Confession: it’s not just because my kids think Netflix’s Voltron is a great show that we watch it.
I think it’s a great show, too.
I think I was a little young for the original Voltron back in the ’80’s, so I didn’t have any emotional attachment to the story or characters when I first gave it a try on Netflix. To be honest, when I watched the pilot – with no real idea of what I was getting myself into – the whole idea struck me as pretty lame: five robot lions that join together to make a giant robot man that flies around in space using a sword to defend the universe. I mean…really?
I finished the pilot anyway and then the second episode and the third. There are now seven full seasons and, though our family is running a bit behind, we’ve eagerly gobbled them all up. It’s very well done. The characters are interesting and likable; the plots are complicated and compelling; the storyline runs through the whole series in mini-arcs that are ultimately tied together; the animation is great. What’s not to like?! I mean…it’s the story of five robot lions that transform into Voltron, the defender of the universe! And he has a sword! How cool is that!?
A few weeks ago we settled in to begin watching season 7. The first episode focused on some of the backstory for two of the main characters, Keith and Shiro. About halfway through, Kyna and I were surprised by what seemed to be a subtle homosexual relationship between Shiro and a former colleague. There was nothing overt, but enough hints that I decided to do a bit of research after the show was over. Sure enough: Neflix had decided – very purposefully – to make Shiro gay.
This is not surprising, of course. Our culture has been steadily normalizing homosexual relationships throughout my lifetime and it was inevitable that this conscious goal would eventually make its way into cartoons and kids movies. As a matter of fact, I take the subtly with which it was introduced into Voltron not as a sneaky, covert attempt to brainwash America’s youth, but as the logical outworking of the message that homosexuality is completely normal and should not stand out to us at all.
This did, however, present a question for Kyna and I. The Scriptures are very clear on the issue: Homosexuality is an immoral lifestyle choice that violates God’s design for marriage, the family, and godly sexual relationships. Scripture is also clear on our attitude towards gays and lesbians: we are to love them as we would anyone else, in a way that demonstrates grace and mercy and service and friendship while refusing to give approval to their unbiblical choices or to lower the standards of godliness that have been set before us.
Less clear is how to handle secular media with our kids, which is the question Voltron laid before us. Do we ignore the issue in the show? Do we address it? Do we continue watching the series at all? These are, I think, questions that require thought from parents who want to please the Lord, honor his Word, and take seriously the charge they’ve been given with regards to their childrens’ training. Kyna and I talked at length before making our decision and presenting it to our kids.
One option would have been to simply ignore the issue. Our kids certainly hadn’t picked up on the message or even the relationship and could continue enjoying the series unaffected. The problem with this, from our perspective, is twofold: first, there are lots of kids (and adults) who will not be so happily naive and we didn’t want our kids hearing about how “Voltron is so gay” from their friends. Which leads to the second issue, that this is an important conversation we need to be having with our kids – even our 7 and 8 year old ones – and to ignore this would be a missed opportunity.
The second option would be to address the issue and make the decision that this was not a show that we were going to support any longer. To be honest, this is often my first reaction and I wouldn’t frown on any family that decided to take this track. For me, it’s not so much that Voltron is presenting a sinful behavior in a positive light. Calvin (from Calvin and Hobbes) constantly displays disrespect and disobedience, Garfield is the epitome of gluttony and laziness, and the kids in many middle-grade books and movies lie or deceive or demonstrate anger and unkindness within the course of the plot. Sin is all around us and as part of this world our kids will be exposed to it. My greatest hesitation with continuing to enjoy Voltron is that, as so much attention has been focused on the show and its pro-homosexual message it becomes a standard bearer for that message. A symbol. A rallying cry. To continue to support the show then feels inextricably tied to its place culturally, to the extent that supporting it feels (and looks like?) supporting its stance on homosexuality.
Despite this, it’s obvious by now that we choose the third option: we had a conversation about what was going on in the show, the message it was presenting, and decided that we would continue to enjoy the series, but with eyes wide open. Ultimately, it felt inconsistent to banish a show depicting homosexuality without also banishing shows/movies/books/etc. that depicted other sins as well. While Garfield might be a tongue-in-cheek example, as our kids get older there will be plenty of storylines that contain inappropriate pre-marital relationships, revenge, deceit, etc., all with the same subtle message of approval. These sinful behaviors are condemned in Scripture just as homosexuality is and to avoid them all would be akin to isolating ourselves in a way I don’t think Scripture calls for.
As it turns out, we had a great conversation with our kids. We were able to talk about God’s plan for marriage, for husbands and wives. We were able to present homosexuality Biblically, not in a way that vilified gays and lesbians as wicked monsters, but as sinners in need of a savior (just like everybody else). We were able to prepare them for their future when, hopefully, they will be able to form friendships and show Christ’s love to all people, regardless of each individuals sin of choice. We had a great discussion about remaining watchful for the messages the world sends us and always – always! – comparing those messages to Scripture.
What started (and remains) as a great disappointment in seeing one of our favorite shows weaponized for unbiblical purposes turned out to be a means in our family for presenting Truth with love and wisdom.
And that is what we are after as parents.