For: strong moral confusion, and pagan mythology
Pinocchio has some of the most iconic old-fashioned animation, and some of the worst ethical advice, in film. Smothered in instruction to rely solely on your conscience for moral guidance, encouragement to direct all major requests to the stars, and guarantees that if you do these things all your dreams will come true, Pinocchio dances its way through the existentially-challenged puppet’s transformation into a full-blooded human, thanks to a wand-waving Blue Fairy and a cricket-conscience who faithfully warns Pinocchio away from lying, skipping school, and any form of billiards.
Strong Moral Confusion
In Pinocchio, the only standard of right and wrong is the individual conscience. Pinocchio asks how he will know to choose between right and wrong, and the Blue Fairy (see Pagan Mythology, below) replies, “Your conscience will tell you.” Pinocchio is carefully instructed several times to “always let your conscience be your guide,” and the conscience is presented as being infallible and incorruptible. The conscience is also presented as helpful when “you don’t know right from wrong,” as “Lord High Keeper of the knowledge of right and wrong,” and as itself bestowing the moral ability to withstand strong temptation.1 Pinocchio’s conscience (presented as unbiased and infallible) tells him that it is wrong to play pool.
Pinocchio’s mentor tells him, “Temptations. They’re the wrong things that seem right at the time.” This, however, makes all temptation a question of perception, not morality, implying that the ability to see that an action is wrong means that there is no temptation present, or possible.
The Blue Fairy tells Pinocchio he will become a real boy if he proves himself “brave, truthful and unselfish.” Pinocchio does become a real boy (see Pagan Mythology, below), but while he clearly demonstrates bravery and unselfishness, the closest Pinocchio gets to proving himself truthful is promising to never lie again after having been caught deliberately lying. Moral resolve is equated with moral achievement.
When Pinocchio apologizes for lying to her, the Blue Fairy says she will forgive him “this once”. She is either agreeing to absolve Pinocchio from sin (in which case she is claiming authority which belongs to God alone), or offering to forgive his offense on a personal level (in which case she is ignoring or defying Christ’s command to forgive many times2).
The scriptural phrase “the straight and narrow path” is used multiple times in Pinocchio to refer to human goodness.
Wishing on stars is a major theme in Pinocchio. The opening (and closing) song states, “When you wish upon a star… anything your heart desires will come to you. If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme. When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.” Aside from inappropriately attributing to stars the ability to answer prayer, the movie’s statements are simply untrue, though presented as facts to believe in. The narrator Jiminy Cricket begins the story by saying, “I bet a long of you folks don’t believe that, about a wish coming true, do you? Well, I didn’t either… but let me tell you what changed my mind.” The positively-portrayed toymaker Geppetto makes a big deal about wishing on a star, and the star (which comes down in the form of a Blue Fairy) grants his wish. This scenario is the moral equivalent to making petitions to trees, rivers or statues of Buddha.
The Blue Fairy waves her wand over an inanimate puppet, and tells it, “awake! The gift of life is thine.” She later states explicitly “I’ve given you life,” leaving no room for speculation about the origin of Pinocchio’s life.
Though presented as being truly alive, Pinocchio is not “a real boy”. He is given the task of becoming real through good deeds. After meeting her requirements (and after dying), Pinocchio is turned from a dead wooden boy into a full-fledged, living human by the Blue Fairy, essentially repeating the creation of man by God, without God.
The opening song says, “Fate is kind. She brings to those who love the sweet fulfillment of their secret longing. Like a bolt out of the blue, Fate steps in and sees you through.”
1 The problem with Pinocchio is not that it presents the individual conscience as useful and good, but that it presents the conscience as completely untainted by sin, and gives the individual conscience powers that belong only to God’s Word or the Holy Spirit.
2 Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV) “Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” The KJV reads “seventy times seven”.