Sheep’s Clothing: Hiding Content in Children’s Programing

“It is better for him if a millstone is hung around his neck and he is thrown into the sea, than that he may cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:2)

One of the most insidious things is the corruption of the young. Innocence is one of the most beautiful things in this world. And yet the world is constantly trying to corrupt that innocence. You don’t have to be particularly religious to see this problem. One of the main themes of The Catcher in the Rye is the lamentation at the loss of innocence.

In recent years, there has been a stronger push to fill children’s content with content that is more mature. To be sure, very serious ideas and themes can be found throughout the history of children’s entertainment. From Old Yeller, Bambi, and The Lion King, children have been introduced to the darker side of life that involves loss and death. Parents exercise cautious judgment regarding how well their kids can handle the content.

But this is different than the stronger push that has been happening in children’s entertainment. There seems to be a concerted effort to bring very un-Christian content. Jesus said “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matt 7:15). Rather than engaging adults in discussion about mature content, this content is being presented to kids in a supposedly family-friendly medium.

This is particularly noxious because of how impressionable children are. They internalize what they see around them. They have much more trouble discerning what is true and false.

On top of this, kids are in a hurry to grow up. When they encounter things that they know are supposed to be on the more mature or vulgar side, they often are attracted to that. How often do kids get scandalized and excited when they hear someone using curse words?

Sometimes it involves normalizing behavior. I just saw a movie that was geared towards kids where they normalized pre-marital sex and same-sex “marriage.” The producers did not make this a focus of the story, but instead had it in the background. I saw another movie recently where the movie ended with the main character, who could turn into a giant panda, say to her mother: “My panda, my choice!” This is clearly a primer to the traditional pro-abortion slogan “My body, my choice.”

This continues promoting more lifestyles contrary to the Gospel in children’s movies, TV, and books. Particularly, there is a push to expose children to issues of human sexuality at younger and younger ages.

To be sure, every generation of parents fights this fight against the culture. And you do have to watch out for being over-reactionary. By this I mean that we can paint an entire genre or franchise with broad brush strokes that can lead people to dismiss our concerns. But we cannot ignore the immoral content that can be hidden here. Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned against the “subtle seductions” that can occur in children’s content.

So what is a parent to do?

All parents need to make their own judgments regarding content. But the important thing to remember is that you cannot assume that anything labeled “family friendly” or “for children” is safe. Those who want to push agendas on children, particular regarding human sexuality, will attach it to your children’s entertainment. And they will do their best to hide this content from their advertising.

Parents should do their best to check out reliable sources to gauge appropriate content. You do not want to go see the latest big-budget cartoon movie only to be sucker-punched by content that you will have to explain to your young kids.

And when you do get sucker-punched, be ready to have an age-appropriate conversation about what our faith teaches us regarding the moral life.

This may seem overwhelming as the popular culture surrounds us. But parents must act as Christ, the Good Shepherd, who guards the flock against wolves in sheeps clothing.

Copyright 2022, WL Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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