Digging in Deeper: Matthew 19:30

“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

We live in a day when everything old is being made new again. Now, on the one hand, this isn’t such a good thing. For instance, it is a symptom of our culture’s decadence. We aren’t creating truly new stories anymore. When cultures stop telling new stories, that’s a signal they aren’t really looking or thinking toward the future any longer, but living just for today. That’s not a good place for a culture to be because it is much more likely to be caught flatfooted and overwhelmed by unexpected challenges. Another example of not quite the same significance: mullets are back. And in case this isn’t clear: They look just as ridiculous now as they did on their first appearance. On the other hand, though, this trend does provide some pleasant trips into nostalgia. One of the most pleasant of these I have experienced in a long time just finished its run last Friday. As promised a couple of weeks ago, here is my review of the Disney+ series, Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.

Out of the gate here, let me say that I really, really enjoyed this series. Even though the story was basically a rewriting of the original film spread out over 10 hours instead of under 2, it was fantastic. It was one I could comfortably watch with my family who all enjoyed it just as much as I did. We were just last night bemoaning the fact that we don’t have a new episode to watch this weekend together for the first time in over two months. For all the problems I have with their corporate and artistic embrace of wokeism, one thing Disney+ has done that I like a great deal is to bring back family TV nights. They’ve moved away from the Netflix and Hulu trend of releasing all the episodes of a series at once, and gone back to weekly installments that at least my family greatly looks forward to sitting down and watching together. That’s a very good thing as far as I am concerned. And, from a preview I’ve seen of an upcoming series, this looks to be a trend they don’t plan on abandoning anytime soon.

Of course, as a family committed to raising our kids to love and embrace the Christian worldview, this presents a challenge. Disney as a company has fully embraced the moral revolution, and although they are reasonably subtle about it compared with others, the things they present without any fanfare says a great deal more about their corporate worldview than the things they specifically highlight. This means we cannot ever uncritically observe their offerings. As a matter of fact, as a Christian family wanting to engage with quality media, we have a choice. We can turn away because we don’t agree, or we can teach our kids to engage with the world around them, filtering what they see through the lens of the Christian worldview. This will help them learn to recognize what doesn’t comport even when it looks good, and also learn just how fundamental are these truths. Case in point: they appear in foundational places in stories written by people who have no loyalty to them whatsoever. What the Christian worldview offers are true truths, not half ones made to look good for television, but which don’t translate well to real life.

Game Changers offers a perfect example of this. From almost the first episode, we learn that one of the main characters has two moms. Throughout the series this is presented a merely a thing. He has two moms, you have one mom, some people have no moms. None of these things are better or worse than any other thing. They are all just things. The trouble here, of course, is that this most decidedly doesn’t comport with a Christian worldview. Incidentally, it doesn’t comport with social science either. Children need a mother and a father. Period. Children do best in pretty much every social metric when they have a biological mother and father who are committed to one another for life both actively involved in their lives. That’s not merely the curmudgeonly cry of a conservative Christian, it is a social science fact backed up by a great deal of research. Sometimes that ideal situation becomes impossible because of a death or a separation, but to intentionally bring a child up in an environment in which he is willfully deprived of a mother or father isn’t ever what’s best for a child. It is then more about the desires of the ones raising him.

Simply watching Game Changers, though, doesn’t give anything like this idea. The young man is happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. Other than being a little nerdy and not very good with girls (although he gets a girl by the end of the series), he’s one of the most stable characters of the entire series. And make no mistake: There are a multitude of situations across the nation in which kids just like him are raised in environments just like he has. But make no mistake: He is missing something even if the show’s creators don’t want to acknowledge it. In fact, the thing he is missing winds up being what may have been an unintentional theme of the show.

The main character is being raised by a single mom with an absent father who is a man-child unwilling to take responsibility for the choices he’s made in his life, preferring instead to chase adolescent dreams that aren’t ever going to be realized. Another character on the team has recently moved to town with his dad, but after an ugly divorce and his dad is basically absent in his own grief, leaving the son to fend for himself. That makes three main characters who are all suffering from a lack of a solid, dependable, committed male role model in their lives. Interestingly, the “bad guys” of the series (which is ironically the Mighty Ducks organization which has become what the Hawks were in the original movie) are all kids from reasonably stable homes with moms and dads who are still married to one another and both involved in their lives.

Over the course of the series, though, the thing that most draws the ragtag group together as a team is the involvement of the original Coach Bombay who, after some personal tragedies, is learning to once again play the fatherly role he played across the original film trilogy. He becomes the father the main character hasn’t ever really had (in part by hilariously forcing his actual father to fulfill a promise to watch him play he intended to abandon). He teaches the young man who is new to town how to skate and how to handle the puck. He identifies his talent niche and cultivates that for the season he is in. In other words, he is a father to these kids. And they blossom for it. Without him, it wouldn’t have happened. While the series may be trying to make any one of a number of other social statements, it makes this one really clearly: Dads matter. A lot. Again, this may not be a truth they were trying to put on display, but it is a true truth that can’t be avoided. It showed up where perhaps it wasn’t really wanted.

There’s one more thing worth noting and this is right in line with what I said a couple of weeks ago when I wrote on this same verse (but in Mark) and mentioned the series then. The show is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus says here. I gave some illustrations of this when I wrote before, but the final episode brings it right out to the front and center of the stage. The Don’t Bothers manage to make the state hockey championships (because, of course they did). Once there, they manage to mow through all of their competition right down to a climactic championship showdown with the Ducks for all the marbles. Except, the state championship game never happens.

Over the course of the tournament, one of the best players on the team, who quit the Ducks to join them and is also the love interest of the main character, injures her knee to the point that playing on it would risk permanent injury. The trouble is, the rules stipulate that teams must have ten players available, all of whom must play…and the Don’t Bothers only have ten players. If she sits out because of her injury, the team will be forced to forfeit and their season will be over. The arrogant Ducks will again have their victory and things will be like they always were. Naturally, then, she toughs it out and heroically makes the winning shot as time expires. Right?

Wrong. The team calls a players-only meeting to talk about it. In the meeting, the main character announces that he will be sitting out of the game so that she isn’t the reason the team has to forfeit. He will be. One by one, then, the rest of the team similarly announces their refusal to play in a beautiful display of unity that is rarely found anywhere other than a Disney sports drama. The result is that they take the forfeit and give the Ducks the uncontested win. As an audience, you just knew they were going to win the game. All the weight of good storytelling was on their side. But their commitment was not to the win. It was to each other. They collectively decided to embrace being last in the competition so they could be first where it counted most. (Of course, this was a Disney sports film and so they figured out another way to play the game and won in grand fashion, but you always knew that was going to be the case from the first episode; that’s how these stories always go.)

All in all, this is a series you should watch. You should watch it with your family. Have conversations about the parts you don’t agree with, explaining what is right and why it’s right. But make sure to highlight grandly the parts that are worth celebrating, for there are many. Have a great weekend and get watching.

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