Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Frozen: Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

My three and a half year old daughter absolutely adores the movie Frozen. It has eclipsed Cinderella and Tangled (a.k.a. Rapunzel) as her favorite. I think we must have watched it about 15 times in the month since it came out on Amazon instant video. It was the first movie she ever saw in the movie theater, so that's part of the fascination, but I think it's more than that. She really seems enchanted by the characters and the story. She wakes up most morning stating to me "I'm Anna and you're Elsa!" and wanting to pretend that she and I are the two sisters in the movie. She can sing the theme song "Let It Go" and frequently does, at the top of her lungs and slightly off-key. She repurposed one of the knitted toys I made her (a reversible doll) into an "Anna and Elsa" doll and has been asking for an "Olaf" (a snowman) knitted toy.

Which she'll probably get, eventually. I don't mind that this is her new favorite. There's a lot to like about this movie. I don't have the same enthusiasm for it that my daughter does but I haven't been tempted to hide the Kindle yet. The songs are fun, there's plenty of humor, nothing is crude, and of course the Disney artwork is visually appealing. It's a female-centric film in which women do most of the powerful and heroic deeds, which appeals to my feminist sensibilities.

My favorite part of the movie, though, is the central moral. The two major characters are orphaned sisters. Elsa, the oldest, has magic powers to create snow which she deeply fears and can't control. Her fear causes her to successfully avoid human contact, even to the extent of always wearing gloves, and to less successfully attempt to avoid any emotion. Her mantra, taught to her by her father, is "conceal, don't feel." This doesn't work and her powers grow steadily wilder and more frightening. Anna, the younger sister, is exuberant but desperate for human contact and seeks love and affection from anyone who will offer it. Her hunger gives a scheming prince an opportunity to take over the kingdom. In the end Anna saves both herself and her sister by giving up her chance to live in order to keep Elsa alive. She has learned that true love is placing someone else's needs before your own and through Anna's act of true love both sisters are saved. Elsa learns that love, not fear, is the way to tame her power.

I love this lesson. My daughter and have talked about it quite a lot in the past weeks, as we discuss the movie and why the characters do different things. We talk about the power of Anna's loving heart and how my daughter (and all of us!) can share that same power. We talk about what love is and how love is stronger than fear. I remind her that love can overcome fear.

I think this is really important, because I work with many fearful people. We live in a fearful and anxious society and many people try to use Elsa's strategy to manage their fears. They freeze inside, become rigid, close the gates of their homes and hearts and put all their energy into controlling what scares them. And sadly, they have about as much success as Elsa, which is to say none. Life becomes a cold prison of anxiety and fear management and there's no room for laughter, joy, adventure, fun or beauty. And the really horrible thing is, living this way is a cheat. It doesn't protect anyone from loss. It doesn't keep the feared things from happening. It just robs life of the brilliance that could balance out the sorrow.

It's about to be Easter again, the Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. Easter celebrates the victory of love and life and the end of death and fear. When I put it together with the words Jesus spoke and the deeds he did Easter is a celebration but also an invitation and maybe even a dare to step out of fear and into love, to live brilliantly. And honestly, I think the invitation and the celebration are for everyone, each one of us, no matter what we do or don't believe. The gift is for everyone. There is no fear in love, and perfect love casts out fear. No one's heart has to stay Frozen.