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Posts Tagged ‘Charity’

Frozen_(2013_film)_poster

Please note: This is not going to be an in-depth commentary on the film.  I intend to offer one of those in the very near future, but this particular post is more of a general observation/reflection.

In a recent AP article, Sandy Cohen observes a trend in Disney films — most notably, the 2013 film “Frozen” — involving stronger female protagonists who, among other things, no longer need a “Prince Charming.”

Cohen draws attention to some interesting topics that are well worth exploring, and to do justice to such exploration would probably require a series of posts.  For the present, I want to focus specifically on “Frozen” and attend to how it deals with the subject of love.

Anna_ElsaWhile I think Cohen is unduly harsh on traditional romantic motifs in Disney fairy tales, I also see much that is positive in, for example, “Frozen’s” shift of focus.  As fans of the film know, the main thrust of the narrative involves Princess Anna’s (voiced by Kristen Bell) tireless quest to find and rescue her estranged sister, Queen Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel), and, by extension, the Kingdom of Arendelle.

There are hints of romance in the movie, of course — most notably, between Anna and the intrepid iceman Kristoff (voiced by Jonathan Groff).  But this is peripheral.  Sisterly love is the main “point” of the movie.

Bear with me while I step away from “Frozen” for just a moment (which I’m only doing to make my discussion of the film more fruitful).  One of the troubles with the English language is that we really have only one word for love.  And often — especially when it comes to storytelling — we associate it primarily with romance.  (Do we recognize different kinds of love?  Sure.  But let’s face it: When we hear, “This is a love story,” do we think mom-and-baby or knight-and-damsel?)

The ancient Greeks, on the other hand, had several different terms denoting different forms of love.  Two examples: Eros was their word for romantic love; but then there was also philia, which was the love of friendship and family.  Interestingly, some of the wisest among the Greeks believed that philia, not eros, was the highest form of love — because eros, even in its noblest form, involves the expectation of pleasure, whereas friendship is more disinterested and more naturally conducive to selflessness.

Anna_Elsa2The fact of sisterhood clearly puts Anna and Elsa within the realm of philia.  But more importantly, we see in Anna’s quest to save Elsa and Arendelle at least something of the highest form of love, the love which contains and perfects all other loves — in Greek, agape; in Latin, caritas, which enters the English language as charity.  This is the love which wills the good of the other as other.

Again, I think the trend in which Cohen situates “Frozen” has some positive aspects.  I think part of the reason our culture has developed an unhealthy fixation with all things sexual, and why many marriages are collapsing, is that deep in our souls we desire a broader experience of love that is not limited merely to eros; but since we have fallen just short of equating love almost exclusively with the erotic (meant in the classical sense of the term, as referring to sexual attraction in general rather than to anything “kinky”), we tend toward the idolization of sexuality and the idealization of romantic relationships (which leads us to demand too much of them).

To be clear, I do not believe it is the responsibility of Disney movies to ensure that people understand and appreciate the full breadth and depth of human love and affection.  But all art has a way of making things like this come alive, and of drawing our hearts and minds toward worthy things.  Further, it makes sense for art forms intended for children to explore the types of relationships to which children can more easily relate.

Movie poster image from Wikipedia; stills obtained through a Google image search

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But in order that the desired fruit may be derived from this apostolate and this zeal for teaching, and that Christ may be formed in all, be it remembered, Venerable Brethren, that no means is more efficacious than charity. (…) (I)t is vain to hope to attract souls to God by a bitter zeal. On the contrary, harm is done more often than good by taunting men harshly with their faults, and reproving their vices with asperity. True the Apostle exhorted Timothy: “Accuse, beseech, rebuke,” but he took care to add: “with all patience” (II. Tim.iv., 2). Jesus has certainly left us examples of this. “Come to me,” we find Him saying, “come to me all ye that labor and are burdened and I will refresh you” (Matth. xi., 28). (…) What gentleness was that shown by the Divine Master! What tenderness, what compassion towards all kinds of misery! (…) Who will prevent us from hoping that the flame of Christian charity may dispel the darkness from their minds and bring to them light and the peace of God? It may be that the fruit of our labors may be slow in coming, but charity wearies not with waiting, knowing that God prepares His rewards not for the results of toil but for the good will shown in it.

PiusXvatgarden-Pope Pius X, from the encyclical “E Supremi”

Image from Wikipedia; text from http://www.vatican.va

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