A recent episode of the popular Disney Channel series Good Luck Charlie (“Down a Tree,” aired January 26) marks the first time a homosexual couple is portrayed on one of the network’s programs. The lesbian couple has little screen time, as their appearance is only the subject of the episode’s B-plot. The comedic situation revolves around the confusion that results when the parents of the eponymous toddler wonder why they each know the mother of their daughter’s soon-to-arrive playmate by a different name.
When the guests arrive, the parents realize the comedic source of their dilemma: their daughter’s friend “has two moms.”
The characters and the show treat the subject with a casual, everyday attitude. The two families converse, get to know one another, and nothing dramatic or confrontational occurs.
What’s the Big Deal?
Disney asserts that it is not doing anything controversial or offensive. The network states that it developed the storyline “under the consultancy of child development experts and community advisers.” By that, they mean under the guidance of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), through whom Disney first announced the episode’s storyline. According to a Disney spokesperson, the episode was “developed to be relevant to kids and families around the world and to reflect themes of diversity and inclusiveness.” If the episode does not depict provocative or graphic content and merely portrays homosexual relationships/parenting as commonplace, what is so harmful about it?
The reason the program is cause for alarm is precisely because it depicts homosexual relationships as common and morally acceptable. It represents gay couples raising children as a legitimate part of our culture. It doesn’t portray gay marriage as something whose merits and viability we are still debating as a society. It establishes it as a self-evident truth. This wouldn’t be an issue, were it not for the fact that this is Disney and children are the target audience.
Disney understands perfectly well that children are highly susceptible to the influence of media and are still in the process of developing their moral criteria. Miley Cyrus, who came out in support of Disney’s decision, gave a surprisingly insightful (if mildly ineloquent) summation of Disney’s influential capacity: “I commend Disney for making this step into the light of this generation. They control so much of what kids think!”
Disney programming is modern literature, and literature has always been an essential element of children’s moral formation. Through fables, tall tales and fairy stories, children gain their first insights into many aspects of the human condition: the nature of virtue and vice, the limits of mortality, the reality of tragedy, and the proper relationships between men and women. The importance of correct moral instruction and the moldable nature of the child’s mind necessitate a restricted exposure and censorship that we do not apply to adults. That’s why in the modern era we have wholeheartedly embraced Disney and similar companies. We’ve confided our trust in them inasmuch as they produce child-accessible media that is simultaneously entertaining and morally instructive.
It is probably this very same image of itself as a moral vanguard that impelled Disney to develop the episode in question. No institution intentionally tries to be subversive, especially the company that brought us Snow White and Bambi. Disney has fallen victim to the progressive view of virtue, according to which desire is the ultimate moral justification. It wants to be on “the right side of history” by promoting “individualism” and “tolerance” over “blind, fanatical devotion to tradition and faith.”
And yet Disney, like the liberal movement that supports institutional homosexuality, misses the real principles that underlie this significant issue. Indeed, liberals in general suffer from an uncharacteristic rational laziness when it comes to the issue of “gay rights.” For while liberals typically pride themselves in clinging to reason over mysticism, they avoid meaningful dialogue and pursue a simple “let people do as they please” attitude with regard to gay marriage and the institutional upheavals that would result from the changes they espouse.
If liberals stopped a minute to really think the issue through, they might gain a few valuable insights. First, they might reconsider their disdain for tradition and faith. The Left tends to reduce conservative concerns as matters of “mere tradition” without considering the natural law reasons for which practices became traditional in the first place. Thereby giving the transient opinions of the post-Baby Boom generation more weight than the proven wisdom of generations. Liberals are also contemptuous of faith, which is submission to eternal and immutable moral truths outside Man’s capacity to modify according to whim. They neglect the reality that their own conceptions of justice, equality and freedom are products of faith indefensible according to their materialist, naturalistic view of the world.
If progressives were truly swayed by appeals to nature, they would have no problem seeing that sexual intimacy (and its associated state of sexual attraction) is by nature designed for the propagation of the human family; that the husband-wife relationship is by nature designed for the protection and nurturing of the offspring resulting from that sexual intimacy; and that homosexual parenting is a natural impossibility made possible only by the disintegration of heterosexual marriage.
If progressives were truly sensitive to reason, they would comprehend that human beings are capable of developing an infinitude of conceivable desires or attractions, but that only those desires which accord with Man’s nature are virtuous desires. As Aristotle taught, the task of the good man is the bring his desires in line with the moral law (as opposed to the Progressive, who wants to manipulate the moral law to make it conform to his own desires).
These are the questions Disney should be considering, although it’s not likely to do so if it makes GLAAD its primary consultant. At stake is the moral constitution of children’s entertainment. Other media leaders are likely to follow the example set by Disney. But if Disney wants to, there is still time to change its course to one of reason, morality and truth.