I will always remember the movie “How to Train a Dragon.” My son was 3ish and although I brought him to a couple other movies, this was the first one where he “got” it. Those of you with young kids may best understand what I am talking about here. Maybe you remember that first moment when your child stopped just enjoying eating popcorn and watching the silly images and songs, but actually “got” a movie… understood the plot, followed along, got excited.
The same thing happened recently with my daughter (now 3 1/2) and the movie “Frozen.” My daughter sat on the edge of her seat, utterly engrossed, whispering question after question to me. She “got” the movie in a way she never had before. It made the movie many more times enjoyable for me, being able to watch her enjoy it so much.
And I couldn’t help but be so thrilled at which movie my daughter first “got.” Because in “Frozen” you see how Disney is continuing to thaw out in it’s understanding of love. Over recent years, Disney has been moving steadily away from it’s original romantic stereotypes of love expressed in cartoon features. Like all successful Disney movies, “love” is still the most important ingredient to the story- love is what holds the movie together and connects us to that “something bigger” we all know is inherently most important in life. Yet, Disney continues to push away from needing that love to be displayed primarily through a boy/girl relationship, in which the boy at some point proves his love with a heroic deed. Although these thematic conventions still exist in movies like “Tarzan,” “Mulan,” “The Princess and the Frog,” and “Tangled,” there is a definitely an eroding of that theme. In “The Princess and the Frog” and “Tangled,” the female characters are much stronger and the men aren’t “princes” (they are in need of a lot of redemption). The real love stories in “Tarzan” and “Mulan” are about family (the romantic story lines are sidelined).
Enter the movie “Frozen”… where the conventions of love are stretched further than ever. In the story you have 2 well meaning parents ostracize their 2 daughters and make one afraid to “feel” anything. Then the story seems to follow a predictable “romantic love” line: Anna gets hurt and needs to meet up with her prince. But in an incredible twist it turns out that her prince is actually our villain. Then out of nowhere an incredible message of love is given to us. While this theme is present in other Disney movies it has never been so blatantly shared and utterly removed from “romantic love.” We learn that an act of true love isn’t necessarily what is done for you- it’s about what you do for another. True love is a selfless act that YOU do for ANOTHER (and possibly to someone you don’t even like).
Love is a selfless act for another- What an incredible message! We live in a selfish culture. We imagine love as that thing that comes when a person sweeps US off OUR feet. We wait for someone else to prove their love to us. We break up with that boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t treat US special. In “Frozen,” Anna sacrifices herself for a sister who has (a) ignored her for years, (b) fought with her in front of everyone at a party and told her to leave the kingdom, and (c) froze her heart while unthinkingly having her own pitty party (Ilse does not get a big sister award of the year in this movie). But with the potential of salvation on the horizon and given a tough choice, Anna doesn’t choose love… she chooses TO love her messed up sister.
1 Corinthians 13.4-8b: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
I am so glad that “Frozen” was the first movie my daughter “got.” I hope she also “gets” the notion of love expressed in “Frozen” as well.