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Epic Theology

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Adulting

What Disney Teaches Us About Adulting: Looking After Ourselves

This blog series is adapted from my panel at the 2018 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. For those who were unable to make it, here’s what you missed!

According to Dr. Frank Pittman, in his book Grow Up: How Taking Responsibility Can Make You A Happy Adult, at the core of being an adult is the ability to look after yourself and someone else.

Part of growing up is the transition from being entirely reliant on our parents or guardians to fending for ourselves and those around us. This is the crux of adolescence, the struggle for independence and self-determination against the control of our parents or guardians. Ariel, in The Little Mermaid, cries out to her father, “I’m sixteen years old. I’m not a child anymore.” Princess Jasmine similarly pushes back against her father’s control: “Father, I hate being forced into this. If I do marry, I want it to be for love.”

So, if we are to be looking after ourselves, what does Disney actually tell us about being self-sufficient adults? And does the Bible have anything to say?

 

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Inside Out:

The first Pixar film in our study. Inside Out deals with the often neglected aspect of our health: our emotional wellness.

The Bible tells us that “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” (Prov. 17:22). Do we think about that?

We all know that we should eat our broccoli and maybe get on a bike every now and then, but how many of us actually take regular time to check in with out emotional self? Do we have memories that are eating away at our wellbeing? Do we carry grudges and fears?

Seeing as half of our population will deal with depression or an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives and up to a third of us reading this post are dealing with one of those right now, we really need to take a look at how our emotions are affecting us.

Do we, like Riley, have Joy as our emotional leader? Or does Anger have the controls, destroying intimacy and relationships left, right, and centre? Does Disgust keep us from enjoying the little things in life? Does Sadness threaten to overwhelm our life and keep us blue? Does Fear keep us from trying new things or making new friends?

Ultimately, we see in Inside Out that we need a balanced emotional life to thrive. Joy brings hope when our days get hard. Sadness allows us to mourn when life gets painful. Anger propels us to fight against oppression and can help us overcome life’s obstacles. Fear keeps us alive, often quite literally. And Disgust can keep us out of trouble, if we train her well.

Yet, of the five of these emotions, only Joy makes it into the list of spiritual fruit found in Galatians 5. Perhaps we should cultivate Joy while keeping tabs on the other emotions (of which, to be fair, there are far more than five. The five in Inside Out should just be a starting point.)

 

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Big Hero 6:

Unlike Hiro Hamada, few of us have access to a lovable robot nurse that knows exactly what we need for optimal physical and psychological health. But if we look at Baymax’s suggestions in the film, we can learn a few practical tips:

“You have a slight epidermal abrasion on your forearm. I suggest an antibacterial spray.”

“It is alright to cry. Crying is a natural response to pain.”

“Puberty can often be a confusing time for an adolescent flowering into manhood.”

But ultimately, we need to know that sometimes, as an adult, we need to take the advice of others. If we become so proud that we cannot listen to expert opinion, we run the risk of isolating ourselves and ignoring possible life-saving information. The Proverbs agree, letting us in on this tidbit: “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety,” (Prov. 11:14). Hiro ignores Baymax’s suggestion for emotional healing and instead focuses on revenge. It’s only later that he discovers that revenge won’t make him feel better.

 

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WALL-E:

Generations of people who seek only physical comfort and fast food lead to something like this:

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1 Cor. 9:27 tells us: “But I discipline by body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Let’s just make sure we go for a walk and eat our vegetables, shall we?

Blessings

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What Disney Teaches Us About Adulting: Moving Out

This blog series is adapted from my panel at the 2018 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. For those who were unable to make it, here’s what you missed!

We’re going to start today’s discussion with a quick question. Who owns their own house?

According to Disney, moving out of our parents’ place and finding our own house should be easy. All we need to do is – marry royalty! Royals come with a huge castle and absolutely no property tax. This plan worked for Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Aladdin, and Meghan Markle.

However, for those who haven’t found their prince or princess yet, or, *gasp* don’t plan on it, maybe we need another plan.

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Snow White:

Here we see a young woman who suddenly finds herself in a toxic home environment and decides to move out on her own. At 14, perhaps a bit little younger than many of us, but still. She quickly finds herself a few roommates and makes herself at home. There are a few lessons here for us:

  1. Food can be an incredibly effective means of making friends. I have found this to be true on both the cooking and receiving sides. When I was in college, one new roommate endeared himself by frequently having snacks and Halo ready when I got home from class. We became good friends very quickly.
  2. While some people may never like you, kindness can win over even the grumpiest of people. And although our kindness won’t always be appreciated the way we want it to be, we should still choose kindness because it has a power all it’s own.
  3. Snow White meets 8 strangers over the course of the movie. 7 are kind and make her life much easier. Only 1, the Wicked Queen, is actually dangerous. While I’m not suggesting that we hand out our banking passwords to everyone we meet, perhaps we can make a habit of giving people the benefit of the doubt. Allowing people in, while sometimes dangerous, can make our lives far more rich.

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Pinocchio:

Another young man strikes out from home to make it on his own. And quickly runs in with the worst sort of people: actors. He joins the circus, gets into a bunch of trouble, and continues to fall in with a bad crowd. He finally narrowly avoids becoming a beast, enslaved to the hedonism that plagues his newfound friends. It’s only when he returns to what he knows to be right, self-sacrifice and family, that he becomes a real person.

Actually, this is almost exactly my life story…

But in all seriousness, when we move out from our parents’ place, they exert less influence over us. Our choice of friends and roommates is going to be important as we seek to become an adult. “Bad company corrupts good character,” (1 Cor. 15:33). I’m not telling you which friends to hang out with, but if you have an idea of what kind of adult you’d like to be, I suggest you find people who are similar to your goal self and hang out with them more.

If you want to become an active, sporty person, don’t just hang out with people who want to play video games all day. If you want to be well read and highly educated, don’t spend your time with people who never pick up a book. Proverbs 22:24-25 reminds us: “Do not make friends with a not-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and become ensnared.”

The character of those we surround ourselves with rub off on us, which either makes it easier to become the best version of us that we can be or a whole lot harder.

Blessings

What Disney Teaches Us About Adulting: Getting a Job

This blog series is adapted from my panel at the 2018 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. For those who were unable to make it, here’s what you missed!

Last week, we talked about 7 Markers of Adulthood that society uses to let us know when we’ve achieved the status of “Grown Up.” Today, we’re going to look at the first, Getting a Job!

Part of being a responsible, self-sufficient adult is the ability to provide for your own needs financially. We need food, clothing, and shelter, all of which require money to attain. No longer relying on someone else’s provision, the adult gets a job and works hard for the money they bring in.

There is biblical precedent for this. The first man to be filled with the Spirit, Bezalel (Ex. 31), was so filled so that he could get to work building the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Even though God was caring for His people’s physical needs with rock-water and sky-bread, God thought this work was so important that His Spirit dwelt within a man so it could be done.

The Book of Proverbs has more direct urgings to get a job: “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider his ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares he bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” (Prov. 6:6-8).

What about the New Testament, I hear you crying out. Well, Paul is even more harsh: “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thess. 3:10). Sounds like getting a job and looking after ourselves is pretty important.

Now, early Disney characters rarely bothered with the boring routine of getting jobs. When you’re a princess or prince, you don’t really need one.  However, more recent films have dealt with people finding, keeping, and growing in their jobs. Let’s see what they say:

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Pinocchio

 Here we find the one early Disney protagonist who get’s a job. Which job? Show business!

In Pinocchio we learn that jobs are dangerous. If your boss is anything like Stromboli, he or she will likely try to screw you over, and its best to avoid getting a job altogether.

Now, Pinocchio is a child of sorts and we have laws against child labour for a reason. We don’t want the Strombolis of the world caging our kids and exploiting them for financial gain.

However, we can also pick up on the truth that when it comes to our job, the interpersonal aspects of the job may be just as important as the actual work itself. It may be more important to have a job we don’t particularly like, if our co-workers and supervisors make life more fulfilling.

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Zootopia:

Judy Hopps has one dream: to become a police officer. However, the odds are stacked against her by the accident of her birth as a bunny.

But Judy believes nothing else will make her happy, so she gives it her all to make it through the police academy despite her natural limitations. It’s a wonderful reminder that perseverance in the face of opposition can lead us to grow and overcome the obstacles that are in our way.

And so, Judy Hopps becomes the first bunny police officer – and is quickly bounced down to metre maid. This wasn’t what she was expecting. But does Judy whine or quit? No, she buckles down and becomes the BEST meter maid in Zootopia, outperforming everyone’s expectations. From there, she earns enough of her boss’ trust to climb the police ladder and eventually become a hero.

Sometimes we have dreamy, romantic visions of what our jobs should be that don’t match our realities right away. That’s okay. Sometimes, we just need to put in the work. Paul instructs us in 1 Thess. 4:11-12 “to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” If we can follow in Judy’s footsteps, we can learn to work hard wherever we are, no matter our opposition and be the best we can be.

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The Princess and the Frog:

Finally, we have young Tiana who has the aspiration of opening the restaurant that she and her father dreamed of owning one day. In order to do so, she works two jobs and saves every penny she can.

Sounds like the American Dream to me. Work hard, dream big. Wish on stars and put in the elbow grease.

But in The Princess and the Frog, we learn that this kind of work ethic creates people who don’t dance and who aren’t fun. We learn that work and fun are mutually exclusive. This isn’t necessarily true, and it’s not the best message for a youth just about to enter the workforce. We don’t need to give up on having fun just because we have a job. Actually, the financial freedom that a job brings can allow us to have even more fun than if we rely on the generosity of others.

But, eventually, Tiana works long and hard enough to make her dream come true.

There’s only one problem.

The free market strikes when someone outbids Tiana on the property she needs for the restaurant. We aren’t even told who ruins the dream, just that he or she has a lot more money than Tiana. So, we learn that sometimes working hard doesn’t get you what you want. Sometimes the lack of privilege bites you in the backside. A nugget of truth that we need to keep in mind when we set out into the workforce.

In all of this, we need to remember that God is sovereign. He may have a job in mind for you, or He may have a season of utter dependence on Him in mind. Remember, “the heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Prov. 16:9)

So, work hard, but allow God to lead you. Even if it’s outside your plan.

Blessings

What Disney Teaches Us About Adulting: An Introduction

This blog series is adapted from my panel at the 2018 Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo. For those who were unable to make it, here’s what you missed!

Our government tells us that we are an adult at the age of 18.

Quick question, who is over the age of 18?

Of those who are of legal age, who actually feels like an adult?

Better yet, who feels like an adult all of the time?

I’d wager that number is not nearly as many as our laws would suggest.

Why is that? That’s a big question that expands FAR beyond the scope of this blog, but I want to explore a bit of the conversation here.

To start out, let’s talk about what it means to be an adult. In my research, I’ve found a few different definitions, because no one seems to really know for sure.  Some definitions I’ve found include:

  • A person who is fully grown or developed.
  • The stage of the life cycle after reproductive capacity has been attained.
  • Having attained full size and strength; grown up; mature.
  • Having the ability to make your own decisions and dealing with the consequences.
  • A person who has attained the age of majority and is therefore regarded as independent, self-sufficient, and responsible.

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To add to our confusion, western society, in the aftermath of World War II, created a social structure called the adolescent. Before this, people generally moved from childhood to adulthood directly around the onset of puberty, often with an accompanying rite of passage. However, we have lengthened this transition and created an “in-between” stage where we are no longer children, but not quite adults yet. Over the decades, this adolescent stage has grown longer and longer. Many no longer really believe 18 year olds to be adults, but how about 22 year olds? Or 25 year olds? Or 30 year olds? When asked when someone becomes an adult, the answer is often, “It depends.”

Now that we’ve separated biological adulthood (being able to reproduce) from social adulthood (being seen as an adult), we must have something else that lets us know we’ve arrived at being an adult. Instead of relying on puberty, we rely on social “markers” that let us know that whoever has accomplished these markers is an adult.

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In the spirit of goodwill, I want to be very clear that I don’t mean to demean or belittle anyone who has not accomplished one of these markers. There are plenty of reasons why someone hasn’t yet, or perhaps will never go through these events, either by choice or by the nature of who you are. Just take what you can from this series and don’t take any of it too seriously. If you seriously disagree with me, please let me know. I would love to have a conversation

Now, I’ve narrowed down potential markers to these seven:

  1. Getting a Job
  2. Moving out/buying a house
  3. Looking After oneself
  4. Saving for the Future
  5. Finding an Identity
  6. Getting Married
  7. Having Kids

That said, for many of us, Disney films may have been the biggest media influence on our childhoods. Whether we wanted to be a princess or a street rat or a singing candelabra, we grew up within the stories that Disney has been telling.

We’re going to look at each of these markers in turn to see where Disney movies have given us wisdom and where they have led us astray. We will also compare the lessons from the films with wisdom from the Scriptures. Hopefully, by the end, we’ll have a little more information on what it means to be an adult and how we can start adulting a little better.

Until next time,

Blessings

We’re at the Calgary Expo Again!

Hey all,

Bonus post this week. For those who haven’t heard, I’ll be at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo again this year. I’m teaching another panel, which is awesome, but we’ve also been accepted into their short film screening for our film Star of Wonder!

Last year, I taught a panel session on post-apocalyptic media and what it can teach us about surviving today (you know, before the zombies rise or we run out of gas or the nukes go off). It was well attended, with between 80 and 100 people showing up. I had a blast with both the teaching portion and the Q&A that followed. I got a lot of feedback for an article that I want to write sometime in the near future.

This year, I’m going to be teaching on Disney films and what they teach us about being an adult. I’ll be going through some recent and classic films and explore both the helpful messages (friends are important), and the less so (getting married at 16 is always a good idea). We will look at some modern markers of adulthood and see how Disney reinforces or subverts those markers.

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On a related note, I’m excited that the voice actors of Belle, Ariel, and Pocahontas will be at the Expo this year, so there will be plenty of Disney love to go around.

This panel will be in the Palomino Room D at 7:00PM on Friday, April 27th. If you are going to be at the Expo on Friday evening, come check out some great Disney discussion! If you aren’t, then buy a ticket anyways and come hang out!

I’m also very excited to screen Star of Wonder in front of a public audience. We got great feedback from the church when it was screened there just before Christmas, but this will be the first time the film is being shown to the general public. I think the Steampunk-Christmas adventure will go over well, but having never been to one of the Expo screenings, I don’t have any idea what to expect.

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Star of Wonder will be screened in the Quarter Horse room (right next to the Palomino rooms) at 1:00PM on Friday, April 27th. Again, if you’d like to see the film on a bigger screen than your computer, come join us for a fun adventure!

If you can’t make it to the screening, the film can also be seen here.

I’m quite excited for the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo this year. I have some people I want to connect with, some art to buy, and some geekiness to celebrate. If you’re going to attend, please let me know. I would love to share an overpriced Coke with you and chat about whatever nerdiness is your cup of tea (mine is often tea itself, but that’s for another post).

I hope you are all surviving this extended winter (if your local weather is anything like mine) and having a great week.

*Edit – the date and time of the Screening has been changed from the original post*

Blessings

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