With the new live-action Aladdin movie recently announced, Brother Tito and I decided to revisit the original animated movie to discuss its hero. You know, the guy who lies to everyone about who he is, uses a genie to control the world around him, gets caught in his lies, but then by the end of the movie ends up with the girl, a palace, and tremendous power, all without every showing remorse or saying he’s sorry.
You know, the sort of heroic behavior we want to instill into our kids.
For Br. Tito and I, this is just one example of many of “cheap grace” in entertainment, happy endings and character resolutions that just don’t seem “earned.” The character gets everything they want without changing or making any sacrifices; the horrible things they’ve done are forgiven without contrition or attempt at reconciliation. It’s “forgiveness,” and I guess a “happy ending,” but it’s just not that satisfying.
Real forgiveness, we contend, the sort of forgiveness that flows from the grace of God, is completely free, but it has a cost. It takes time. It takes effort. The reason that “cheap grace” in entertainment leaves us so unsatisfied is because we know that’s not the way the world works. Change does not happen immediately or completely, nor is it a magical property that happens to us without our knowing or willing. It takes sacrifice. It takes contrition.
And the best stories in entertainment get this.