Becoming Real

Most people have something that they desperately want in life. Maybe it’s a significant other, a job, some aspiration, or a hope for someone they deeply care about. These deeply-held desires are what most people would wish to come true if they had the chance. Disney’s 2022 live-action movie Pinocchio, based on the 1940 animated film, showcases the greatest wish of many of the characters. For Geppetto, an old wood carver who lost his wife and son long ago, the greatest wish he has is for the wooden puppet he carved to come to life so that he could have a son again. After making a wish on a star, that’s exactly what happens.

After finding out that it was his father’s wish that brought him to life, Pinocchio decides that his greatest wish is to make his father happy and the best way to accomplish this is to become a real boy. But to become “truly real” he has to prove that he is “brave, truthful, and unselfish.” In order to do that, he must learn the difference between right and wrong.

Pinocchio’s message is that what makes a person real is who they are on the inside—it is their character that matters. This seems to align with the Bible, which tells Christians that it is important to walk out their faith through who they are and what they do (Galatians 5:22-23). What does it mean to be “truly real”? And why would a person want to be “truly real” anyway?

“Truly Real”
For most of the movie, becoming “truly real” means to become human. It suggests that there is something about being brave, truthful, and unselfish that makes a person more human,which is a desirable thing. Pinocchio believes that being a real boy is more valuable than being a wooden puppet because he thinks his becoming real will make his father happier. This belief essentially confirms that he is not good enough as he is; that learning the difference between right and wrong can make him better off than he is as a puppet.

However, Disney doubles back on themselves on this point in the 2022 remake. In the 1940 movie, Pinocchio harshly experiences the consequences of making the wrong choices in some truly horrific and dark ways. Overcoming these things is how he eventually becomes a real boy. The moral in the original story is that if you are brave, truthful, and unselfish, you will become ‘real’—that is, you will become a better, more whole version of yourself.

In the 2022 remake, Pinocchio’s only flaw is apparently being too naïve and trusting. The harsh realities that he experiences are not necessarily of his own doing. They are caused by a world that forces him into things that he doesn’t want to be a part of. The moral at the end of the remake is that Pinocchio has always been enough just as he is. So he doesn’t need to be transformed into a real boy at all. In other words, being a wooden puppet is just as good as, if not better than, being a real human. After all, is it really reasonable to ask a person, especially a child, to change themselves to fit someone else’s idea of who they are?

In this way, Disney reminds us of a very popular belief: be yourself; the only one who can give or take away your value is yourself. This is not to be confused with being honest about who you are with yourself and those around you. Lying about who we are will never end well, which is played out clearly with Pinocchio and his growing nose. However, being honest about who we are in the face of our flaws takes bravery. Understandably, it is not easy to confess the things of which we are ashamed. These things often make us feel like we are worth less than we would be otherwise. Disney’s answer to combat these feelings is to celebrate the character flaws that cause them. But God’s answer is much different.

Transforming Love
The Bible says we already have the greatest value, because God created people in his image. This is why many Christians are so opposed to abortion, because they believe human life begins at conception; therefore, a baby already bears God’s image. But in another sense, it can seem that, because of sin, people have had their value decreased. We have missed the mark and are suffering the consequences because, like Pinocchio believes, we are good enough.

At the end of the 2022 version of Pinocchio, Disney diverges from the story of the original animated film. Geppetto tells Pinocchio, who is still a wooden boy, “it was you I was wishing for. You will always be my real boy.” Similarly, God sees us in our fallen state, marred by sin and hiding from him. He sees us for who we really are, and still he demonstrates his love for us in sending Jesus Christ to die for us (Romans 5:8). God’s greatest desire is that we would come to him just as we are so that he can bring us to life. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “That is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumour going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life.”1 We do not need to prove ourselves brave, truthful, unselfish, clean or any other number of things. All we need to do is humbly take his outstretched hand. It is God—his love for us—that transforms us (2 Corinthians 3:18).

We are already valuable people because we are made in God’s image. But he makes us “real” in an entirely different sense. He helps us to become the person he created us to be—the one we long to be in the deepest part of ourselves. He transforms us into a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), a person who reflects Jesus Christ and his perfect love. And bit by bit, our greatest wish is no longer for anything that this world has to offer. It is for God himself, and to become truly real as he is truly real. He is the answer to every question, and is better than everything else.

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Rebecca Sachaj

Rebecca Sachaj is enthusiastic about helping fellow believers deepen their relationship with God. After finishing her Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Writing, she pursued further study in Apologetics through The Oxford Center for Christian Apologetics. She plans to obtain her Masters in Apologetics, focusing on the connection between the Christian Imagination and Apologetics. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her two dogs, Strider and Samwise.