If you see Smallfoot with your children, plan to discuss it with them. It’s a clever movie with funny moments, but it also mocks religious belief, and, in my opinion, it’s clearly targeted at Christianity. In fact, it reminds me of Pleasantville, a movie with a similar theme, where tradition and traditional values are mocked while progress and the new morality are celebrated.
This isn’t a review, and I’m not telling you to avoid seeing it. In fact, as our kids are exposed to false ideas through movies, music, and books, we try to teach them to evaluate ideas and how they’re communicated in culture.
Here were some of the messages my kids - 13 and 11 years old - took away from the movie.
- The Stonekeeper - a religious figure like Moses with the Ten Commandments - keeps stones that have the rules of life for the yeti tribe. These rules are lies that are meant to instill fear in the yetis and oppress them. When the rules and principles (based on their creation myth) are discovered to be false, the yetis lose their purpose and role in their society.
- The yetis have a creation myth that’s obviously ridiculous but is believed by everyone except for the Stonekeeper and the ancestors that have handed down the myths for the protection of the yeti.
- Science is progress and progress is good. The more evidence they discover, the more the myths are disproven and the Stonekeeper loses his control over the community. Tradition and ancient ideas are bad, while progress and new ideas are good.
- Questions are discouraged. When a discussion about the inconsistencies of their creation myth are raised, the yeti are told to “push the questions down.”
- When the main yeti reports evidence of a smallfoot (AKA a human) and tells the village, he’s banished from the community because he’s going against the writings of the ancient stones.
- When the main yeti provides evidence of a smallfoot, the Stonekeeper tells him to tell the community the human is just a yak - to lie - in order to protect the yeti tribe from the dangers of the humans (the name of the song sung by the Stonekeeper at this point is “Let It Lie”). Of course, the yetis only think the humans are dangerous because they haven’t taken the effort to get know them. (That’s like Christians, right? We fear people who are different from us because we don’t take the time to know them...sigh.)
There are good messages, too. For example, the main human character is initially inclined to fake discovering a yeti but is encouraged to act with integrity and not deceive. Eventually, heeding this advice, he also sacrifices his own fame in order to save the yeti tribe.
The main yeti is also a good character who is going out to discover the truth and bring it to his tribe. (Of course, his likability is leveraged by the filmmakers against religious beliefs since the truth he discovers debunks the teaching of the ancients).
So I’m not trying to merely bash the movie. It has its positive moments, and I strongly believe that parents should also bring out those elements in the discussion with their kids. Unfortunately, the movie is well done, but in a way that doesn’t tell the truth and mocks religious belief.