One of the unifying themes in Disney films is the moment of transfiguration that happens in the encounter of true love. It’s there in Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, Cinderella and all the classics. It is so often “true loves first kiss” that changes ugliness into beauty, brings healing and renewal, awakens the dead or sleeping and fulfils the ancient magic. Even beyond Disney countless stories feature this moment of passionate love and it’s transcendent power (its even there in the Matrix!). But the reason I loved Disney’s latest and acclaimed film Frozen so much was not the awesome animation or West-End style big musical numbers, but that it offered a subversion on the theme of love’s transformative power. In so many of these classic Disney films it is the romantic love encounter that brings renewal, breaks the curse/spell/fulfils the prophecy or whatever. But Frozen deliberately puts the emphasis on the sacrificial, sisterly love of Anna and Elsa. The romance takes the backstage and the “deeper magic” is allowed to come out – the love that is, in another moment of genius, described most accurately by the comic relief, “love expert” Olaf: “Love is putting someone else’s needs before yourself”.
The love that Anna feels for Hans is unveiled to be a sham. We are all led to think, along with Christoph, that it is the kiss that will restores Anna and save her from being Frozen. Even when we realise that Hans is the baddie our immediate next thought is “She will have to kiss Christoph!”. The plot twist is not just clever but also incredibly powerful and meaningful. It still offers us a version of the “moment” of love but in an unexpected and moving way. The moment that subverts our expectations unveils our own tendency to default the “power of love” to the romantic love interest. Frozen, in a sense, exposes and critiques our cultures obsession with passionate romance and challenges it deeply with an example of deeper and more powerful love.
“Every story whispers His name”. God invented stories, and narrative is the Bible’s dominant genre. In these Disney films that have captured the hearts of a generation of both young and old it is easy to find the truths of the Gospel vibrating through creative human hearts even when it is not necessarily intended. The transformative moment of love in stories points us to the ultimate “moment” of love that is the hinge point of human history – Good Friday. In Frozen it is made all the more compelling because we see that passion and romance are wonderful and meaningful, but that love means, above all else, sacrifice. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), then, goes beyond hot pink Hollywood smooches and into a man giving up everything, giving his own lifeblood for those he longs to be with forever.
“Some people are worth melting for” – Olaf the Snowman