disney

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Disney’s “Aladdin,” A Christian view – silence, tradition, and justice

Disney’s “Aladdin” is a remake of a beloved animated classic. The film is a feast for the eyes and ears, with a few tweaks to the original that will be debated by longtime fans. I’d like to offer a reflection on the film from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS, of course.

Aladdin and Temptation

One of the major themes of Aladdin is that of character. What kind of people are the characters, really? Aladdin at first appears to be nothing but a common criminal, but we quickly find that his thieving is in order to survive. He sings: “Gotta eat to live, gotta steal to eat” and, though the song presents it as a tongue-in-cheek moment (“I steal only what I can’t afford/(That’s everything)”), it already presents viewers with questions about the society in which he lives and the rightness or wrongness of his actions.

Aladdin is then faced with a huge test: what will he do with three wishes that seem to have no limits other than his imagination (or to wish for more wishes, of course)? As his relationship with Jasmine encounters a few lumps, he considers using his last wish to improve his situation even more, going against his promise to the Genie. The Genie, for his part, has acted as a moral compass throughout, asking whether Aladdin really wants to go “that way” and variations on that question multiple times. Aladdin is facing temptation, and he ultimately passes the test. After stopping Jafar, he gives Genie his freedom.

The temptation Aladdin faced was made more acute by his social situation. Coming from utter poverty, he was faced with the choice to descend into decadence and deceit in order to maintain his newfound power or to risk what he’d gained being honest. Of course, it certainly helps that he’d already saved the Kingdom multiple times.

The temptation of Christ in the desert is something I thought of as I reflected on this scene of temptation of Aladdin. In that part of Christ’s life, the deceiver offers Jesus all the power in the world if he will but bend the knee to him. But Jesus rejects this temptation, staying on a path that would ultimately lead to his death for us.

Justice

Agrabah is a Kingdom full of injustice. The streets overflow with people in need, and Princess Jasmine is touched by their plight and determined to do something about it. Her exploration of the city is not portrayed in this film as a flight of fancy, trying to escape for a day of adventure from the palace. Instead, Jasmine is trying to determine the state of her people and use that, she hopes, to rule better than she could have otherwise.

The Christian faith makes it absolutely clear that we are to care for the poor. Time and again, Jesus warns about the dangers of wealth and the fact that we cannot serve money and God. Additionally, throughout the Bible demands are made that we care for the poor and the refugee.

Jasmine’s own concern for the poor is a model of character. Placed into a position of great poverty and wealth, she seeks to understand the plight of those who are in need. The movie doesn’t go beyond a resolution that places her as Sultan, though her character leaves us in little doubt over what her actions will be.

Silence and Tradition

Jasmine is also central to the plot in another way: as a challenge to the silencing of marginalized voices and the wielding of authority to do so. She briefly hints at the concept of being told to go “speechless” early in the movie. Both her father and Jafar have repeatedly told her that women are to be silent, seen and not heard. In a climactic scene in which Jafar takes over as Sultan, she erupts into a powerful song that pushes back against this silencing of women that. She sings, in part:

I won’t be silenced
You can’t keep me quiet
Won’t tremble when you try it
All I know is I won’t go speechless
Speechless

She here makes the decision to speak up, appealing to the guards to push back against blind allegiance to tradition and authority and instead look to standards that go beyond that. Though not made explicit at all, it is clear in this scene that there is a higher standard than that of tradition or the authority vested in a seat like the Sultanate. Her wisdom challenged the tradition to show that it was mistaken.

Too often in our churches, appeals are made to authority or tradition to do the very same thing that Jafar and the Sultan tried to do to Jasmine: silence women. Instead, we are taught that there is “no man and woman” in Christ (Galatians 3:28) and that women were prophets, deacons, and apostles in the church. Like Jasmine, let us raise up women who won’t go speechless so that we can hear their wisdom as they wisely point us towards Christ.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more.

Engaging Culture: A brief guide for movies– I outline my approach to evaluating movies from a worldview perspective.

I have a number of ways in which I have critically engaged with culture in movies, books, and other arts in my posts on current events (scroll down for more posts).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Inside Out” – Feelings, Family, and Fun: A Christian Perspective

inside-outI recently got to see “Inside Out” in theaters and it was a huge treat. The plot was fairly predictable, but it was delightfully done and thought-provoking. Here, we will explore the film from a Christian worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS in the following review.

Talking about Emotions

It is often quite difficult to talk about our feelings. “Inside Out” provides a springboard for having these discussions, whether with children or, frankly, with adults. Christianity is a faith of not just the mind but also the heart, and we need to be able to talk about how we feel and engage with our emotions in the context of faith.

As a parent, I was pleased to see how little there was objectionable in this movie, as it is one I could see using with my son (who is now 10 1/2 months old) in the future to talk about emotions.

Gender and Family

There are some issues with gender in the film as Riley’s parents were fairly stereotyped in some ways. However, this stereotyping was offset in many ways by Riley herself, who was a highly complex character with different interests and motivations that went beyond such gender stereotypes. As Christians we can have conversations about how our culture so often shoehorns people into strict gender categories without acknowledging its own cultural biases.

Another edifying aspect of the film is its focus on the importance of family. It does not undermine the value or struggles of those families that are non-“nuclear,” but it does affirm the ways that family can shape the lives of children. The formative impact of the parents in this film cannot be understated, and it showed not just in the “core memories” that Riley cherished, but also in her interests and concerns.

As Christians, there are a number of takeaways from this, but perhaps the most important one would be the way that our faith lives can shape our children. I sure hope that Luke has a formative experience that lets his “core memories” include faith at the center of his emotional and rational life. Like Riley’s parents, I am not going to just stand back and watch but rather be sure to expose him to the faith and prayer and allow him to ask questions and learn from an early age.

Emotions Rule?

One possible concern with the film could be the notion that it seems like the emotions are that which rule Riley’s life and actions. Indeed, the emotions cause specific acts in her day, and as different events occur, the different emotions take the controls to drive Riley entirely.

From a Christian perspective, we should interpret things generously (see Martin Luther on the 8th commandment), so the first aspect of a response to this would be to allow that the film had to make things fairly simplistic because, well, it is actually a kids movie, isn’t it? It would be tough to multiply complexity and discuss the importance of reason, logic, and abstract thought for action in a way children could easily understand.

Second, too often in Christian circles I have seen the downplaying of the importance of emotions for our reasoning process. The importance of passional reasoning (having emotions as part of the overall logical process) should not be forgotten. For older children, this film could be a great jumping off point to have a conversation about the interplay between such abstract thought and the emotions, and how they might interlink to form a life of faith and reason.

Third, related to the previous point, we sometimes need a corrective–particularly those of us who lean towards critical thinking–to remind ourselves of the importance of emotions. In a thoughtful, humorous way, Inside Out opens us to such conversations.

Conclusion

Inside Out is a delightful film with comedy, fun, and family all interwoven in a thought-provoking mix. I think it provides several ways for Christians to start conversations about a number of important topics, including reasoning, emotions, gender, and family. I recommend it.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Inside Out– One of my favorite websites, Empires and Mangers, shares some thoughts from a Christian perspective on the film. Anthony Weber approaches it from a slightly different angle, and his post is well worth the time spent reading it. Be sure to follow his excellent blog as well.

Movies– Read other posts on this site about movies written from a worldview perspective. (Scroll down for more.)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Disney’s “Frozen”- A Christian reflection

disney-frozenDisney’s “Frozen” has generated quite a bit of buzz, and for good reason. The movie is a feast for the eyes and ears. It’s a delight to watch, and it is filled with interesting thematic elements and humor. Moreover, as a Minnesotan, I feel right at home during this winter. Here, I’ll evaluate the movie from a worldview perspective. There will, of course, be SPOILERS hereafter.

Balance

The core of the tension in the movie is found in Elsa’s power. Her parents try to teach her to restrain it, but when put under duress, her power breaks free and she fled the castle. Interestingly, one may note that the total denial of her capability led to her cutting herself off from those who surround her.

Once she leaves the castle, she decides to break free of her self-restraint. The Oscar-nominated song “Let it Go” is indicative of this. Elsa sings:

Let it go, let it go!
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go!
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway

It is interesting to see that there must be some balance between the two extremes. Elsa’s self-imposed restrictions upon her powers led to the separation from those she loved; her release endangers the entire kingdom. Her life, instead, must be lived along a balance. I can’t help but think of the words of Paul:

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.

Christian freedom is a freedom with restraint. There must be balance in the process of sanctification.

Women

Many have hailed “Frozen” for its portrayal of women. Neither Anna nor Elsa have a relationship foisted upon them for the main purpose of the plot. Anna’s developing relationship with Kristoff is made even more interesting by the contrast to her obsession with Prince Hans. Both women are independent. Some tongue-in-cheek humor could be found in the striking way in which both Kristoff and Elsa noted that Anna’s willingness to marry a man she just met that day was a bit absurd.

The plot is not driven by a love story; instead, it is driven by the need for reconciliation. Powerful, strong women are the ones who push the plot forward, while the men are sometimes helpful and even featuring shades of prince charming (Kristoff) or villainous and greedy (Hans). It is not that the portrayal of men is negative (as I just noted, there is a spectrum of motivations for the men involved); rather, it is that women are not seen as incapable of action. It is refreshing.

Our Own State

Elsa herself, far from being the quintessential villain, is someone with whom we may be capable of sympathizing. Like her, we are in a serious predicament brought about by our own actions: we live in need of aid. Our actions have sometimes horrific consequences. At other times, our consciences convict us of the wrongness of our deeds. We long to sing along with Elsa, crying out to “Let it Go” and stop caring anymore. But, like her, we realize that such a state is ultimately not be lauded but to be feared. We lash out at those we love due to our own guilt. Can there be salvation?

Christ

Interestingly, some have argued that the movie actually serves as an allegory of Christ. It is Anna who is wronged by Elsa, but it is only Anna who is able to right the wrong. The person who is wronged is the one who must make it right. Similarly, for the Christian, it is God who is wronged, but God is the only one capable of righting that wrong in the perrson of Christ. (I am here paraphrasing the post I linked to.)

The themes noted above come to fruition here. Our state is characterized by a recognition of the wrongness of our actions, but an incapability of bringing about the reconciliation required. Thus, it is up to the party wronged to bring about this reconciliation, through the true forgiveness offered in Christ.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Disney’s Frozen might be the most Christian movie lately– This post reflects upon the movie as an allegory of Christ. As noted, I derived much of the last section from the argument made in this post.

The Image featured in this post is the intellectual property of Disney. I make no claims to ownership and have used it under fair use for the purpose of critical evaluation of the film. To my knowledge the image is freely available as promotional material.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Really Recommended Posts 1/31/14- “Frozen,” French and American Atheists, world religions, and more!

postAnother week, another round of great reading served up for you, dear readers. I’m writing this in the midst of getting 4-6 inches of snow (it’s already at 3, and not showing signs of slowing…), so I can’t help but feel a little bit like throwing in a Christmas movie today and sipping some cocoa. Oh well! It also made me think of the movie “Frozen.” The topics this week are Disney’s “Frozen,” the conversion story of a French atheist, “Street Epistemology,” the sign of Jonah and world religions, something we can learn from atheists in the “Bible Belt,” and evangelicalism and liturgy.

Disney’s “Frozen” might be the most Christian movie lately– I found this article on the movie “Frozen” to be quite insightful and interesting. I highly recommend the movie as well as this article.

How God turns a French  atheist into a Christian theologian– I found this conversion story simply fascinating for how God works in people’s lives. The insights from this theologian are profound, and they speak volumes for the importance of a reasoned faith.

A Look at the New “Street Epistemology” Movement– Eric Chabot analyzes the “Street Epistemology” movement forged by Peter Boghossian for creating atheists. Chabot’s approach is fairly unique in that he explores the movement through means of certitude and doubt–a primary weapon for Boghossian.

Bible Belt Bubble Burst? Wisdom from an atheist friend– The importance of a reasoned faith is shared eloquently here through reflection on a conversation with an atheist friend in the “Bible Belt” of the United States. Highly relevant.

The Sign of Jonah– Winfried Corduan is a major scholar of world religions. In this blog post, he offers up a video of how world religions are impacting the United States alongside a commentary on the “Sign of Jonah” which Jesus says will be given to his contemporaries.

Evangelical conservatives vs. Liturgical conservatives– Is it true that one can be either evangelical or liturgical? Is there such a thing as a perfect blend and harmony of evangelical conservatism and liturgy? Look no further than Lutheranism. Check out this post with some interesting insights.

Mulan Among Us: Disney’s “Mulan” and Womanhood

mulan-women

Disney’s “Mulan” is one of my favorite movies of all time. It is coming out of “The Vault” for its 15th anniversary. Here, I will explore one of the most poignant themes of this powerful film.

Warning: There are spoilers for Disney’s Mulan in the following discussion

Mulan and Cultural Expectations

Mulan is a warrior. She is powerful, capable, and determined.

Oh, and I forgot: she is a woman.

It is that “shocking” pronouncement which is the focus of the Disney’s Mulan, which is one of the deepest films in Disney’s arsenal, so far as I’m concerned. Mulan is a woman who wants to be respected for her abilities, not placed into the mold of what society expects women to be.

Mulan is challenged at numerous points throughout the movie. She does not fit into her society’s gender ideals. She is expected to be clean, quiet, submissive, and “womanly.” And she tries to fit into these expectations. The culture wants her to be a good wife, so she tries to match what her culture’s idea is in order to become a good wife. Those who have seen the movie knows she fails miserably. When she visits the matchmaker, she recites, in a stumbling way, the right sayings: “Fulfill your duties, calmly and respectively. Reflect before you… Act!” She lacks grace, poise, and ultimately ends up comically ruining the whole scene, setting the matchmaker on fire and dousing that fire with hot tea, running the matchmaker’s makeup and earning the pronouncement that she will never fit society’s expectations for her.

Yet this reveals another cultural shock: it is the very fact that Mulan is placed into a one-size-fits-all box to take on roles which do not match her abilities that leads to her triumph. It is not that she should be trying harder, or that she is wrong; instead, the fact is that it is her culture’s expectations which are wrong. Mulan destroys those expectations. She saves China, and the Emperor himself honors her. Thus, the expectations are shattered, and Mulan remains “true to herself.” Her abilities destroyed the cultural norms that people had tried to apply to her.

“So what!?” you may be asking. “I already knew this, though I may not have outlined it like this.” After all, telling women to be submissive and arguing that there are very specific roles that they should fit into is a thing of the past.

Is it?

Have you never heard the phrase “she wears the pants in that family”? That speaks to a division of roles that is still at least unconsciously acknowledged in our culture. What about “make me a sandwich” or “get in the kitchen”? What of more subtle distinctions? “I would never vote for a woman president.” “A man is in charge of the family.”

Moreover, some theological traditions continue to argue that there are very explicit roles for man and woman in leadership and the home. It is to that concept that we will turn to, with a focus on Mulan.

Mulan and Theology

The shock of Mulan’s story may seem almost comical to us, but the fact remains that there are women whose talents are not being acknowledged. They do not fit the mold. It is said within some branches of contemporary theology that women are to submit to their husbands. These theologians teach that women have very specific roles: that of “helper,” servant, or anything but “leader” or “teacher.” According to these views, women can teach other women and even male children, but when it comes to man, she is always subordinate. Consider the following passage, from a book endorsing this view (“Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood“):

[I]t is simply impossible that from time to time a woman not be put in a position of influencing or guiding men. For example, a housewife in her backyard may be asked by a man how to get to the freeway. At that point she is giving a kind of leadership… But we all know that there is a way for that housewife to direct the man that neither of them feels their mature femininity or masculinity compromised. (John Piper, 50, cited below)

Moreover, women, on this view, must be careful about how they give their advice; they must remember that they are to be submissive:

A wife who ‘comes on strong’ with her advice will probably drive a husband into passive silence, or into active anger (Ibid, 52)

I can’t help but think of the scene from Mulan just before she saves the Emperor when she is trying to get people to listen to her about the great danger of the Huns in the Imperial City. They pull away from her forcibly, ignoring what she says. Finally, her trusty sidekick, Mushu, points out that “You’re a woman.”

Such is the way in which manhood and womanhood is supposed to play out within those branches of contemporary theology which lean towards complementarianism–the view that men and women are to occupy different “roles” in the church and the home. Women are to be submissive, even when they try to give directions to a man. Mulan, in this view, perhaps came on “too strong” in her insistence that the Emperor was in danger. If she had only been more submissive, then she would not have provoked “passive silence” or “active anger.”

The absurdity of this notion can be found in the fact that it is the victim who is blamed for the abuse. “Passive silence” can be just as harmful as “active anger.” Is it really acceptable to say that a woman, by offering advice, “provokes” the man? Moreover, is it really honorable to men to turn us into seething machines, who, if the right button is pressed, turn into active aggressors or passively-aggressive “victims”? Again, the movie “Mulan” has presented a more balanced approach: there are women who transcend society’s–and religion’s–expectations.

There are Mulans among us. There are women who challenge this perceived view of manhood and womanhood. There are women who are gifted greatly to be leaders, not followers. There are women with the gift of teaching. There are women whose very existence shatters the notion that woman’s role is to be submissive. Their talents and abilities call us to use them, not to force them to singular submission. The Bible calls us to mutual submission, not a singular silence from one gender. These Mulans are powerful missionaries, leaders, teachers, yes, even pastors: gifted and called by God to take on roles that their cultural milieu often wants to deny to them.

I pray that more of these women would arise and use their gifts for the church. Many women have already done so, but our church’s culture has too often tried to silence women. Instead, we need to acknowledge the Mulans we know.

Check the links below for more discussions of women and the church. For all my posts on the topic, check out my egalitarianism category (scroll down for more posts).

Links

Be sure to check out my looks at other movies. If you like Mulan, what about Brave?

For information on egalitarianism–the view that the Bible teaches us women and men should fill equal roles–check out “Christians for Biblical Equality.”

Women in the Ministry: The philosophy of equality and why complementarianism fails– I argue that the position in which women are excluded from church leadership entails inequality of being.

Book Review: “Good News for Women” by Rebecca Groothuis– I review an excellent book on the issue of gender equality in the Bible.

Religious Dialogue: A case study in science fiction with Bova and Weber– I take a look at how science fiction has dealt with theological topics, with a particular focus on dialogue about religion and women.

I discuss the notion of having my expectations of women shattered here.

Sources

John Piper, “A Vision of Biblical Complementarity: Manhood and Womanhood defined According to the Bible” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, 31-59 (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006). There is a newer edition which is linked to in this post and citation.

Mulan– Disney, 1998.

Image Credit

The image used in this post is credited to the Mulan Facebook page.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Pixar’s “Brave”- A Christian Perspective

Disney Pixar’s “Brave,” a tale of a young Scottish girl’s coming of age, released recently. I am a huge Pixar fan so I couldn’t wait for this one. In what follows, I will provide a brief overview and review of the movie, followed by some Christian reflections. If you’re only interested in the reflection, skip down to the “Themes to Discuss” section.That said, it should be obvious that there are major plot spoilers below.

Brief Plot Overview

Brave follows Merida, a princess whose father in some ways endorses her Tom boyish ways, while her mother tries to get her to be the perfect princess. Conflict rages when Queen Elinor, her mother, tells Merida she is to be wed to one of the firstborn sons of the other clan leaders. Merida would rather marry in her own time and for love, while still being able to pursue her love of archery and other warrior’s tasks.

Ultimately, Merida seeks the help of a witch, to whom she was led by will-o’-the-wisps (in this movie, spirits which lead you to your fate), in order to change her mother. Her lack of specificity leads to her mother being turned into a bear. King Fergus, her father, is known for having his leg cut off in an epic battle with Mor’du, the demon bear, and so her mother’s shape turns her into a mortal enemy of her father. Merida thus has to balance keeping her mother safe with trying to turn her back before the change becomes permanent. Not only that, but the tribes are bordering on open war as they desire to have Merida’s betrothal announced.

Merida manages to calm the tribes with a speech somewhat guided by her mother-bear. In the speech she endorses marriage for the sake of love instead of arrangement. The climax comes when her mother-bear is discovered and King Fergus leads the tribes to pursue her, thinking the bear has killed his wife. As they are about to kill Queen Elinor-bear, Mor’du arrives. Elinor-bear fights Mor’du to protect Merida and eventually defeats him, but sustains great injury to herself. Merida manages to undo the spell by finally admitting that it was she herself who did this to her mother, turning her into a bear because of her own pride (before she had been saying it wasn’t her fault). Her mother returns to herself, and the tribes leave, convinced that one should marry for their own love. Happy endings all around.

Brief Review

I liked the movie a lot but I can’t help but think it was missing something. Merida herself is little involved in the climax; instead, it is her mother who pulls all the weight. Because her mother spends much of the movie unable to talk, it is hard to relate to the character as much as it is to Merida. It seems, in some sense, by the end, that although Merida has experienced a coming-of-age, she is still very reliant upon her parents.

Further, it seemed to me that they could have developed Merida’s own character more before the plot began to roll in full swing. The action scenes experienced with Merida were wonderful, but they were few and far between. It would have been significantly more interesting to have Merida developed further in order to make her into a character that is only hinted at in those beautiful scenes where she climbs a mountain, defying fear; or where she races through a forest, landing arrows on every target. The movie, it seemed, wavered between trying to appeal to the adults in the crowd and the children, and ultimately never found a voice. Unlike “Up” or some other huge successes from Pixar, “Brave” was good, not great. Overall, I can’t help but feel I wanted more. When one sees a teaser image like the one featured here, it seems the movie should have so much more of that epic imagery than it did.

Themes To Discuss

Reconciliation

Perhaps the most important theme in Brave is that of reconciliation. Initially, Merida is convinced that the way to change her mother back is to repair the tapestry she destroyed due to her anger. However, she continues to deny that she is at fault for what her mother turned into. She blames the witch, saying she didn’t know that her mother would become a bear. She just wanted to change Elinor’s mind.

Yet it is only when her mother’s change is seemingly permanent that she realizes the truth. She repents to her mother, in perhaps the most heartfelt scene in the movie, saying “I did this to you…” while she weeps. It is here, I think, that the Christian can draw out a theme from the film. It is too easy to blame the ills we bring about on others. Yet we are called to repentance. Without sincere sorrow and repentance for our sins, we are not reconciled. It is when we say, “I have sinned against You” that we are truly repentant. And, like Elinor, Christ has given his life for our sake. Despite the grievances we bring to God, God reaches out and saves us.

Fate(?)

There was little focus on what was meant by “fate” in the film. The only references to it were in the context of Merida struggling to change her fate. It was unclear what was intended, then, by fate. If it is changeable, it seems it is hardly fate. Here, “fate” seemed more a vague plot device than anything to do with the reality of the world portrayed.

Evil

There was a bit of confusion over good and evil. The witch in the film was more bumbling than cruel. She did not (as far as the movie reveals) intentionally turn Mor’du into a demon bear forever, nor did she intentionally nearly cause Elinor to become a permanent bear. In some sense, one could say she brought about the reconciliation refereed to above.

Again, Mor’du initially seems a great evil, but one can’t help but feel sorry for him, particularly when at the scene of his death his spirit (?) nods a thanks to Elinor and then becomes a will-o’-the-wisp.

Overall, “evil” in the film is slightly ill-defined. This doesn’t mean it is bad, but it does make it hard to really jump on board with one side or the other.

Conclusion

Ultimately, it seems the primary theme of the movie is indeed reconciliation. Good vs. Evil  is a theme, but the lines are fairly unclear. Instead, the movie reflects on Merida’s coming of age and her reconciliation with her mother. A good flick, but not a great one.

As always, I’d love to hear your own thoughts on the movie from a Christian perspective. What did you think?

Brief Note for Parents

The film has some violence and action sequences. The witch is scary but not wholly evil. The notion of spirits changing one’s fate is vague and ill-defined. The humor is probably understandable for about an 8-year-old level.

The film, in my opinion, is not one to be terribly worried about as far as content is concerned. It is clearly fictional and ultimately is resolved by a reconciliation between mother and daughter.

Links

See my other reflections on movies.

RE: Brave and Matthew 18:15-35– another excellent Christian reflection on the movie. A slightly different angle than my own work.

Engaging Culture– my guide for drawing out Christian themes and discussions from movies.

SDG.

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