Stop Calling Kids Movies “Cute”

So last week I finally watched Paddington with my family. I loved it. It’s clever, whimsical, beautifully-shot, and explored serious themes in a sensitive way. In short, it’s a good movie.

You’ll notice one word I purposefully avoided: cute.

*Climbs onto soapbox*

We should stop calling art for children “cute.” Here’s why:

  • It sets a bad precedent. Let’s be honest. When most people describe a kids’ movie or book as “cute,” they don’t actually think it’s good. They usually mean it’s insipid or simplistic, but it’s just for kids so who cares. Talk about setting the bar low. Do you have any idea how easy it is to create something “cute”? Start with a talking baby animal, give it bright colors and a jazzy song, throw in a happy ending and message about believing in yourself, and you officially have a “cute” work of art.

This sets all the wrong incentives for creators. There’s no sense in putting all the time (and therefore money) needed to make a good work of art. As long as it’s “cute,” you’re set. So all the labor-intensive good art gets replaced by the mass-produced “cute” art. And we all suffer for it.

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Did Anything Even Happen in the Centuries Between Paul the Apostle and Billy Graham?

A few days ago, we dropped our latest Believe to See podcast. Anselm staffer Michelle Hindman joined us to discuss a topic I know far too little about: hagiography, or stories of the lives of saints.

First, you should listen to the whole podcast, which is right here (and it’s embedded at the bottom of this post). Second, I have a few takeaways.

  1. The Catholic Advantage

For many issues, I’m happy to have been raised in the protestant-evangelical world. For instance, when a Catholic friend asked me what happened in the book of Esther, I could explain the whole story to him and it’s significance in the greater meta-narrative of the Bible.

But one area where I need to catch up is in my knowledge of the lives of the saints. Between the Apostle Paul and Billy Graham, evangelicals have a lot of blanks on the timeline. They really miss out on the hagiographies. Or at least, on the official hagiographies (more on that later).

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A Few More Imagination Redeemed Reflections

In my last post, I shared some initial takeaways on this year’s Your Imagination Redeemed conference. For this post, I’ll share . . . MORE takeaways from the conference! Here they are:

4. Know Your Goal as an Artist

I was the moderator for a panel on the Christian music and the Christian radio industry. The panelists were musicians whose work doesn’t fit the Christian radio formula. But none of them seemed frustrated by that for one simple reason: their goals weren’t to be on Christian radio.

Instead, they focused on creating music that would actually have an effect on people. As one of the panelists (Hi, Teressa!) explained, she realized her goal at an Andrew Peterson concert. She realized how many of the folks in the audience were welling up at his songs. Her goal was to have a career like that–create music that connected to people on that deep level. Getting on the big radio stations was an afterthought.

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Kids Need Imagination. And So Does the Church. And So Do I.

This past weekend was the Anselm Society’s big yearly conference: Your Imagination Redeemed. It was a blast–speakers and artists from across the country gathered to talk about the role of imagination in the Church.

In an effort to apply as much of what I’ve learned as possible, I’ve decided to share some initial takeaways from the big blob of information that I’m still trying to process.

So here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Imagination is Important

It’s easy to think of imagination as a kids’ trifle. We assume the important things are verifiable, commodifiable facts. This attitude is (especially?) prevalent among evangelicals. The only real Important Things are doctrinal issues. Imagination is important, if at all, only to the extent it aids the Important Things.

One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Anthony Esolen, noted that this humans-as-robots sort of thinking isn’t actually how the world works. Yes, it’s important to teach doctrine. But what really forms us is our imagination.

If we only focus on doctrine and ignore imagination, we’ve given away the game without realizing it.

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