Forget "Son of God"... take a look at "Frozen."
Cinematic experiences entitled Son of God, Heaven is Real, and Noah are about busting their way into movie theaters. Son of God is even planning on taking over entire movie theaters, covering every screen with the Gospel message in widescreen and blaring it from every speaker in the house. Christians and churches everywhere rejoice. We’ve done it, they might say. We have made our name, staked our claim, in culture today. People will have to look up and take notice.
And I’m stoked for them. I think it’s great that movies with the pure, overt Gospel message are up there competing for the top spot. We should be speaking the love of Jesus that way.
But there is something subtly different, and gorgeously influential, about secular movies with moral values.
I just hope that in this success we don’t forget the incredible positive impact secular movies have already made in our general culture. I hope we don’t forget that Pixar has been making wholesome family movies that people of all ages have enjoyed for decades. I hope we don’t forget the beautiful, subtle way these “non-Christian” stories taught us all how to love.
Frozen, the latest Disney’s Pixar movie, broke my heart. Specifically, the relationship between Elsa and Anna breaks my heart. Elsa wants to love her sister by protecting her from herself. Anna wants to love her sister by spending time with her. They can’t get it together and build a snowman! Elsa runs away to find peace within herself; and Anna comes after her to make sure Elsa knows she has to accept love before she can give it.
In the iconic song, “Let it Go,” Elsa cries out, “Let the storm rage on! The cold never bothered me anyway.” Elsa attempts to find solace in solitude and her own power. But after the initial joy of giving into her power, she finds only loneliness. In my generation there is a huge fascination with inner peace; finding who you are within yourself. Frozen flies in the face of that mentality and forces Elsa to return to Arendelle to break the curse by embracing her sister. Elsa realizes that she has power, and that it can be dangerous, but “only true love can thaw a frozen heart.”
We all have to let it go. We have to let go of our insecurities and our pride to truly live in community with not just those who say they understand us, but those who don’t. Love is meant to be shared. Just because we’ve reached our vocational goals or make the amount of money we always dreamed of making doesn’t mean we’ll be happy. Happiness is found in the company of those similar to us and those who we would have never expected to befriend. In letting it go, we find freedom, and love.
Olaf makes the concept of love even more relatable. Anna bemoans, “I don’t even know what love is.” Olaf quickly returns with, “That’s okay. I do. Love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.” Anna has been doing that the whole movie with her sister. She loves her sister without even conceptually understanding that she is. And the audience gets to discover that with her.
While it is incredibly important to put the ultimate love story, the death and resurrection of Christ, up on the silver screen, I think people everywhere have seen the light of that same love in other secular stories. Truth without love is harsh judgment, while love without truth is debilitating codependency. Secular movies flowing out of Hollywood have spoken the truth in love in innovative ways for generations.
Havilah Joy Steinman is a fellow at the John Jay Institute.