauline, much like other popular media entertainment of the era, aims to poke fun a the idea of Lucifer, in this case Lukas (Ludger Bökelmann), impregnating a teenager by the leading name of Pauline (Sira-Anna Faal) after a one-night stand.
Although the themes are presented as comedic in nature, they are problematic for Christians in that their beliefs are turned into laughable material for financial gain. Although no release date has been announced for Pauline, the backlash from Christians has been loud and clear.
Disney, a beloved entertainment giant, has traditionally been praised for its family-friendly content. However, the planned release of the show Pauline has already stirred controversy and upset among some Christians.
The Backlash from ‘Pauline’
The announcement of Pauline drew significant criticism from a large segment of the Christian community. Many devout Christians feel that the show will portray Christian values in a negative light and undermined their faith. This discontentment is fueled by several factors that we will now examine.
Pauline faced backlash due to its alleged misrepresentation of Christian values. Some viewers argue that the project presents an inaccurate or distorted view of Christian teachings, leading to concerns about the impact on young and impressionable minds. Disney’s portrayal of religious concepts and themes have now become a subject of intense scrutiny among Christian audiences.
Clash with Family Values
Disney has long been associated with promoting wholesome family entertainment. However, Pauline from criticized for straying from this tradition. Some Christians object to the show’s content, which they perceive as conflicting with their deeply-held family values. This clash between Disney’s creative choices and the expectations of its Christian audience intensifies the controversy.
The backlash against Pauline highlights the challenges Disney faces in balancing creative freedom with the expectations and sensibilities of its audience, including Christians. The response from Christians serves as a reminder that maintaining a positive relationship with this segment of the audience is crucial for the company’s long-term success.
Could Disney Do the Same with Islam?
In doing research to learn more about the issue that Christians have with Disney taking the helm on such a controversial project, an interesting question was posed by a user on Quora.
As Christians, some sects like Southern Baptists being of a conservative faith, regard Jesus Christ as a leading figure in their worship, Pauline is problematic in that it makes light of the opposing force to a sacred character like Jesus. So, how would other religions feel if Disney created a program that poked fun of their faithful figures?
Christianity stands as the largest religion in the world, with Islam coming in at number two. Both sects of faith do have their extreme arms, however, it would be interesting to see how members of the Islamic faith would react if Disney decided to use their theologically-based stories and scriptures in a comedic way. Well, one user asked this exact question, and the responses were startling to say the least.
“How would the Muslim world react if Disney suddenly made a CGI or animated movie about the prophet Mohammed and his life portraying him as a flawed hero or mentally ill man ranting about Allah?”
Although there has been serious outcry surrounding Pauline from Christians, the Islamic community on Quora did not take this question with ease. Instead, many comments, such as the following form user @Intekhab Hussein suggested that anyone who tried to make light of Mohammed, Islam’s prophet to Allah, deserve death according to their scriptures.
“Such stupide ideas and hamulating others heroes’ is your domain I mean arrogant Americans and misled European. Have you ever seen or heard of any Muslim speaking against any of the messenger or prophet? Never, and such people deserve straight forward killing. This is what is mentioned in all scriptures.”
Although there were some who answered the question more reasonably, the question has to be asked why the same thoughts don’t apply to the Christian faith? User @Nazarami Wahab noted the following:
“Disney is smart enough not to do it. If they want to do it, they would’ve done it years ago. Not only Disney; Pixar, DreamWorks, Sony, Warner Bros. and Paramount Animation will do it too. But they do not do it because;
- No Muslim will watch it and definitely no other followers will want to watch it. It’s like making animation about Lord Muruga and expecting the Muslims to watch it.
- Muslims will boycott Disney and trust me Disney will loose 1.8 billion Muslim viewers in a blink of an eye.
Unless Disney is being run by Islamophobes then it’s a different story but IMHO the so called “Islamophobe” will think about dollars and cents more than anything.”
Wahab is accurate in his assessment most likely, however, why doesn’t this apply to the Christian faith? Is it okay for Disney to pick and choose what religious base content they pull from in a creative standpoint, while ignoring others possibly in fear of backlash?
Interestingly enough, one commentor pointed out that illustrating Mohammed is not a possibility for Disney, or anyone for that matter, as the Koran, strictly prohibits this practice. Although not typically discussed, the Christian Bible also gives similar directive in Deuteronomy when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
The Christian Fight with Disney is a Multi-Faceted One
Understanding Christian concerns with Disney requires a closer look into the Christian faith than some are willing to take. Despite the willingness of Disney to use Christian theology for storytelling, compared to other religions, Christians have more than one issue with the company.
The relationship between Christians and Disney has been a topic of debate and concern. Walt Disney, the founding member of the Walt Disney Company was a practicing Congregationalist Christian. In fact, Walt Disney was not just a Christian by name, he was devoted to his faith, a value that was instilled in many who believed in the idea of God and country in his time.
It could be argued that Walt’s faith and adherence to God’s Word was a particular factor in his creation of Disney Animation and Disneyland. So, how did we get to a point where prominent Christians such as Franklin Graham, are publicly speaking against Disney’s perceived “moral failure?”
While it is essential to acknowledge that not all Christians share the same views on this matter, it is worth exploring some of the reasons behind the apprehension and criticism directed towards Disney by certain individuals or groups within the Christian community.
Walt Disney’s Personal Beliefs and Practices
As stated, one contributing factor to the concern some Christians have towards Disney is rooted in the personal beliefs and practices of its founder, Walt Disney. However, there are aspects of his personal life that some Christians find conflicting with their values. It is important to note, however, that this should not be seen as representative of the beliefs of the entirety of the Disney corporation or its employees.
Another aspect that has garnered criticism from Christians relates to the content and values portrayed in Disney films. Concerns arise when certain movies, characters, or storylines challenge or seem to contradict Christian beliefs and values. Issues such as the inclusion of magic, elements of sorcery, or portrayals of alternative lifestyles have been points of concern for some Christian individuals and organizations.
Some Christians express concerns regarding the cultural influence of Disney and its impact on entertainment choices. As individuals strive to live their lives in accordance with their faith, they may view certain Disney productions as promoting a secular mindset or straying from Christian values. This is especially true concerning Disney’s influence with children and their involvement with the LQBTQIA+ community. This concern stems from the desire to guard against negative influences and align personal entertainment choices with their Christian beliefs.
Another reason behind Christian apprehension towards Disney lies in the company’s business practices. Critics argue that Disney has engaged in questionable partnerships or initiatives that contradict Christian principles. These concerns may include issues related to labor, copyright laws, or financial practices that some Christians find morally objectionable.
It is important to recognize that while there are Disney Christians who hold reservations or concerns about aspects of the Disney corporation, yet still enjoy the content, and properties like Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Their views are not universally shared within the Christian community. It is crucial to approach these issues with respect, recognizing that individuals’ perspectives may vary based on their personal beliefs and interpretations of Christian teachings. Ultimately, it is up to each Christian to determine how they engage with Disney and its various forms of entertainment in light of their faith and values, and it is up to Disney to decide what is fair-game when it comes to content.
Note: Some opinions held within this article are that of the author and are not official standpoints of the Walt Disney Company.