The evolution of Disney productions over the years is a refreshing one from a feminist theological perspective. One task of the feminist theologian is to consider the traditions and practices of the Christian faith in way that honors and elevates the lived experiences of women. One way that this happens is through considering the Divine Feminine or the Divine Mother. 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). As Elizabeth Johnson points out “the symbol of God functions.” [In case this is a new thought to you, theologically, I highly recommend starting with Elizabeth Johnson’s “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.

Disney has evolved from Cinderella to Elsa. In 1950 Disney wrote the Cinderella character. She was in distress and in need of rescue from a handsome prince. Most Disney productions followed this storyline for the better part of fifty years. Until the powerful queen Elsa and Anna debut in the Frozen movies. Elsa and Anna are not in need of rescue. Instead they themselves are the heroes and the leading characters in their own story. 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 and Nadia Bolz-Weber. 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.

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.

In the Frozen 2 sequel, Elsa has found reprieve from her fear and hiding, but she has not been entirely set free. She is still missing something so she goes on a quest to find it. She spends the movie 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.” Herein lies the quest for every woman in order to heal from the sexism that has plagued our churches. She must be healed and given freedom from a Divine Mother who will release her into her power. It is Elsa’ mother 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. 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.[1] 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 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.

[1] In case this is a new thought to you, theologically, I highly recommend starting with Elizabeth Johnson’s “She Who Is.”