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May 5, 2010

Let the Children Bippity Boppity Boo

A thoughtful essay explores the positive aspects of exposing kids to magic in movies


"Parents, let's admit it," writes film critic Rebecca Cusey for SixSeeds.tv. "Some of us don’t quite know how to handle magic in stories and movies. Maybe we don’t want our kids to be frightened by wicked witches that turn into dragons or by mean teachers that turn into Greek Furies. Maybe we want to answer their questions truthfully and magic seems like a cop-out. Or maybe we practice a faith that is deeply uncomfortable with magic. There’s no escaping it. Magic is everywhere in culture these days."

But Cusey doesn't advise parents to run from it, or to aggressively shield their kids. Instead, she suggests that magic in such movies as Harry Potter, The Princess and the Frog, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and others, "we sell our kids short. I say, let them bippity boppity boo."

She goes on: "We sell our children short by thinking they’ll somehow absorb paganism from magic in books and cinema. Kids know what is imagination and what is not. What little girl hasn’t longed to be transformed by Cinderella’s fairy godmothers, usually while she’s resenting doing chores? She knows, inside, it won’t happen. Children don’t really believe they can mix effective potions or use wands any more than they believe Spiderman is a real person or that toys come to life when our back is turned."

And finally, Cusey quotes C. S. Lewis (who included quite a bit of magic in his own Narnia books) as an excellent guide to discernment on such matters:

“Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things. They may mean (1) that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias. His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can’t bear to think of. Or they may mean (2) that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil. If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second. The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to the…atomic bomb. Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”

What do you think? Leave your comments below.


Protecting the minds and hearts of our children is a good thing. We need to make sure that they are taken care of and that we do not do undue damage to them. I believe there is scripture in the gospel of Mark that implies that causing a child to stumble in their faith is a "bad thing".

However, at some point in time, children need to be educated to know that, yes, this world is full of "bad" things that they are going to run into and have to deal with some day. Mommy and Daddy aren't always going to be able to protect and tell them what is "bad" and what isn't, so we need to teach them to discern this. How do you teach them to discern if there is no knowledge of what is bad versus what isn't?

I think the C.S.Lewis quote is one of the best on the idea... protect them from damaging fears, but train them to know that there are things in this world that are unpleasant that we face every day... like the passing of a Grandparent, from my personal experience... my one child still hasn't faced it and we fear for her mental health as she may, someday, experience additional losses. How do we train her to deal with that if the world teaches her simply to "escape"?

Whether a kid knows how to distinguish between fantasy and reality is an individual characteristic, and parents need to know their own children (sad to say, a lot of parents know about their own children much more than they know their own children). When I was small there was a rash of boys jumping out of apartment windows because they thought they were Superman. I, however, did no such thing.

What?! Has the author not seen how many Wiccan books are now controlling the "religious" section in Borders? Search for "magic" books on the Scholastic site and see how appealling it is made for children to perfect their magic skills. Let them bippitty boppitty boo? This is why Wiccan is the fastest growing religion in America. I work in a childrens ministry (cef) and have seen first hand the negative effects of books like Harry Potter. It is not at all a stretch to be interested in HP then carry that over into a spell casting Wiccan book. We must be careful! A well intentioned Christian parent could watch HP, and then have a good conversation about it. But, most kids don't have this type of parent.

The powers of darkness have raised up a generation unto themselves via television starting back in the late 70's early 80's with smurf cartoons. Today there is not a cartoon that is without it's segments on magic and society is fine with it ,parents and children lulled to sleep with stories of the dark side.
The baby boomers of the 40's were told there are no witches or ghosts,but todays' kids know that there are witches and ghosts and magic spells can get you what you want!
In the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus ....Christians wake up!!!! Care for your childrens souls!!

I recommend Stephen G. Greydanus's essay about magic in Tolkien, Lewis, and the Harry Potter books. http://www.decentfilms.com/articles/magic.html
The older writers use magic as a plot device; they imply it is a form of power, with moral consequences; and they never, ever, show humans as using magic.