- The synod without a script
As the Synod on the Family opens tomorrow, the fifth in our series looks at some of the 253 participants from around the world, and examines the gamble – perhaps a defining moment of his pontificate – Pope Francis has taken in encouraging open dialogue and debate
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Warning: if you're planning to see the film, this blog contains spoilers
Disney’s latest animated blockbuster Frozen is rife with anti-Christian propaganda that brainwashes children into accepting homosexuality, according to National Catholic Register blogger Steven D. Greydanus, and more recently, Pastor Kevin Swanson of the US-based Reformation Church. I must not have been paying attention when I watched the movie last weekend, because I came away uplifted and inspired by its lighthearted, pro-women, pro-family take on the traditional Disney boy-meets-girl trope.
The story, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, follows Princess Anna’s quest to save her older sister, Elsa, from self-imposed exile, after Elsa loses control of her secret magical powers to create ice and traps her kingdom in eternal winter. But Anna’s intervention is rejected and Elsa spears her little sister through the heart with an ice shard, almost killing her. Only an act of true love will save Anna’s life – but is that a kiss from her glossy, royal boyfriend or her rough, sarcastic sidekick, Kristoff?
After reviewing the film for the Alabama-based National Catholic Register, Greydanus combs through it and in another blog unearths gay subtext with giddy paranoia. “Elsa at no time shares her sister Anna’s romantic longings,” he snipes, inferring that this makes the teen a lesbian. I’d imagine that years spent wrestling the magic that almost killed your sister might cramp your dating style, not to mention losing both parents in an accident. So surely Greydamus misses that some girls just aren’t into boys – because they’re interested in other things like books or sports. Driving girls to find “the one”, settle down and start a family is an obsession that Churches, whatever denomination, could do without. He thinks Elsa’s Oscar-winning power-ballad “Let it Go” is an encouragement to children to rebel against their parents. Speaking as someone who was once a teenage girl, I say the song is an innocent, empowering rant – never mind that, in the end, Elsa’s anarchy brings about a disaster that can only be fixed by her family’s love.
While Greydanus acknowledges that this subtext is so ambiguous it’s “not that big a deal”, he takes unnecessary issue with a split-second shot of an incidental [male] character’s family, because the shot seems to show an adult male and children, and criticises the film for making a compelling character out of a man who might have a male partner. What frustrates me is that most of his criticisms are so bizarre (he reads bestiality into the relationship between Kristoff and his reindeer, so Goodness knows what he would make of Disney’s Jungle Book) I can only conclude he wrote the piece to generate controversy.
But by portraying the Church as paranoid, exclusive and anti-fun he runs against the currents of joy and warmth of Francis’ pontificate. He risks alienating moderate Catholics and their children. Does he hope that Catholic parents will ban their children from seeing the films in case they emerge gay? Trust me, all they’ll leave with is the life-long ability to empty buildings with their noisy rendition of the soundtrack.
Frozen is worth celebrating. Love isn’t skin-deep, we discover, when the prince reveals his true colours and Anna falls in love with Kristoff despite “the pear-shaped, square-shaped weirdness of his feet”. The film is rife with altruism: “Some people are worth melting for,” says Olaf the snowman, as he stokes the fire that helps save Anna’s life. The redemptive ending subverts the classic Disney storyline, as Anna discovers that some things are more important than her true love’s kiss. I’m not usually a fan of Disney films – I find them too clichéd and saccharine – but Frozen is an exception. Unlike Greydanus, I can’t recommend it to Catholics enough.
Liz Dodd is a news reporter at The Tablet