Wonderful World of Disney
Disney doesn’t always bring out the best in people. Did you know that many visitors teach their kids to cut the line, and that shocking numbers of the bereaved leave their loved ones’ ashes in the park? And since Disney’s primary interest is profit, it monetizes children’s adventures and virtues, and that can get weird.
Did you think there was anyone left at Disney who took an interest in truth, goodness, and beauty? Who wanted to explore questions of human dignity and communion? I thought Disney employed no such souls, but then I saw Encanto.
Encanto acts as the much-needed philosophical counterweight to Star Wars & the Marvel Cinematic Universe, franchises in which Special People with Extraordinary Gifts Matter. It manages to do so without descending into the genre of preaching-not-art. Jedi and superhero films are entertaining, but they collaborate with a dangerous voice in our culture.
Encanto’s Luisa frets: Who are you without your superpowers? What if you can’t do anything useful? These are good questions to pose to an ever-more eugenics-positive audience. You know, the kind of audience that aborts children with Downs Syndrome at near 100% rates.
In Encanto, there is room for weakness, mystery, and grace. Encanto illustrates and then sings its beautiful truth: “The miracle is not some magic that you’ve got - the miracle is you!”
Human dignity does not depend on what you can do or what you know. Your worth is not contingent on anything other than your membership in the human family. Your membership starts when you are conceived and can never be revoked.
I didn’t adore every aspect of Encanto, but that is a matter of taste, not truth or even craftsmanship. Art mediates truth by meditating on truth, and Encanto does so with real characterization, style, and wit, accompanied by a feast of color and sound.
If You Haven’t Yet, You Really Should
Speaking of inspiring movies that can truly be called Art, here are 4 (non-Disney) movies worth your time. If you watch one of these - I mean lights off, no phone in your hand, actually watch - and don’t think it was good, let me know so we can argue about it IRL.
“Going My Way” & “The Bells of St. Mary’s”
For years, I avoided these films precisely because they were marketed to me as Wholesome Family Fare. I don’t gravitate toward Positive Message Movies or smarmy nonsense.
When finally I agreed to watch them, I was glad I had waited. If you saw these films as a child, you missed a lot. The detail, the characters, and the very grown-up problems make for beautiful films, not children’s movies or a message flicks. The acting is excellent (read: subtle, with no capes or guns).
Note: Anyone in ministry or Catholic education should watch these movies for professional development.
“The Mission” & “A Man for All Seasons”
These films also make lists of “Catholic” films, although they were written by agnostic screenwriter Robert Bolt.
They portray men grappling with the demands of conscience in impossible situations. Those consciences happen to be Catholic, but Catholicism is not the central point.
These films are magnificent. They are also safe to recommend to your Protestant, agnostic, and disaffiliated friends & family ages 13+
Photo Credit: Rasmus Gerdin on Unsplash