SPOILER ALERT: I will be spoiling some of the plot of this Disney movie. However, since it’s been out since November 2013, I am not too concerned about that. Do consider yourself warned.
She twirls around singing at the top of her lungs, “Let it go! Let it go! The cold doesn’t bother me anymore …” This is, of course, the chorus from Disney’s hit animated movie Frozen, as performed by my three-and-a-half year old daughter. She and her twin sister frequently play “Elsa and Anna” – the two main characters of the movie; sisters who learn what true love is. I have marveled to see the way it has captivated not only their imagination, but also the imagination of all their fellow preschool-age friends. And so, being the good parents that we are, my pastor-husband and I have watched this with them several times.
There are the typical pitfalls you would expect with a Disney movie. The main ones here are: (1) the glorification of “letting go of the good girl” – as expressed when Anna escapes into the solitude of her ice palace and “lets go” of the confinements she lived under for years, (2) a humanistic understanding of freedom and love – that if you try hard enough on your own, you can love even the most icy princess-sister who continually slams doors in your face. Anna’s love for Elsa is remarkable, but without any reference for God, it paints an unattainable ideal for relationships (and certainly siblings!).
Yet where is the thread of grace and redemption running through this storyline? For all of the best stories take their cue from The Story. And could it be that the popularity of this movie expresses a culture who collectively longs for what is hinted at here – a story of love conquering fear? As a mom, I appreciate a movie that exposes infatuated love as fleeting, unreal, and potentially dangerous (displayed through the character of “Prince Hans”). Infatuation is problematic because it is so incredibly self-centered. Enter the real hero of the story – Kristoff – who serves as a foil for Hans, displaying that true love is sacrificial love. And in case you and I have a hard time picking up on this theme, Olaf the endearing snowman explains it well. But Kristoff is not the only one who loves sacrificially. Anna does, too, as she throws herself in front of Hans, protecting her sister. She gives what Elsa could not give to Anna. And in so doing, she dies. A love that gives all, even to the point of death. Is this beginning to sound familiar?
For a mercifully brief few minutes, all seems lost as Elsa weeps to see her fears realized: her sister frozen into ice. Kristoff looks on, realizing that his love wasn’t enough. And the audience waits with bated breath for some sort of turn. Where’s the happy ending we expect with Disney?
Slowly, surely, beautifully, it comes. Anna comes back to life! Her own act of sacrificial love is what has melted her heart. Elsa knows in that moment what it is that will reverse her frozen powers – “love … love is what thaws!” As the happy conclusion moves to a fitting conclusion, everything comes back to life as spring and summer return to the frozen kingdom. Sacrificial love brings life, not only to Anna, but to her entire world. And isn’t this now clearly proclaiming the actions of our Redeemer? One who came to make “all the sad things come untrue” (J.R.R. Tolkien)? Whose great reversal of self-sacrificial love, then resurrection, began the restoration of all things? As love “thawed” out our Savior into resurrected glory, the whole world began to come alive again. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18) – and so it did that beautiful day, and so it does each day I choose a life empowered by Spirit love rather than enslaved to fear. My world comes alive. I come alive, and love (God’s love) is what thaws out the universe frozen in decay, corruption, and fear.
That’s a story worth celebrating and retelling and rehearsing again and again and again. At least as often as I watch Frozen with my daughters.