The Princess And The Frog: What Is Your Dream?

I just finished watching The Princess and The Frog.

In many ways it matches what I’ve been blogging about the past few weeks — and I have been going on the same vein for the past few weeks with what I have been saying, but not that anyone has been following. In many ways it was summated in the rejection of the American Dream, and a search for meaning in the Gospel in my last blog. Though, at first “The Princess and the Frog” may not on the surface be a ideal movie for demonstrating this. I am reading that Christianity Today, in their review of the film they criticized its sexual undertones, and moreover they said that, “it’s the use of voodoo that ultimately reveals the movie’s hollow, thoughtless core.”

I find that somewhat untrue, in the light of the greater message which is question what we put our value in. The voodoo and the “magic” used made me somewhat uncomfortable in light of the children I imagine would watch this movie. But to assert your own narrative on the film, while not commenting on the larger film as a whole is dishonest.

“You know the thing about good food? It brings folks together from all walks of life. It warms them right up and it puts little smiles on their faces.”

Indeed, the movie is the reclaimation of the idea of community. In an individualised world, we are often disconnected from one another, and alone we can only bring ourselves so far. This movie upholds the principles of a classic Disney movie, assembling together the most diverse of characters together in a team to conquer one common evil. In the Lion King, there was Timon and Pumbaa. In Snow White and the 7 Dwarves, the emotional capacity of man is demonstrated through each of the 7 dwarves. In Dumbo, he is befriended by crowes which teach him to fly. In Cinderella, she has two mice and various animals to aid her in her fight. I’m not going to keep on reading the Wikipedia entry on the List of Disney Theatrical Films because I realise I’m only up to the 1950’s and another 60 years to the present. It is never a theme within a Disney movie to keep on a single character, but a myriad of diverse characters bring an irreplaceable dynamic to the main character.

This is something I have never realised, and something that is absent from the movies today. The warmness of the animation brings this back — it is an oft forgotten concept, the importance of community.

The question of the film essentially is what is your dream?

It’s a modernised Disney hand drawn animated feature, modernised in the sense that it re-evaluates the message of all the previous films. Where in countless Disney films, the subject and aim of the film was the concept of “true love” – this film deals with the idea of success, the main character Tiana works at two jobs to pay for the down payment of her own restaurant.

There is a scene late in the movie where a voodoo doctor asks her, what is her dream? She is presented inside of her dream restaurant, she looks at the guitar player, and he is unfamiliar to her. The splendour of the establishment was sure; she is undoubtedly inside the place which she had dreamed about since she was little.

“Just look at this place! Gonna be the crown jewel of the City.”

In many ways, this is what we set our eyes upon. Our dreams are earthly things, and things that would fade. The prize as Christians should be one of the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3) The movement from the horizontal view of life, to acknowledging the larger context–namely the vertical acknowledgment of God in the operations of the world, is a total paradigm change that should be the first step of a young Christian. This movie demonstrates this as both of the main characters develop through the movie — the realization strikes them that they cannot change the situation without the community around them. I’m not saying that we should seek answers in jazz-playing alligators or talking fireflies though.

I cannot tell of the end of the movie, for that would ruin it and people would be displeased with me. But the movie represents a rejection of old Disney film ideals to a degree. Whether intentionally or not, Disney movies of old, were a reaction against the simplicity of menial existence, presenting the transcendentalism of both love and wealth. Yet this film rejects that mold and further refines the ideal — not only with an African-American protagonist in this film — the film presents a critique of the American Dream, and how that is not enough either, but purely love.

Of course, the question will never be answered in the medium of film because Jesus is the fulfillment of life. Though, the Princess and the Frog speaks of a love on a horizontal level, with the love between a princess and a frog. It speaks also of love being greater than any earthly principle. It is a paradigm change, with the rejection of material for immaterial — specifically love. “[Our] citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” Philippians 3:20 (English Standard Version)

There are a multitude of themes that “The Princess and The Frog” brings up, some less palatable, as evidenced with the great criticism that has arisen from the release of the film. The French even accused the movie of racism because of the working title: The Frog Princess. I don’t know what complaints there can be, where there is a children’s film that continues to promote an undying love. Moreover, the utter sufficiency of love in life that can weather any storm, mirroring the love that Christ has for His church.

 “My Dad never did get what he wanted, but he had what he needed. He had love.”

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Poverty or Riches: Deconstruction of the American Dream

I wonder if it is a possibility that anyone is worse off than us now.
Dare I compare our sorry plight to the “children in Africa”? My references to the “children of Africa” are not out of pettiness, but, of which I will refer to frequently in this post is a reference to anyone who is financially poorer than me. But is financial need not one of many of life’s problems of which we have to solve?

In many ways we are different: I live on a different continent. I live in a country that is comfortably defined as First World, compared to their Third World developing countries. I am receiving a college education, while they are likely to have never attended elementary school. Yet, in some ways we are similar, like how I have spent the past hour sorting through a carton of feijoas searching and eating the rotten ones, they likely do this daily and have been for everyday of their lives. Yet at the same time, we are essentially different because at the same time I was typing an essay on the role of the B.N.Z building in the development of New Zealand architectural history on a laptop with sticky fingers.

Here is the fundamental difference between these: they have no incline of the American Dream. 

They don’t seek to become successful in this world. It is a total paradigm change when you are transformed from hunter-gatherer to business man. The disappearance of the worry of surviving through to the next day, turn to seeking to create something of yourself. Almost at once, it seems that anything in the world is able to be accomplished and within our reach. We know that only a few reach the top of this pyramid, but somehow we think we are one of those. There is something really emotive about helping the children in Africa on television, but I wonder if it is all worth it. Smiling constantly while we are glued to our television screens, I wonder who the poor ones are. I wonder if the children in Africa are ever seeking fame and riches when they are suffering to feed their families. But no, their entire mindset is built around surviving, and if sponsorship money would survive them to the next day easier then perhaps that is worthy to them.
There is a moment in 30 Rock, where Jack Donaghy takes his baseball team that he is coaching into his office at 30 Rockfeller Place. Tracy Morgan as part of his community service for one of his crimes is assigned to coaching this team, but Jack soons takes over.

Joel Osteen on Homosexuality

I must say, I am almost disrespectfully amused by Joel Osteen. Interviewed on CNN (watch it here) by the new anchor Piers Morgan, he was asked the thorny question with a simple answer:

“Is homosexuality a sin?”

“Yes, I’ve always believed it. The Scripture shows that it’s a sin.”

“I say it’s wrong because that’s what the Scripture says,” Osteen stated, the pastor of America’s largest church, Lakewood Church located in Houston Texas. Thereafter he went on explaining that he can’t pick and choose parts of the Bible which you like, and discard the parts which do not suit him. He also added that he’s not “one of those to bash homosexuals and tell them they’re terrible people….I’m not the judge. You know, God didn’t tell me to go around judging everybody.” Of which, I’m not so hot about, but yeah, I don’t see how you can avoid judging them. Obviously, a statement of that magnitude and startling clarity attracted a multitude of chatter among Christians.

The most surprising of reactions was probably Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre, a Baptist minister and member of the HRC Religion Council. He said, quoting:

“As a Southern Baptist and an ethicist I believe that we can’t follow Jesus’ commandment to love God and our neighbor as our self if we start with the premise that homosexuality is sinful,” Torre argued. “Starting with the belief that people are sinful doesn’t allow us to get to know them, let alone love them.”

I’m not sure if he’s aware of the passage in Romans 5 which says:

“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (v.7-8)

The passage clearly precludes knowledge of sin, and makes it paramount to salvation. While a good person might be worth dying for, giving a reason. A disability to reason was God’s reason to save us from our sins. Being altogether unable to help ourselves out of that condition. Lost in our ways and no visible way open for our recovery. Completely depraved and deplorable and desperately in need of a Saviour. Therefore, we are the ones, of which, salvation is due to most. If God so much didn’t acknowledge out sinful state, how could he have begun to thought that we needed love, in the form of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour?

The biggest hurdle I believe for homosexuals todays is either the demonization, or the deregulation of homosexuality (two different extremes) to the point where it is a entire identity. This is the disunity, where people become less than human, they are homosexual or heterosexual, and segregated accordingly. I kind of understand where Torre is coming from, there is a place for relationships and it is paramount for preaching the gospel. But the diminution of homosexuality as a sin is dishonest and the Gospel is essential changing our identity of how we see the world. While we were still homosexuals, thieves, murderers, haters of our brothers, we were brought to the feast of which we paid nothing, and actually owed an unpayable debt to the King of the table. How can one be justified then reconciled to God, if he has nothing to have justified from?

The reality is, it’s got nothing to do with homosexuals. If true love is demonstrated through Jesus dying on the cross, how can anyone know love without knowing how much they do not deserve it? If anything, Rev Torre is attempting to dumb down the love of God, a cheap grace as you would have it. For one, I find myself agreeing with Joel Osteen more and more in his statement. I challenge him now to justify his health-wealth Gospel according to the Bible…

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5v.6)

God and Wealth

“And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.'”
– Mark 10:23-25 (English Standard Version)

“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”
– Acts 16:14 (ESV)

First, it is interesting that Lydia is mentioned by name in the Scripture where she most likely was not the only individual to be saved in by the apostles in that area. Where it is rendered “purple goods” in the ESV could refer to Lydia being a seller of either purple dye or purple cloth or silk. Purple was the color of royalty and the higher class in Roman society because of their rarity and the expensive means required to obtain it. Therefore, we could infer that she was a rich woman. She sold clothing to the rich people, probably made a bit of money from that, and lived quite comfortably. So it’s pretty much like that Louis Vuitton shop that I walked into recently.

Notice that the two phrases side by side that Lydia was a worshiper of God and a seller of purple goods. She held these two titles at the same time, both as a purveyor of purple goods to the wealthy and a humble worshiper of God. It’s amazing that she could tread that thin line between living for God as well as her business to serve the wealthy. It seems so easy for Lydia to have seen the big bright lights of the world and be attracted to it like a moth to the flame. I remember I thought I used to be strong enough around friends to see them drunk and stoned. I thought I was strong enough to resist it, but in reality I am just as depraved as them and often act contrary to a true worshiper.

Sure, it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, but with God, the impossible is possible. The reality is that it is not just hard for rich. It’s hard for the proud, it is hard for the haughty, it is hard for the selfish, it is hard for the licentious, it is hard for the liars, it is hard for the slanderous etc.