Great art retains its appeal through time. This is true even with works created for children – including cartoons such as The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. The success of this cartoon classic is due to the things children appreciate: outrageous characters, simple story lines, a make-believe world that mirrors real life, and just enough irreverence to entice the mischievous streak in every youngster. And yet those who grew up with Rocky the flying squirrel and his friend Bullwinkle J. Moose continue to appreciate the show because of its sophistication. As children we could not possibly understand the clever references to the Cold War then raging between the United States and the Soviet Union, nor the endless puns and jabs at politics, literature, and popular culture.
As children we did not need to know those things. All we needed to know was that Bullwinkle and Rocky were funny. Even the villains were funny. Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, along with their Fearless Leader, soon acquired fame that rivalled the title characters. As caricatures of Soviet spies and political figures they were the perfect foils. Moreover, they established a clear line between good and evil for young viewers. Every child knew that Boris and Natasha were bad. Their ceaseless efforts at killing Bullwinkle to advance their evil country’s fortunes originated from nothing else than pure meanness (as explained by Fearless Leader himself in the story “Goof Gas Attack”). If the plot were exceptionally evil the spies would receive orders not only to deal with Bullwinkle, but to kill moose and squirrel. Even when they received a note from Fearless Leader saying, “DO NOT kill Moose and Squirrel”, we knew that this apparent kindness occurred only because at that point the evil plans would best be served by keeping Rocky and Bullwinkle alive.
Children may not understand such things completely, but they grasp them instinctively. Understanding comes later, after they have become adults and acquired years of knowledge and experience, not all of which is good or pleasant. Children in their innocence discern good and evil, but they take as established fact that there is no gray area between the two. After a few significant encounters in the real world they begin to learn that people and things can be confusing mixtures of good and evil. Some appear to be good, but are evil at the core. Some may do evil things, but for good reasons – or so they maintain. Some do good for selfish reasons. The sad reality is that children soon learn there is no absolute good among human beings, which makes navigation of this world exceedingly hazardous. It is easier to revert to childhood innocence and attempt to stay there as long as possible.
The childlike place is comforting and safe. There we recognize that good and evil exist, but all we need do is cling to the one while avoiding the other. We need not seek the origins of evil, nor try to understand why evil and good seem to be intertwined in every heart. A child will take the word of its parents in faith and act accordingly. If they say a thing is good or bad, the child will act on that. It is only later that the child begins to inquire into the nature of good and bad. In time that path of inquiry leads to a line that should never be crossed: the point of defining good and evil on his own terms. Unfortunately, it seems that this very line has marked the boundary between childhood and adulthood since the time of Adam and Eve. That may be why Messiah Yeshua said this:
And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4 NASB) Please click here to continue reading