Movies that include giants or tiny creatures can be some of the most enjoyable films on the big screen — and they often are accompanied by great life lessons for children and parents, too.
Consider, for example, the film and book Horton Hears A Who!, which included the famous phrase “a person’s a person no matter how small.” It originally was written by Dr. Seuss as a message about bigotry against Japanese people, but in recent years has been used by the pro-life cause in a powerful way.
In the biblical realm, the true story of David and Goliath displayed the power of God in the midst of a seemingly impossible situation, yet it also has been used by many pastors as a symbol of how God can slay everyday problems.
Steven Spielberg’s newest film, The BFG (PG), gives us another story about giants. It is based on the popular book by Roald Dahl and follows the exploits of a 24-foot-tall “Big Friendly Giant” (the BFG) and a 10-year-old girl named Sophie.
It is among the most family-friendly films I ever have seen and is full of lessons for children – some obvious, some subtle. Of course, this isn’t a faith-based movie in the technical sense, but as Augustine once said, all truth is God’s truth. So what can we learn?
1. Fears are often baseless. Jesus was clear in telling us not to fear (Matthew 10:31). For adults, this may apply to our irrational fear of the future or of finances, but for children it may relate to their fear of the dark or fear of school. Everyone in the movie was fearful of something: Sophie was afraid of the BFG, who was afraid of the other giants, who were afraid of rain. And all of the fears were unfounded.
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2. Appearances can be deceitful. Sophie just knew that the BFG was going to eat her. Why? Because he was big and looked intimidating. Her first impressions, though, were wrong. In fact, he was as friendly as a loving grandfather. I won’t ever forget the first time my oldest son, then 2, met a friend of mine, of a different race, who had a non-traditional hairstyle. My son was scared, but soon came to befriend the man when he saw how nice he was. The BFG is a good reminder that first impressions often are wrong.
3. Bullying is ugly. It is good, I think, for children to watch a character, with which they empathize, be bullied – as long as the scene isn’t too over the top. The other giants in Giant Country were at least three times bigger than the BFG — and incredibly mean. In one scene they bullied him by tossing him around like a football, and in another scene they came into his house and ransacked pretty much everything in sight. In each instance, we felt empathy for the BFG, who appeared helpless. Modern-day bullies rarely get to see what it’s like on the other side. In The BFG, they do.
4. The weak need defended. The BFG cared for Sophie, and later in the film, the British military protected the BFG and the country’s children against the giants — literally moving the bullies to a deserted. Too often in our fallen world, the tallest child or the biggest adult is the one known for mistreating, harassing and picking on those who are smaller. But consider this: Why did God make some people exceptionally intimidating in appearance? Surely it was to guard and protect those who are weaker, right? And no matter how small our kids are, someone always will be smaller, and needing compassion. That’s a good lesson for our children — on the big screen and in the real world.
— by Michael Foust
Michael Foust has covered the film industry for more than a decade. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelFoust