Not all movies attempt to send positive moral messages, so those that do are often praised by parents, teachers, religious leaders, media watchdogs and moral guardians. However, not all movies that attempt to send positive moral messages are effective in doing so. A movie can send the well-meaning, positive moral, but the manner in which that moral is portrayed may result in the moral failing to impact the behavior of the audience. So I have decided to create an article describing a well-meaning moral message in a Disney classic that I feel failed to impact the behavior of the audience, thus making the moral ineffective. I would like to write more articles of this nature for other movies in the future if I get the chance to do so.
CAUTION: This article contains spoilers for the 1940 Disney animated classic Pinocchio. If you have not seen this movie and do not wish for your first viewing of this movie to be compromised, please stop reading this article now, and click on your browser's Back or Home button, enter another URL into the URL address text field, or go to another web page by clicking on a bookmark or hyperlink. Otherwise, feel free to continue.
Pinocchio's ineffective moral
Pinocchio, a sentinent wooden puppet, has been lured by a boy named Lampwick to Pleasure Island, a large amusement park where there is neither school nor police. Jiminy Cricket gets separated from Pinocchio in the process. They head inside a structure shaped like a giant 8-ball, and play pool together. Then Lampwick offers Pinocchio a cigar. Pinocchio accepts. He takes a drag from the cigar, and you can see it is making Pinocchio sick because his face turns green. Not only does Pinocchio's face turn green, but his vision gets blurry as well.
If you're focusing on Pinocchio in this sequence, and you're young enough to be incapable of distinguishing fantasy from reality, what's happened up to this point might scare you away from ever lighting up a cigar or a cigarette. Or it might not. You might fail to get the message if you shift focus between Pinocchio and Lampwick, because you might be wondering "Why does smoking cigars make Pinocchio sick, but not Lampwick?" You might also fail to get the message if you're old enough to understand that Pinocchio is an animated cartoon and not reality.
Then Jiminy Cricket shows up, and because he's acting as Pinocchio's conscience, he does not like what he sees at all. He says to Pinocchio, "Pinocchio! So this is where I find you! How do you ever expect to be a real boy? Look at yourself. Smoking! Playing pool! (He kicks one of the pool balls.) Oww! You're comin' right home with me this minute!"
That does not happen (yet), because Lampwick anatogizes Jiminy Cricket and Jiminy Cricket storms off in disgust. Then Lampwick, who starts drinking beer, turns into a donkey. First he just looks like a donkey who can talk, then he loses the ability to talk. Pinocchio's body begins to transform too, but he cries out for Jiminy Cricket. Jiminy Cricket rescues Pinocchio and leads him off of Pleasure Island. As a result, Pinocchio merely grows donkey ears and a tail (which disappear at the end of the movie).
Now, I'm sure that many of you will say that you saw this sequence when you were a kid and got nightmares because of it. Let me ask you this-Did any of you start smoking cigarettes or drinking alcoholic beverages before you turned 21 afterwards? If you did, it was probably because you grew up, and dismissed Pinocchio's moral message because the movie was animated and not live-action. Also, if you had any family members or friends who smoked cigarettes/cigars or drank alcoholic beverages, you probably dismissed Pinocchio's moral right off the bat, because the people you know who smoke cigarettes/cigars or drink alcoholic beverages never turned into donkeys!
Now, some of you may say "I've seen Pinocchio and I've never smoked or drank alcoholic beverages before my 21st birthday." If so, good for you. Just keep in mind that there may have been other, more powerful influences in your life that influenced you to make the right choice. Also keep in mind that just because you were motivated to do the right thing by a moral message in a movie, that doesn't mean the other seven billion people on this planet reacted in the same way.
That being said, allow me to provide you with...
A More Effective Moral
Let me share with you a movie moral that worked for me. It was the "The Sandlot", a live-action movie released in 1993 by 20th Century Fox. A group of baseball buddies goes to a local fair, and they all try chewing tobacco. Then they get on a ride, specifically, a ride where riders go around in circles on a tilting platform. The ride hits full speed, and every single one of the boys who tried the chewing tobacco threw up.
This moral worked for me. I've never used chewing tobacco or smoked any cigarettes or cigars.
Why did this moral work for me? First, when I had seen the movie, I had been on several of the greatest roller coasters ever constructed by humans before without any problems. So I reasoned that the chewing tobacco made the boys throw up, and not the ride. Secondly, the film was live-action, and not animated. Moral messages delivered in live-action are more likely to be taken seriously than morals delivered using animation.
But there's always room for improvement, so please be patient and forgive me for showcasing
An Even More Effective Moral
Both Pinocchio and The Sandlot are fictional stories. Personally, I believe that pure reality is a better teacher than the most masterfully-crafted fantasy. Click here to read about a woman named Siobhan Watson, and what happened to her after her so-called "friends" compelled her to go binge drinking. I must warn you-it does not have a happy ending.
Have you finished reading the story? Good.
Now remove the name Siobhan Watson from the story, and replace that name with Kate Middleton.
Or Bella Swan.
I could give you other examples, but I think you get the point.
In summary, it is not enough to send a positive moral message. If you want your moral message to be taken seriously, such a message must be delivered in the right way. Use live-action rather than animation whenever possible. Also, try to make the story as real as possible.