By Jared Moore
*Additionally, if you want more detailed interaction with Bird Box, check out episode 36 of the Pop Culture Coram Deo Podcast:
Netflix’s original movie, Bird Box, within its first 7 days of release, was viewed (70% of the movie) by over 45,000,000 accounts. Bird Box tells the story of an invisible presence that when viewed with one’s eyes takes on physical form to the viewer, and drives most people to suicide. Sandra Bullock stars, along with John Malkovich, and Trevante Rhodes. It presents a compelling story with something important to say, something Christian parents need to hear, as well as an idol and false gospel that Christian parents need to reject.
But what is the message of Bird Box?
[Spoiler Alert: Spoilers Follow!]
The primary message of Bird Box is similar to the principle we find in Proverbs 22:13. Solomon wrote, “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets! (ESV)’”
After Malorie (Sandra Bullock) experiences the loss of her sister, boyfriend, and friends (almost every person she gets close to), and after having barely escaped death herself on numerous occasions, she seeks to shelter herself and her children from these apocalyptic monsters in the name of survival.
Malorie shelters herself by dehumanizing her children. Although the children are around 4 years of age by the time they reach safety at the end of the movie, Malorie does not name them until the very end. Instead, throughout the movie, she calls them “boy” and “girl.” The loss of so many that she has loved has encouraged her to stop becoming so attached to others. She simply cannot bear to lose anyone else she loves; so she decides to stop loving.
Malorie shelters her children by not only having them wear blindfolds outside, she also keeps them from playing, from hearing stories of having fun, from hearing stories of anything they cannot currently do. At one point near the end, Malorie has lost her daughter in the forest, and she is franticly searching for her and yelling for her. She finds her son and he tells her that her daughter is afraid of her. At this moment, Malorie realizes that it is her lack of love for her daughter that has now placed her in grave danger. The regret for over-sheltering herself and her children comes rushing out. Malorie screams into the dense forest,
I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry sweet girl. I’m so sorry. I was wrong! I Shouldn’t have been so hard. I shouldn’t have stopped you from playing. I shouldn’t have ended Tom’s story because it wasn’t finished. When he climbed to the very top of that giant oak tree, he saw the most beautiful things. He saw hundreds of children playing games, and he saw birds, all different colored birds; and he saw us from the very top. He saw us together, and we have to be together! And it’s not just a story! It’s not, because I have so much I want to show you. I have so much that I want you to see. Okay? But, we have to do it together, okay? So, I just need you to come to me right now. Okay, please? Just come to me.
Her daughter comes to her, and Malorie repeatedly tells her, “I love you so much!”
The primary point of the movie is that to over-shelter may lead to survival for yourself and others, but mere survival is not living; mere survival is not loving. To shelter oneself means that you never truly love others more than you love yourself. And to lack love for others is to lack life. Human beings are meant for love, and there is no real love without real relationships with other people.
Furthermore, the movie reinforces this primary principle by offering a secondary principle. It argues that the opposite extreme, under-sheltering, is “crazy.” Throughout the movie, there are “crazy” people running around trying to make everyone look at the “beauty” of evil (the monsters). Seeing beauty in evil and demanding others enjoy the evil as well indeed means one is evil. In this way, there is a clear good and a clear evil in Bird Box.
To summarize, the message of Bird Box is, “Don’t over-shelter. Don’t under-shelter. Instead, shelter from real danger and enjoy relationships with friends and family. Be free, like a bird let out of his box.”
Getting back to Proverbs 22:13, the point of this verse is not that there really is a lion outside. The sluggard, the lazy person, says, “There might be a lion outside, I might perish! Therefore, I cannot go to work!” The sluggard has not seen a lion. He’s making an excuse because he’s lazy. The lazy person must justify his laziness in order to silence his conscience.
In a similar manner, the lazy parent or the fearful parent says, “There is a lion outside! My kids shall be killed in the streets!” It’s not that there is a real lion the parent has seen; it’s not that there is real danger. Over-sheltering parents desire to protect their children from the lion that “may exist” right outside their sheltering reach.
The Idol and False Gospel, and God’s True Gospel
But Bird Box doesn’t get everything right. Like most of pop culture, there is a clear idol. The idol in Bird Box is the assumption that the greatest danger to our children is outside of them. But the Bible is clear that the greatest threat to our children is not what is outside of them but what is inside of them. The greatest threat to our children is their own sinful hearts (Rom. 3:23, Jer. 17:9). And no amount of sheltering can transform a child’s heart. Parents may protect their children from all the evils of the world, and they still may grow up to love the world and hate God.
It is precisely because of the wickedness of our children’s hearts that we need to shelter shepherd our children from evil influences in the world and in their hearts. Our children desire evil. They are more like the “crazy people” than the innocent children in Bird Box. Therefore, Christian parents must shepherd their children by protecting them from themselves with the gospel, pointing out their sins, and leading them constantly to the True Shepherd who offers eternal grace to the repentant.
Finally, Christian parents must remember that if our children are to live this life for God’s glory, they must not only be holy, distinct from the world, they must also go out into the world making disciples, even to the ends of the Earth (Matt. 28:18-20). We do our children a great disservice and the gospel a great disservice when we raise holy children who cannot eat with sinners. The biblical goal for Christian parents is to raise disciples, ambassadors for Christ, not safe birds that are kept in a box.
Do you remember one of the first things Malorie did when she entered the Janet Tucker School for the Blind? She asked the children, “Hey, what do you guys say we let the birds go be with their friends?” The children agree, and she releases the birds from the box. The birds are free and so are they; not because of over-sheltering, but because of the love Malorie displayed for her children. Love not over-sheltering is the key to raising godly children.
Therefore, let us learn from Bird Box that over-sheltering our children is not truly living or loving, while also realizing that Bird Box needs to learn from us. Balanced-sheltering is not the answer to living in an evil world. After all, we are part of the evil and no amount of sheltering can transform our sinful hearts. Only God can change the heart, and He has determined to change hearts through the proclamation of the gospel by the Spirit’s regeneration, through the Son’s finished work, to the glory of the Father.
May we shepherd our children so that they may go freely into the world and lead others to the True Shepherd, Jesus Christ the Righteous.