Disney’s latest animated feature was great! My kids, wife, and I have been referencing jokes and songs from Frozen ever since we saw it a few weeks ago. Besides having lovable characters, a good plot, great music, and some witty humor sprinkled in, Frozen has gotten rave reviews for its more “progressive” elements. It is definitely Disney for the 21st century and has redefined what we can expect in future “princess tales.”
Before you read on, please understand that this piece is not intended to be in the same genre as the “Harry Potter is the devil” rants of the early 2000s but simply an exercise in critical thinking.
To understand my purpose, you must understand these two guiding principles:
1. All entertainment is trying to teach something.
Rachel Donahue did a tremendous job outlining this point is her discussion of The Hunger Games a few years ago. The main idea is that every work is based on a specific viewpoint—a belief system and idea of what is bad, good, and best—that will be presented in the work. We should diligently search for the author’s ideals so that we are not absorbing them unaware.
2. World view matters.
As Gordon Clark said, “World view is more than a mental sentry, it is the essential interpreter of life’s meaning.” Christians should not simply reject or accept ideas and behaviors, we should look at them the way God does. I want to look at Frozen’s implied messages from a biblical viewpoint.
In a recent article, Gina Lutrell outlined seven proofs that Frozen is a shift toward 21st century ideals for Disney. If you’ve made it this far I’m assuming that you don’t mind reading a little to stay informed, so I hope you will read her article carefully and completely. I believe she is correct in her assumption that Disney is intentionally embracing the thoughts and values of 21st century America. In italics is my summary of her seven points (once again, read her article to completely grasp each point) along with my reaction to these shifts in ideology:
1. Elsa and Anna’s parents were abusive by repressing Elsa’s abilities. “Disney takes a much-needed step forward by portraying realistic parental abuse that affects many children today.”
Disney obviously portrays that Elsa’s parents were acting out of love and protection for their daughter but still implies that their repressive actions were wrong. I couldn’t disagree with the implications more. When a child’s natural inclination is harmful to herself and others around her, that nature should be repressed. Fortunately, no parents will ever have to make the choice between overreacting to their child’s ability to freeze things with her hands and keeping her from accidentally killing her sister.
In the non-animated world this topic of parental suppression isn’t about magical powers but often about morality. The Bible clearly teaches these two principles of childhood development: A) all humans are naturally sinful (Isaiah 53:6, Proverbs 22:15, James 1:14-15) and B) Parents should train their children while allowing them to thrive in their natural interests…that’s what “in the way they should go” means (Proverbs 22:2). It isn’t a leap to say that the biblical model of parenting is to subdue interests that are morally harmful and nurture abilities/interests that are not. It seems that some are inferring from Frozen that parents should not suppress any interests of their children and, therefore, not impress their own morality upon the next generation. I definitely see that as a main emphasis in modern entertainment.
2. Elsa found true happiness when she was free to be herself. Her self-empowerment, self-reliance, and self-confidence were her greatest virtues…even if they meant isolation.
While confidence and self-reliance are extremely valuable, the modern mentality of self-esteem and self-worth is blatantly anti-Christ. While I want my children to be strong, I do not want them to be self-empowered without the realization that their strength comes from God. While I want them to know their capabilities and have assurance in them, I do not want them to rely on their abilities while failing to rely on God’s ability to use them. (Proverbs 3:5)
3. Anna’s clumsiness, awkwardness, and honesty were not cause for shame and did not need to be changed in order to make her a better person.
I like this one. Physical imperfections are a part of life. Too often we dwell on our short-comings and are unable to truly trust a God Who perfectly designed us as an imperfect creature (Psalm 139:14). It’s okay, learn to laugh at yourself.
4. Kristoff was a strong male leader alongside strong female characters. At times he supported Anna and on other occasions disagreed with her while valuing her as an equal. He “partners with the women in his life. He is not a competitor, a doormat or a fool. He is an equal.”
Once again, I think this is a great portrayal of a man around strong females. They were in leadership positions and he had no problem following them, respecting them, and still standing up to them when they were wrong. In fact, I believe that Kristoff is a great example of how we should treat all human authority in our lives (Titus 3:1-3).
5. Oaken, the trading post owner, was a gay man with a family. He motions to the sauna and says “Hey family!” to an adult male and four children inside.
There is some debate about whether this was the intended meaning of the very short shot of the sauna. If it is, does it surprise you that Disney included a homosexual character in a movie? It’s Disney. I would expect more in the future.
6. The kingdom unquestioningly accepted their queen. The characters had no problem with a woman, unaided by a male, as their sole ruler.
Accepting a rightful government leader is a very biblical principle (Romans 13:1-4, 1 Peter2:13-17). The fact that it is a woman does not change the command. The United States will have a female President in my lifetime. I plan to respect and honor her with the same respect and honor that I have given the five male Presidents in my lifetime. I hope that I teach my son to do the same.
7. Everyone reacted negatively to Anna’s foolish engagement. The quick engagement has long been a staple of Disney films, but it was clearly frowned upon by Elsa and Kristoff.
While it has been refreshing to see the “love at first sight” ideas kicked to the curb in modern fairy tales, I can’t help but wonder if the idea of commitment for life has been sent away with it. I can’t prove that it is intentional and I certainly won’t argue that Disney has become anti-marriage, but it is interesting that the heroines of two recent Disney movies, Brave and Frozen, have been rewarded for eschewing marriage for singleness. It is no secret that marriage rates have dropped substantially in the past two decades. I wonder if singleness as an ideal is starting to gain some traction in mainstream thinking.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of a long and scattered post! I’ll try to sum up my thoughts:
- Disney movies are definitely different in their ideology than they were even a generation ago.
- I am not anti-Disney. I watched Frozen with my kids and would do so again, provided I recognize that…
- As a Christian, I must examine my entertainment to identify the world view of the authors and allow myself to think critically rather than just absorb and react.
- As a parent, I must ensure that my children are bathed in a godly worldview because even clean and wholesome entertainment often presents a humanistic mindset that God is unnecessary if you are self-able.