Why Elsa ‘Finding Herself’ in Frozen 2 Might be Helpful For Christians

It’s no secret that Frozen 2 blasted the box office. The sequel raked in millions of dollars and has spurred Disney to crank out merchandise well before the movie opened. My girls gaped open-mouthed at new Elsa and Anna dolls that lined Target shelves as I ushered them away, overstating the importance of getting bread and pizza.

It’s also received critical remarks and been picked apart by both non-Christian and Christian audiences alike.

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Our family saw it shortly after opening weekend, and while parts of the plotline and themes sort of flew over the kiddos heads (*cough* racism, nod to early American violence *cough*), my husband and I shared several laugh-out-loud moments, as well as heartbreaking and triumphant ones. Overall, we liked it.

But that doesn’t mean it’s without its faults and failures – like every movie everywhere. And one scene, in particular, isn’t sitting well with a few apologetic Christians. (No, it’s not Elsa’s wished-for girlfriend. Elsa has no love interest and probably won’t, according to writers.)  However, while I agree with these well-meaning Christians, I think there also might be some positive takeaway for us to understand as the Church.

Me = Happiness?

Spend any amount of time on Instagram and you’ll see it – the message that you are enough. Although it’s somewhat vague in its meaning on the surface level, it simply means that the power to succeed lies within ourselves if we just search deep enough. Our culture is saturated with the philosophy that we are enough for ourselves. Our greatest strength comes from within, we only need ourselves to be happy. We are our own happiness. We are our greatest purpose. You get the picture.

It’s a very prominent theme in Disney movies as well. The whole ‘follow your heart’ mantra has been showcased since Cinderella first slipped her foot in that glass slipper. But Christianity says that’s not true. Not only is it not true – it’s a false gospel. We are deep in sin, and cannot remove ourselves from it or be close to God. So Jesus took all of our sins upon himself and was killed by a Roman execution method – the cross – and rose from the dead three days later. If we choose to accept his sacrifice and follow him, we are saved from those sins. (Philippians 2:8; Romans 10:9-10)

Simply put, it’s Jesus who is ultimately enough.

Just as Jesus is enough, we actually can’t know who we are without understanding (per our limited psyche) who God is. If I made an object, and the object magically came to life, how would it know what it’s for without turning to its creator?

Jen Wilken, in her book “None Like Him” writes:

“Knowing who God matters to us. It changes not only the way we think about him but the way we think about ourselves. The knowledge of God and the knowledge of self always go hand in hand. In fact, there is no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God.”

What does that have to do with the movie?

SPOILERS AHEAD! TURN BACK NOW!

Early in the movie, Elsa finds herself hearing voices. A ‘siren’ as she lovingly names it, eerily yet musically beckons her, and through some personal wrestling (song style), she chooses to follow, despite the fact that it might uproot everything. Anna and everyone tag along, of course. Near the climax of the movie, Elsa finds herself in Ahtohallan, a river that’s said to hold the answers to, well, basically everything. As she ventures down deeper into Ahtohallan, she finds the ‘siren’ that’s been calling her and reveals her true purpose as the fifth element that binds the spirits of water, air, fire, and earth.  (Christians that have dissected the movie, and some have frowned upon the mentions of spirits or magic, noting them as pagan. But frankly, that doesn’t bother me. These elements, though they are fiction, are used to tell the story, offering greater depth. Consider the early fairy tales and every other Disney movie made, and even Jesus’ use of hyperbolics in the gospels.)

It’s debatable who’s summoning her. In the movie, I thought it was pretty clear that it was her mother, but some have speculated that it’s Elsa herself. Either way, she answers a call FROM SOMEONE. And that someone knows her better than she knows herself, and reveals and solidifies those things which Elsa has suspected about herself all along.

Elsa laments in a solo that she feels out of place, “I have always been so different” as she struggles to settle down as queen of Arendelle, but clearly, she’s like soda in a coffee shop. She can’t seem to fit in, or she’s in the wrong place altogether.

Answering the call in Ahtohallan, Elsa finds her place. She finds where she belongs.

And you can’t help but feel a bit victorious for her.

So, what does that have to do with Christians and the church?

Family of God

While I completely agree with the statement that Christians should look to Jesus to understand us, both the good and the bad part of us, should we not also turn to others? To our fellow Christians. Turning to God to define us is most definitely the first step, but the church exists, too. And in that community we cultivate relationships with people, serve alongside them, and bare part of ourselves we might hesitate to share with others. Sometimes we need a nudge (or, in Elsa’s case, and giant solo) from those closest to us to dialogue and finalize our thoughts about where we can serve, and what our gifts are. Not only that, but to confront us on our sin (Matt. 18:5; Gal. 6:1-2), bear each others burdens (Gal.6:2), and encourage each other (1Thess. 5:11). The church, after all, is our family – our forever family. (1 Thess. 4:17)

While the church’s primary goal is not to help others ‘find themselves’ or to ‘follow their heart’ but to serve the poor, oppressed, and help each other grow God’s kingdom, let’s not ignore the fact that these people – fellow Christians, whether from our local church or parish, or immediate and extended family – should be some of the closest people to us. This is because without a foundational friendship or familial relationship, they can’t help point us to Jesus, and we cannot help them either.

Contrary to Frozen 2, the message of Christianity is not the message of belonging and fitting in so much as it is with Jesus being the sacrifice for our sins and God dwelling with us. But, there is an element of taking our place as God’s people. We have been called. We do belong to Him (Romans 14:8). And in our modern churches, there are places where we can use our gifts to edify our brothers in sister in Christ and glorify God in the process. (1 Cor. 14:12)

In fact, Elsa answering her mother’s call and then working with princess Anna, her sister, and the Northuldra people to establish a better Arendelle, proves that she’s not enough. It flies in the face of autonomy. She needs people both from Arendelle and Northuldra, and they need her in order to rule kingdoms well together. Especially when things are dark and hope is sucked into a black hole.

No Self-Serving

Frozen 2, like any Disney movie (or any other movie really), can be enjoyed, but especially if we’re allowing our children to watch, discernment must be practiced. But discernment doesn’t mean drawing out just the bad. It calls for extracting both good and bad and properly deciphering and applying each.

Elsa’s story is one of self-discovery. But for Christians, our means to an end are different. Though most of us probably won’t belt a power ballad as we discover our gifts, through prayer and seeking, we can turn to God to find out who we are and ask other Christians closest to us to help us form and follow our gifts, with the goal of serving God’s church and his people.

Did you see Frozen 2? What did you think? I’d love to hear your comments!

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