Christians are the most outraged people on the face of the planet. But I’m not completely sure what it means to be outraged anymore. The latest “outrage” from certain voices in the evangelical community has stemmed from Disney’s hit move, Frozen. The movie has been accused of being a pro-gay, pro-zoophile, anti-Christian film. To be fair, Disney has not exactly been openly hostile to the homosexual movement. And we’ve all seen the “hidden” messages in previous animated Disney films. But I began to wonder if these criticisms were fair – if indeed our outrage was justified. So, I entered the realm of Arendelle prepared to join the community of the outraged.
There’s only one problem. I enjoyed the movie. I actually enjoyed a Disney princess movie. You can decide if I need to turn my man card in once you finish reading.
First, answering the criticisms. Some have accused Frozen of endorsing beastiality. There is a line in the song Fixer Upper that says:
Sensitive and sweet!
So he’s a bit of a fixer-upper,
So he’s got a few flaws.
Like his peculiar reindeer,
His thing with the reindeer.
That’s a little outside of nature’s laws!
They are referring to the relationship between Kristoff (the male lead) and his pet reindeer (that acts more like a dog than a deer). Taken out of context, one could certainly understand that the “natural law” issue might communicate something less than wholesome about their relationship. However, in the context of the movie, Kristoff frequently speaks to (and for) his pet and frequently shares food with the pet – not to mention that he treats the deer like a dog. There’s never anything more than that. The very idea of natural law is also a concept that cultural libertines avoid. It is certainly something that advocates for homosexuality find abrasive. I think we are probably being a bit too sensitive – and we may be just a tad guilty of ignoring context. That’s something we get irritable about when the world does it with our message.
In another scene, the “pro-gay” criticism is brought out. As Princess Anna interacts with a clerk at a general store (and sauna), the clerk points to the sauna and says “Hello family.” Though the clip lasts for only a couple of seconds, it appears that there is a man with children through the glass. Is this a gay family? We actually don’t know because there is no context to the scene. The only way to know is to ask the writers. What I do know is that the clerk is portrayed as a highly effeminate man – at least in his vocalizations and mannerisms. If anybody should be upset at Disney, perhaps it should be gay activists. After all, IF Disney intended this to be a gay family, they portrayed a gay male in a very stereotypical light that is assuredly offensive to those who live in that lifestyle.
The bottom line for Disney is first and foremost the bottom line. Disney wants to make money. They’ve definitely accomplished that task with Frozen, taking more than a billion dollars to the bank. Are they also in the business of influencing culture? There is no denying that fact either. However, Christians should be careful before they express their “outrage” too vocally. Disney is not a Christian company. They do not make films that express Christian theology. Frozen makes no claim to be a movie about biblical principles. Parents who are expecting biblical values from a children’s film produced by a secular company that has been known to buddy up to certain less-than-desirable cultural trends should not be outraged to find that the film teaches morality without theology. What did you expect?
However, parents who wish to use the message from Frozen to teach their children biblical values will find plenty of fodder for good conversation. Frozen certainly underscores the importance of family. Frozen teaches about the seriousness of marriage. As Princess Anna makes the decision to flippantly marry someone after a day-long courtship, she is chastised for it throughout the film. The true villain in the film (spoiler alert) actually ends up being the object of Anna’s initial infatuation. And unlike most Disney princess movies, the “true love” of the film is not the sappy, romantic kind. It isn’t a kiss between starstruck lovers that breaks all the curses. It is the self-sacrifice of Princess Anna that breaks the curse of Queen Elsa’s eternal winter. While Disney doesn’t quote John 3:16 at the moment of sacrifice, a discerning Christian parent can certainly make the theological leap to talk about Jesus’ self-sacrifice that breaks the curse of sin. While true love in many of Disney’s princess flicks is about eros, romantic love. The love in Frozen is as close to unconditional agape love that you could find in a secular, animated film.
Some of the latest criticism of Frozen has been the meaning of Queen Elsa’s power ballad, Let It Go. This song is everywhere. There are dozens of different YouTube covers on the song. Many have noted the song’s dark lyrics. In the song, Elsa finally embraces her icy magic, creating for herself a wintery paradise free from the influence of others. She’s free to be her own person and do her own thing. Much of this seems to be in rebellion against her parents who inappropriately handle Elsa’s icy gift in childhood. She proclaims, “No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free!” These are alarming words, but they’re also proven dead wrong in the film. Not just misguided, but downright wrong. At this point in the movie, Elsa is the antagonist. And she sings the song of an antagonist. But there is right and wrong. Elsa does have responsibility and culpability. The storm she sings about raging inside of her is the great conflict of the story. Elsa has to deal with that storm. And retreating into isolation – into perceived liberation – only exasperates the problem. Again, Elsa’s liberation makes matters worse – it is Anna’s self-sacrifice that ultimately frees Elsa from her bondage. Certainly, It is not bundled up in a neat theological package for parents, but we should not expect it from a secular film.
Again, Let it Go, out of context is about dangerous individualism. But in context, it is the song of an antagonist. It is no different than Gaston’s self-absorbed rant in Beauty and the Beast or Scar singing Be Prepared in the Lion King. Again, by themselves, antagonists’ songs are dangerous. In context, they are almost always proven to be wrong. If Disney is guilty of anything, they are guilty of making a villain’s song with very beautiful melody and having a Broadway caliber vocalist perform it. Parents who find their children singing Let it Go (or any other antagonist’s song) should be quick to point out the moral failures of the antagonist and draw in appropriate biblical teaching to correct false perceptions and instruct in the truth. But it is the parent’s job to do that teaching, not Disney’s.
Parents should exercise discernment in any kind of entertainment choices they make for their children. Instead of letting the screen babysit the kids, Christian parents can train children to engage their culture by engaging in real conversation about appropriate movies and television choices. Instead of skewering Disney for what we perceive to be shortcomings in the film, we should thank them for releasing a film that is pro-family and demonstrates that love can be much more than just an epic kiss between the prince and the princess.