A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I watched the live action Beauty and the Beast and were surprised to see the gorgeous Catholic sculpture atop the Disney Castle. My husband said, “Isn’t that Michael the Archangel?” and I had to admit it sure looked like him. Well, I blew it off as just because Beauty and the Beast takes place in an era of Catholicism in France, but now I’m not so sure. Frozen 2 had some definite threads of Catholicism running through it, and now I’m asking, “Who’s the undercover Catholic at Disney?”
WARNING: Obviously there are spoilers ahead, can’t talk about what something means without telling you what it is 😉
There are several major ways that Frozen II echoes Catholicism. I’ll start with the smaller ones that could be accidental, and close with the one that completely blew me away.
1. Discernment of Spirits(Ignatian Spirituality) – One teaching that is constant in the movie is “Do the next right thing.” Various characters give each other and themselves this advice, and then follow it-no matter the circumstances. In the beginning, Elsa is hearing a “call” and she doesn’t know whether it is good or bad. She tries not to listen, but something in her tells her it is right to follow the call, so she does. Later, Anna follows the next right thing even when it seems like all is lost.
Saint Ignatius’ teachings about Discernment of Spirits are all about trying to decide whether your feelings or gut instincts are right or wrong, and when in doubt, he teaches to do the next right thing.
2. Suffering – Of all of the movies I have seen in recent years, I don’t know that I have seen such a beautiful testament to how hard suffering is that also includes a message of hope. It isn’t singularly Catholic to teach this, but the degree to which they teach how to hope even when it feels like everything is hopeless feels pretty Catholic to me.
3. Christ/ Mary Analogy-
This is the one that I was completely blown away and surprised by. As little things kept adding to it, I kept asking myself, “Are they doing this on purpose?”
Note: I called this an analogy and not an allegory, because allegory is usually very specific and exact, but an analogy leaves room for experimenting and playing with ideas.
When the apostles would teach pagans about God, they would discuss the pagan “gods” or “spirits” or whatever group they belonged to, and they would talk about God as above all of them, or if there already was a “god” or “spirit” above all, they would equate God with it. In Frozen II, there is a fifth spirit above fire, air, earth, and water.
That spirit ends up being Elsa, who was sent to repair the relationship between Arendelle(the south) and Northuldra(the north.) She descends into the deep(sounding familiar?) talks to her dead Mother who appears to her, is frozen(killed) and comes back to life, saving Arendelle in the process. (Credit where credit is due here, I did not even notice the Resurrection part of this analogy, that was my hubs.) In order to make her death worth it, Anna convinces the earth giants to break a dam that then bursts forth in rushing water. Elsa then goes to live in the north, but continues to visit Arendelle. It’s a loose analogy, but there are elements of the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension here. In a way, Elsa is revealed to BE living water. I don’t know where else we have heard that phrase! 😉
Now, my husband picked up most of the Christ analogy, but there was also echoes of Marian spirituality. Anna calls Elsa the bridge to the north, but Elsa tells her it wasn’t just her, Anna was the other side of the bridge. Anna was the one who wept her heart out while we thought Elsa was dead, and Anna helped both lands in Elsa’s absence.
There also may have been echoes of Marian spirituality in Elsa’s character because Mary appeared to several different pagan cultures as a beautiful woman more powerful than their “gods” or “spirits,” very similar to Elsa’s character. Also, in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he speaks of Mary as a pale woman in the water, which is what Elsa ends up being. Also, at the end her pale hair down, and pale white dress looked remarkably like Our Lady of Fatima to me, which isn’t a hard piece of evidence, but with the other evidence was kind of interesting.
So there’s my theories about the Catholic background of Frozen II, what do you think? Did you see any other echoes of it? I’m thinking at the very least we have an ex-Catholic working at Disney, or God is inspiring people, or we have a Catholic writer sneaking around the Disney studios, and I don’t have a problem with it!