If that title got you interested, you’re either under six years of age (in which case you probably can’t read) or you’re a young parent. If you don’t fit either description and are reading anyhow, keep going! There are spiritual lessons to be gleaned from unlikely sources.
My oldest daughter watches a lot of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. This means that my wife and I inadvertently watch a lot of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as well. I promise that I don’t enjoy watching the show, but it must be better than grading, reading, or writing because I always find myself watching the show rather than doing what I need to be doing.
In any case, I recently decided to try to pull together a theological assessment of the show. Odd, I know. But I want to share two observations that stood out to me.
Observation #1: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse addresses what theologians refer to as “the fall” and “the curse.” The “drama” in each episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse often comes through the effects of the curse. In one episode, Daisy gets greedy, wants to hold all of the balloons, and then spends the episode floating in the air while the rest of the crew tries to rescue her. In another episode, the sand is too hot, so Mickey and his friends have to find a way to protect their feet. Another time, Pete is trying to steal the soup that Minnie made for Goofy. In yet another episode, the wind blows away the picnic blanket. As silly as these scenarios are, they all relate to the fall. In the garden of Eden and in the world as it will be when Christ returns, these things are not a part of God’s world. Pain, greed, evil (moral and natural), and every other problem we encounter entered the world as a result of man’s rebellion against God.
Disney has rightly been criticized at times for presenting the world in a lighthearted, sugary manner. That is, real life doesn’t always have fairytale endings, so when every Disney character lives happily ever after, it rings false.
But just because Disney typically features cute, cuddly animals, beautiful princesses, and make-all-your-dreams-come-true fairy godmothers doesn’t mean that they are ignoring the dark side of life. I can’t think of a single Disney feature that’s devoid of some manifestation of evil. Even some of the kid rides at Disneyland are pretty sinister! I wouldn’t fault Disney for not representing evil, but I would call attention to their silly and insufficient solutions to the problem of evil (their “saviors,” if you will).
Isn’t it interesting that even the simplest, happiest children’s shows are compelled to present the world in a way that fits the biblical account, at least to an extent? In other words, the curse is such an inescapable part of the world we live in that even Mickey Mouse Clubhouse has to deal with it.
Observation #2: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse doesn’t feature a firm and fixed villain. Devotees may object: “What about Pete?” Indeed, Pete often takes on the role of the villain. He tries to steal soup and cookie recipes, he charges exorbitant prices (collected in flower petals and gumballs) for access and tools that Mickey and friends require, and generally causes problems. As my 3 year old nephew told me: “Mommy no like Pete cause he has a bad attitude.”
But even Pete isn’t always the villain. Sometimes he is working against Mickey and the other “good guys” and sometimes he is on their side, battling the effects of the curse. Similarly, sometimes the “villain” is Daisy (who sometimes gets greedy), Goofy (who is often, well, goofy), or Donald (who sometimes gets pouty).
This might not sound like much, but isn’t that the reality we all experience in this fallen world? You’ll never meet an evil person who is always evil. Nor will you meet a good person who is always good. The villains in this world can’t be simply rounded up and removed from society. The line between good and evil runs through every human heart. Sometimes we play the hero, sometimes the villain.
I’m not suggesting that Disney is trying to present biblical theology in Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. And both of my observations above will have exceptions and counter-examples. Even so, every cultural creation is an attempt to make sense of the world. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse has to present the world in a specific way—you might say it conveys a particular worldview—and in these two cases its presentation of the world is fairly astute. Whatever people try to create, they always have to wrestle with the reality of the world as it is. They always have to live in the world that God made. They always find themselves battling the effects of sin.
Our job is to identify the problems that the creators of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse see in the world and then point them to the ultimate solution. You may not have a fruitful evangelistic conversation based on Mickey Mouse, but the culture that surrounds us is constantly wrestling to make sense of this world. And when we analyze their cultural creations carefully, we often find unique and fruitful inroads for sharing the gospel.
Mark – Looks like you’ve found a fantastic way to justify watching the show – it’s material for the blog!!
You got me there! My love of watching Micky Mouse Clubhouse was pretty awkward until I had kids…
I have been in the exact same situation as you, accidentally watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and wondering about the theology/philosophy behind it. I can’t help but notice that toodles appears to have a vaugely similar role to the Holy Spirit in providing them with tools/gifts needed to complete their task. I have afew issues with some of it though:Mickey Mouse is never wrong about anything (not a great theology of leadership, assuming he is supposed to be their leader), they don’t seem to be capable of thinking outside the box (such as their refusal to simply leave the path in order to get around an obstacle), I also feel that they could do getting away from feeling the need to ask toodles for everyhting when they could just improvise/use their own physical ablities or skills, find an object lying around the clubhouse or somewhere nearby which would do the job just as well as toodles ‘tools’. I think I’m straying in physcology though. If this doesn’t make sense then its because I don’t sleep as much as I used to before I had kids!
Great thoughts, James. I thoroughly enjoy exploring the implications of even the simplest and most “unphilosophical” of things. Worldview is everywhere. That’s not to say that Disney is intentionally trying to model the Holy Spirit or discourage critical thinking, but it’s important to explore the undertones, assumptions, and implications of things like Toodles or the role of problem-solving in a kids’ show. Well said. I like your thoughts.
I, too became aware of things that look like sugar and spice, that is why whenever possible the parents should always be aware of what is currently happening.