Friday, May 30, 2014

Why Everyone Should Just "Let It Go"

After watching Disney’s extremely popular and highly controversial Frozen for the third time last night, I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone- bloggers, movie reviewers, and Facebook moms included- needs to just “cool” down, take a step back, and examine why this movie has had so much opinionated hype swirling around it in the first place, and whether or not the concerns are justified.
As soon as the trailers for this movie were released, the whispering started.  The feminists and anti-feminists were the first ones to jump all over it, because even the trailers made it clear that two strong female characters dominated the plots of this film.  Right away judgments were flying.   Many praised the film for following in Brave’s footsteps, proudly picturing girls who could hold their own and do things for themselves.  As the movie was released and began to circulate, the overwhelming majority of those criticizing it decried its pro-gay message, claiming the entire movie was a subliminal promotion of “coming-out”, claiming split-second appearances of a gay family in one scene, and an overall message of homosexual toleration.  As always, the Christians also had something to say, some finding positive themes and echoes of moralistic truths etched within the icy scenes, while others feeling the attempt to Christianize the film is a stretch.  A simple Google search of the movie will reveal all of these and more debates encircling the film which has won over the hearts of the general public.
In a world that is constantly promoting immoral and questionable lifestyles, I don’t blame people for jumping all over a movie that definitely strikes out to be a little bit different than the classic fairytale.  But I think that the concerned suspicion which has become all too necessary when examining new media releases may have impaired the ability of many to just enjoy something for its entertainment value, without it having to be either the Devil’s latest tool or God’s newest revelation.
Do I think Frozen promotes feminism or immoral homosexuality?  No, but I also don’t think it is a pillar of Christian virtue either.  While there is something to be said for making sure one does not expose his kids to something that could influence their mental formation or give them the wrong ideas about good and evil, I think it is also possible to become a bit too paranoid when screening movies.  The depth and plot twists in Frozen are too complicated for the majority of kids to understand.  From experience, I’ve seen that kids who love the movie know all the songs, love singing them at the top of their lungs because they’re catchy- NOT because they like the messages that might lurk behind them, think Olaf is hilarious, the girls pretty, and the guys cool (though not nearly as handsome as Tangled’s Flynn Rider, of course…).  The adults are the ones who are offended, but if they stopped to look at their kids they would realize that as long as they are raising them well, in a wholesome environment, teaching them about the faith, and striving to cultivate virtue, a Disney movie with a troubled Queen is not going to turn the daughters feminist and the boys gay.  It’s a visually beautiful movie, has some genuinely funny scenes, and I personally believe could be twisted, turned, and sold as either the most positively Christian film to come out in a while, or the most problematic film to become a hit.  Just like the majority of animated films these days.
The problem is not the amount of kids who are watching the film.  The problem is the amount of adults who are spending more time analyzing every tiny detail of Disney’s latest releases than they are on forming their kids.  To be entirely honest, the majority of Disney’s princess films could promote problematic ideas in a household where virtue has not been taught.  But as Catholics the educating of our children in the faith is of primary importance, and thus should already be forming the kids before they’re being exposed to any films.  The beauty of Christianity is that, if one has been properly formed and cultivated in its virtues and teachings, he can turn any work of art into something beautiful, can see the truth amidst the grey areas, and appreciate it. 
Am I saying that this means anything is okay, as long as kids know the ultimate truths?  No, but I am saying that kids growing up in a strong Catholic environment can and should be allowed to enjoy the entertainment value of a fun, lovely cartoon without any parents feeling guilty.  Parents, don’t let this become the next Harry Potter or Twilight.  If you’re concerned, sit down with your kids and talk to them about the movie, listen to what they have to say.  If they bring up any questions that concern you, address them.  But I think you’ll find that they’ll just giggle about Olaf’s quips, scold Prince Hans for being so tricky, talk about how cool Elsa’s ability to create an outdoor ice-skating rink in the middle of the summer is, and erupt into choruses of “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?”  And you’ll be able to come away relieved and free to just take that worry and “let it go”.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Resisting the Impulse

One of the beautiful gifts God blessed me with during my freshman year of college was a strong, honorable, devout Catholic boyfriend.  I feel incredibly blessed to be in such a wholesome, loving relationship so early in college, and I know we are both looking forward to all the future holds.  Relationships are fun and wonderful things, but they are also a lot of work, and can be a source of many valuable lessons.  Ever heard the saying "Patience is a Virtue"?  Well, from experience I can tell you that you never learn how true that is until you are dating, though it is a lesson which is valuable to everyone, no matter what your state in life is.

The key to patience is learning to resist the impulse.  An impulse is an inclination to react a certain way in that moment, without thinking, often based off of immediate feelings or desires.  For example, if someone hits you, your first impulse might be to hit them back, because you're offended and angry, not because you took time to think about the offender's motives and what would be the best course of action.  Though not all impulses are bad, they often need to be accompanied by a little rationality and moral judgment before they are followed.

Relationships are full of impulses because they are full of emotion.  In the beginning, when everything is so new and the main attraction is physical (not the ONLY one, of course), there are so many impulses to act on that initial desire.  Are these bad impulses?  No, they are completely natural, just like your impulse to defend yourself when you're hit.  But should they always be followed?  No.  Learning to resist these impulses, to give up what one immediately wants for the sake of doing that which is safer, kinder, more virtuous, and based in true love and wisdom, cultivates a virtue quickly being discarded in the world of immediate satisfaction.  It cultivates the virtue of waiting.

Waiting is a virtue which, once cultivated, serves the soul in so many situations, helping it come closer and closer to God by forsaking that which would harm it.  This is why the spiritual Fathers always recommend fasting as a discipline to help dispel lust.  Fasting denies an immediate desire, forcing the appetite to become accustomed to not always being satisfied, and teaching yourself that it is not the base desires which rule and direct you, but the higher, loftier goals.  The wonderful thing about waiting, though it can be incredibly hard, is that it is always rewarded, especially when it is joined with a prayerful offering of that which is given up to God.

Is waiting always enjoyable?  Certainly not!  Right now, I am missing my boyfriend terribly, and still have several weeks to wait until I see him again.  But these summer weeks of separation are allowing both of us to reacquire the good habits the college lifestyle encouraged us to forget, to re-examine our spiritual lives, our relationship with clear minds, to become a part of our families again, and grow individually in the ways we need to, not only for our own sakes, but for the sake of being the best we can for each other.  Do I wish I could drop everything and drive to see him right now?  Of course, but if we always satisfied our impulses, we would be missing out on the graces God is making available to us, the lessons we could be learning, and the virtues we could be cultivating by waiting.  Just like waiting to cross the line of physical affection leads to a deeper, truer, more full love based on more than lust, and eventually leads to a more beautiful marriage, in which chastity and respect are upheld, learning to wait on the littler things: whether it's waiting at the red light instead of risking your own life and that of others, forgoing that drink so that you can drive yourself and your friends home from the party safely, turning down a date with that guy who has a questionable reputation, or skipping dessert to achieve a weight-loss goal, every single thing we decide to wait for, every unwise impulse we learn to resist, makes our lives that much better, and strengthens our ability to discern between what is necessary, what is wise, and what is harmful, physically or spiritually.  And once you learn to wait on the little things, you suddenly discover that God provides temptations which should be resisted for our own good, that He sees everything we give up for the sake of following Him, and that waiting on His timing instead of our own often brings about rewards greater than the desire forgone originally.

Learning to wait makes you step back and examine how much the desired thing is truly worth to you, and oftentimes the longer you wait to receive it, the more you learn to value, respect, and cherish it.

And, believe me, if you wait for God to satisfy your heart's desires, He will always make sure it is worth the wait!

God bless all of you as you endure, and learn to embrace, your own seasons of waiting!  My prayers are with you!

Both images from a Google Image search.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Someone, please, like me...

Jumping back into the online writing world, beginning with sharing this article I wrote for Christendom College's student journal, The Rambler, entitled "Someone, please, like me" about the digital age and the need to feel loved.

Be on the look-out for upcoming posts about The Amazing Spider-man 2, the virtues to be found in waiting, and whether God "only helps those who help themselves": coming soon to a blog near you! :)