Seizing your moment and remembering who all this was for

Coco just came out on Netflix, and I just got to watch it for the first time with my family. It really was very well-done. And I couldn’t help but notice a recurring pattern in recent Disney films: they do a very good job of simultaneously encouraging a message with liberal tendencies (take me as I am, follow your passion, leaving home) and preserving a message with conservative tendencies (respect tradition, return to your roots, honor authority). You can usually trace both themes just by looking at some of the song lyrics:

Coco

(OK, so not a song lyric, but a quote from the singer de la Cruz): Seize your moment

versus

Remember me
For I will soon be gone
Remember me
And let the love we have live on
And know that I’m with you the only way that I can be
So, until you’re in my arms again
Remember me

Moana

I’ve been staring at the edge of the water
‘Long as I can remember, never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water, no matter how hard I try
Every turn I take, every trail I track
Every path I make, every road leads back
To the place I know, where I can not go, where I long to be
See the line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me
And no one knows, how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know, if I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go

versus

We read the wind and the sky when the sun is high
We sail the length of the seas on the ocean breeze
At night, we name every star
We know where we are
We know who we are, who we are

Greatest Showman

What if we rewrite the stars?
Say you were made to be mine
Nothing could keep us apart
You’d be the one I was meant to find
It’s up to you, and it’s up to me
No one can say what we get to be
So why don’t we rewrite the stars?
Maybe the world could be ours
Tonight

versus

I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else’s dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop
And see you here
I remember who all this was for

Moana and Coco have such similar plot lines when you think about it: protagonist has a deep yearning to follow their passion (sailing, music), but family expectations (ruling the island, family shoe business) hold them back; it turns out that their passion is a forgotten family tradition, and their family finally accept them for who they are in a dramatic moment. Frozen fits in too by the way, but the conservative element is a little weaker, and it didn’t have a song.

I’m really grateful for these shared touchpoints that we can all enjoy regardless of our political commitments. Both media and politics are increasingly divided into political tribes, but at least we can enjoy a moment at the movies and have a profound and unifying experience together. They help us to appreciate the values of each other. Institutions, families, and cultures are important and anchor us. If they do come into conflict with the individual, that is inherent in them, and not something intrinsically malicious. And the pull to leave home and to find your own voice isn’t something limited to the present day: every age had its dreamers, and is a noble tradition in itself.

I think everyone can read themselves into such stories. As a gay Mormon, each of the story lines mentioned above spoke powerfully to me– Elsa’s struggle was my struggle, Moana’s crisis was my crisis. These stories give us a way to interpret our own stories, whatever background we come from. They provide us with our own modern day mythologies.

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