Stories of Longing for More

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I must be on a Disney kick this week. Monday it was Beauty and the Beast, Wednesday The Incredibles, and today I've been thinking about The Little Mermaid, Lion King, Hunchback and Tangled. Why do these Disney flicks--for better or worse--focus on rebelling against authority?

I ask because I don't remember reading (any?) "rebellion" stories in Sonlight. I recall tales of questioning presuppositions, of stepping out beyond yourself, of mischievous escapades, but none about children shaking off the shackles of parental figures. The award winning stories I read and listened to as a child were about doing great things. I don't remember being told that I was "kept down" but rather that I should keep looking up.

If you are locked in a tower, please get out. But for those of us whose parents encouraged us to follow our path, rebelling against authority shouldn't be our story. Ours is a story of longing for more as well, but we long for a dream not yet realized.

Do we confuse the longing for a dream yet to come with an act of repression?

I wonder if reading missionary biographies--in particular--helped me to more accurately see my position in the world. Learning about how God has worked through people in the past helped me develop an appetite for the future.

Do you resonate with "rebellion" stories? What books have encouraged you the most?

May the stories you hear and read and watch encourage you to continue to look up as you walk the path before you.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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  1. Disney movies have lots of rebellion against authority, but so does the Christian story — Israelites rebelled again Pharaoh and Christ rebelled against the authority of his day, the Sanhedrin, scribes, and pharisees. We are all called to a higher authority than anything here on earth. However, I wish that Disney incorporated the Christian version of success into their movies — to convert rather than destroy. That's one of the hardest parts of the Christian message, to turn the other check and to change enemies into friends (by loving them), and I wish there were more stories of that in our culture.

  2. The Reader

    Hmmm, I'm remembering a few rebellious characters in SL books, though I'll grant you they rebelled for "good" reasons vs. "bad" ones. The Seventh Daughter, in Seven Daughters/Seven Sons; Catherine, in Catherine called Birdy; just two recent examples.

    I do like books that let my boys know that they always have the right to think for themselves, to say no, to question authority rather than follow blindly. I don't want them to obey me out of blind submission, but out of respect which I earn. So I don't mind when characters in the books they read do the same - question, think, challenge, and sometimes even effect change in the mind or heart of the authority.

    I'm not so fond of unrealistic, suffer no consequences rebellion (and I think even Disney gets that part mostly right; the rebellious ones do suffer consequences along the way, even if it winds up all good in the end), but growth through a very realistic means of pushing against the Ones In Charge and finding ones' own voice, beliefs, motives, etc. -- yep, those are all things I encourage my boys to read about.

    Helps prepare us all for the pushing (however gentle it might be) that will surely come as they mature from boys to teens to men. At some point, they have to own their choices, and a little "rebellion" in a safe place helps that happen.

  3. Mia, I too wish there were more stories of redemption. What I've noticed, however, is that outside of Christ, redemption simply doesn't make sense... which is why so few films have true redemption in them.

    Reader, great points! I agree.


  4. Disney animated movies, to me anyway, seem to cater to what society wants and yet really don't need. Kind of like McDonald's Happy Meals. Delicious and enjoyable, but loaded with dangerous bad cholestrol and fat :) And it's a recipe for every movie:

    1) always a beautiful, misunderstood, underestimated heroine who yes, shakes off the shackles of authority and parent figures in some form or another - usually with a fair amount of sass. Petulant, disrespectful and definitely disdainful of the more traditional roles of woman, wife and mother.

    2) always a handsome, daredevil, partially (or thoroughly) irresponsible hero who, yes, him too, shakes off the shackles of authority. The only thing that seems to motivate him to any kind of responsibility is his infatuation with the heroine, but we never get to see the "happily ever after" so we never see if his heroism carries on into the drudgery of day-to-day life.

    3) an evil character who often is the authority they're rebelling against (and the "good" figures of authority are painted as spineless simpletons who don't command an ounce of respect anyway)

    4) a sidekick for the heroine/hero of the story and, most often, a sidekick for the evil dude too. Sidekick is small, not human and full of cheek and chirpiness.

    I enjoy Disney movies as much as anyone else, but I only really started watching them as a late teenager, when (hopefully) I had better discernment about these sorts of things than my 9 and younger kids. I can see through the plot that sets up the viewer to side with the protagonist and support their rebellion as a means to an end. I can appreciate that it's just a fairytale of fiction with a romantic view of trials overcome and love returned.

    But, can my young children fully comprehend this? I'm increasingly frustrated with the messages the Disney animated movies send to my children. It's all about respecting authority as and when it suits you; choosing your dreams over and above doing the right thing; falling in love is the be all and end all of human relationships, no matter how unsuitable the suitor is :) etc etc. I talk about it with the kids - they recognise the recipe now too! But there is that tussle between wanting to believe the Disney version because it's so darn romantic versus believing the truth because it's so darn hard. And, my biggest frustration with Disney adding its lot to society's disdain of traditional family relationships is that it makes that voice louder than it should be - my girls are susceptible to believing that disdainfully rejecting traditional roles and yet falling for the unproven, irresponsible, gorgeous and romantic guy makes you a better woman.

    So I am most definitely thankful that our Disney movie dose is one every few months (hmm, methinks even less is more in this case!) while our dose of a good variety of excellent books from Sonlight is daily. I love that most of the books deal with heroes and heroines that are real; that the consequences are true to life and yet grace is abundant too. Of course, not every book is realistic and not every protagonist admirable, but the balance of all the awesome Sonlight books we read gives my kids (and me!) a big picture of the type of values I want my kids to live and breathe and work out in their own lives as they embark on the road to greater responsibility. So, thank you ONCE AGAIN :) Sonlight, you rock!

    (and now I've just written a blog post in the comment section! - apologies! I'll go back to my own soapbox now :)!)

  5. ...I have nothing to add, Taryn <smile>. Good stuff. I love it when a post sparks even more thought and discussion!


  6. Luke, I have to agree. This is one of my major beefs with Disney movies (and other popular child-geared movies). In the bible, there is always a just "reward" for rebellion when one does not repent, but in these movies, these characters are applauded for their disobedience. In many of them, somehow, in the end, the parents are patting the kiddo on the back for the child's "wisdom" in disobeying. Eh?

    Disney is not a Christian company, and I think that needs to be understood and realized. The leaders behind the company have a totally different direction for our children.

  7. Great point, Mandy. This is easily a difference in perspective based on worldview and goals. Good insight!


  8. Megan Lopp


    Old post, but I'm looking for a book I thought I read as part of the Sonlight curriculum. Any help in identifying this book would be greatly appreciated.

    I remember the following details: daughter rebels as a teenager, starts drinking, one night she goes riding a motorcycle on ice, she has several children out of wedlock, the first she aborts, the second she gives up for adoption, the third she finally chooses to keep and raise as a single mom at the same time returning to faith in God and 'the way' with the support of her parents.

    It's curious. But I seem to be currently struggling with the question of 'confus[ing] the longing for a dream yet to come with an act of repression'. I grew up frustrated with a desire to fit in and be accepted despite being homeschooled. Where did you come up with this contrasting picture?

    Also, even non-christian driven messages can be valuable sources of ideas and values derived from human experience. For me, it's The Lion King where Mufafsa speaks to Simba from the clouds and tells him to 'Remember who you are'.


    • Megan, I don't recall that book... though the high school programs didn't exist back when I was doing the program, so it's likely a book I didn't have a chance to read if it was in our program.

      And I agree that even non-Christian stories can contain insights to and echos of realities we have missed. How often do our "Christian" messages get distorted because they are actually based on our culture, preferences, and human brokenness instead of on Christ? From what I've seen even in myself... all too often. an example:

      I think I swung too far the other way with "fitting in." I was all about "standing out." I've written about that pretty extensively over of the years with my high school experience (both the good and the bad). I took the stories of bringing the good news to be a call to "proclaim/declare" instead of "make disciples." I spend years arguing with people about why they were wrong, "not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance" (Romans 2:4). This was, as Romans reminds us, showing contempt for God's patience ... indeed, at that time, I failed to even see God's patience with me. I don't have space here to untangle this all here, but my poor theology really messed me up when it came to ministry.

      But growing out of that experience, over years of wrestling with God, probably contributed to my perspective on this contrasting picture. Because, in reality, we all long to fit in, to once again be in an intimate relationship with God (or, as one blogger recently put it: to return to a state of innocent nakedness, to be fully known and experience love in that state ... which is only found in Christ). But by being called to be separate from "the world" -- and, yet, personally invested in the people mired in it -- things can get messy in our heads about what's what and what matters.

      Gah. I've got so many thoughts swirling around in my head about this! I wish I had a chance to sit down and discuss this further... but I'll stop rambling here for now.

      Thanks for getting my wheels turning! And may you continue to long for things God has placed on your heart and find your freedom in Him.