Frozen 2 and The Divine Feminine
The evolution of Disney productions over the years is a refreshing one. From films about Cinderella being in distress and in need of rescue and Sleeping Beauty and Snow White being asleep in need of a handsome prince to awaken her to the dynamic and powerful queen Elsa and Anna in the Frozen movies. I would say feminism has certainly made its mark on Disney. But there is more here to celebrate than just strong female characters making their mark on the world of young girls and women everywhere. This evolution of female characters from one in need of rescue to one in power is a prophetic commentary on contemporary Christian culture.
Like it or not, four years ago the first woman ran for president and we will have more run in the future. Women hold senior pastor positions over large and successful churches. Consider Tara Beth Leach. Women reside over major corporations and fortune-500 companies. Although they are still grossly under-represented, all of these realities represent a turning of tides for women. To use the cliché, it seems that the “future” really does belong to women. My daughter will grow up believing that she should be as likely to run for president or rule in a magical “Kingdom” as her brothers. I grew up waiting and hoping for a handsome prince to come and rescue me. No one ever told me that I didn’t need rescuing. Certainly not from any prince on a horse! The story that Disney tells of Queen Elsa of Arandelle is the story of the contemporary woman. It is a story that our daughters will grow up with. And it is a story that us older ones will be adopted into, God willing.
Elsa begins her journey under the authority of her father’s kingdom. She has mystical powers that she is born with that she wields for her pleasure and for the joy of her sister as a young girl. Until the accident. Elsa’s power harms her sister and she spends the rest of her life trying to hide her power, under the counsel and “wisdom” of her father. With great power there is always great risk. She learns to hide, to pretend, and most significantly perhaps, to not feel. Elsa’s wounding in learning to hide is what Sue Monk Kidd calls the “feminine wound” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter is where Kidd unpacks her own journey of discovering and healing her feminine wound. It is a must read for any person on this journey.) The feminine soul is wounded when we learn that the power that we wield because of our femininity is actually evil and not good.
This can happen in dozens of ways. For many women, we are wounded sexually and intentionally by men through harassment or rape or others forms of victimization. So we learn to hide from our sexuality, afraid of being hurt again. The feminine wound can fester when as a young girl, we are free to dance and express ourselves openly and without reserve, and later we are taught that we must be quiet and still so as to not draw un-wanted attention to ourselves. This can happen as young girls grow up believing that we can be whatever we want but then observe the men around us getting preferential treatment in subjects and classes and careers where men are dominant. The feminine wound is born when somewhere along the way, women learn to hide, to become less and certainly not to feel.
In the Frozen 2 sequel, Elsa has found reprieve from her fear and hiding. To use this language, her feminine wound has been healed but she has not been re-born yet, not entirely set free. She lives with the ability to express her power but she is in an environment that is not home. In this sense, she is not able to be her full and authentic self. So she goes on a quest, chasing a haunting, singing female voice. Her quest comes to a climax as she meets her mother, Iduna, in an icy cave. Here, Iduna tells Elsa that her quest has found fulfilment in assuring Elsa that, “you are the one you’ve been waiting for.” In a thrilling twist, we also learn that Iduna had the same powers that Elsa possesses. Iduna must have mastered hiding them. But here, she releases Elsa into her power fully. Herein lies the quest for every woman in order to heal her feminine wound. She must be both healed and set free. She must be given freedom from a Divine Mother who will release her into her power. It is Elsa’ mother, not father who releases her. It is Elsa’s mother who identifies with her. It is Elsa’s mother who calls to her to look within herself and gives her the courage to follow into the unknown.
For each women born of patriarchy, we must follow the voice of our Divine Mother into the unknown reaches beyond patriarchy. (What I mean by the “Divine Mother” or “Divine Feminine” is a power of being, a God, who is conceived of in female images, alongside male images. Thus, it is about the symbol of a woman being an image of God). As Elizabeth Johnson points out “the symbol of God functions” (This is one of Johnson’s primary claims in “She Who Is.”). The symbols and images we use to conceive of God represent what we take to be the highest good, they shape our worldview, our culture and our practices. The Divine Feminine is essential in the liberation of women from sexism and the continued decline of the power of patriarchy in our world.
First and foremost, to find our identity beyond the bounds of patriarchy. And secondly, to re-connect with our feminine souls. We must listen to the voice of Mother God and hear Her assure us that “you are the one you have been waiting for.” Theologically speaking, this is two-fold. First, it is learning that we, as women, are image bearers. That we were not created as an afterthought but as a co-laborer, equal participant and fully eternal being in the beginning. (Genesis 2) Second, it is learning that God is not male. God does not have male anatomy. (In case this is a new thought to you, theologically, I highly recommend starting with Elizabeth Johnson’s “She Who Is.”)
God is not gendered and therefore to know the fullness of God we must come to know God’s femaleness alongside other images that help our finite minds comprehend the Great I Am. When we know, and pray to, and sing to, and experience God as Mother we will come closer to being healed of our feminine wound and set free into our authentic female selves. In the meantime, I am grateful that our daughters will meet and idolize contemporary mythical characters like Iduna as Mother God and Elsa as Queen because our daughters will know women brave enough to journey into the unknown.