Last month Disney revealed that extremely “hard” R-rated content, such as Deadpool and Daredevil, will soon begin streaming on Disney+. When I heard this news, I was reminded of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s warning to our society. After suffering for years in soviet prison camps, Solzhenitsyn wrote The Gulag Archipelago, for which he won the Nobel Prize. This massive work laid out in excruciating detail the apparatus of torture and slavery that Stalin used to murder countless millions. Given Solzhenitsyn’s experience with totalitarianism, one might image that he would have nothing but admiration for America’s free society. Such is not the case. In an address delivered at Harvard, Solzhenitsyn offered this critique:
Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people's right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil. (source)
Few men knew more about evil than Solzhenitsyn. Few men were more aware of evil’s insidious power to corrode human societies. Nevertheless, I wonder if even Solzhenitsyn could have imagined that in just a few short decades, the company whose name is synonymous with childhood innocence would be distributing films as depraved as Deadpool.
Of course, the predictable defense from Disney is that they have introduced parental controls. The obvious problem, however, is that many thousands of children are not fortunate enough to have adults in their lives who will protect them from Disney’s harmful content. It is an inescapable fact that at least some children will access explicit content through Disney+. Moreover, this damage will not be evenly distributed across society. “Researchers agree that rates of parental involvement [in education] are lower in low-income communities than in higher income schools” (source). This relationship undoubtedly holds for parental involvement in other areas of the child’s life, such as entertainment. Thus Disney’s cynical decision to distribute explicit content is sure to disproportionately harm the most vulnerable members of our society.
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