The God-Shaped Hole!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Disney's Brother Bear: Bearly New-Age!

Beware: spoilers ahead!!!

The critics said it was far below par for Disney. The Christians said it would make our children worship clouds and butterflies. The historical accurists said it showed a stereotypical idyllic Native American tribe. The conservatives said it was all about "our friends the animals" and a hyper-environmentalist message.


The story is all about choices and consequences, and has a sadness for sin and a search for justice at its core. I do not recommend it to children, but to any strong Christian over the age of 18.

In a Stone-Age American Indian community, shelter, food, water and fire are life. One young man, Kenai, dislikes the bears because they compete for the food, and they can be dangerous.

When he hurries his preparations for his coming-of-age ceremony,
he does not properly tie his fish in a tree. They fall, and are eaten by a bear.

At the ceremony, he is given the "bear" totem representing love. He thinks love is mushy and dislikes bears, so he thinks the spirits gave him the wrong totem by mistake. After the ceremony, he goes back to his fish to prepare the feast, but sees that a bear took them.

Angry and hurt, he convinces his two older brothers, Sitka and Denahi, to hunt the bear with him in retaliation. Instead of admitting his mistake in not properly tying the fish up, he blames the bear. They go hunting the bear, but the attempt ends in tragic failure: the bear gets away, but Sitka is killed.

Again blaming the bear, still angry and hurt, now driven by
raging hatred, he and Denahi hunt the bear once more. In a dramatic battle, Kenai manages to kill the bear out of revenge.

The Spirits see this act, and judge Kenai by transforming him into a bear. To make matters worse, Denahi sees the ripped clothing and thinks Kenai is the bear they were chasing.

From Wikipedia:

Disoriented and barely escaping Denahi's wrath by falling into the river, Kenai awakens on the shore and in the presence of Tanana [the tribe's matriarchal shaman], who eases him through his initial shock at his change. Although she cannot understand his bear speech, she advises Kenai to find where the lights touch the mountain so that he can ask Sitka's spirit to change him back, and then she disappears without giving him directions. To Kenai's surprise, he finds he can talk with the other animals - but the only animals who are willing to talk to him are two stupid sibling moose, Rutt and Tuke, who are more interested in cracking jokes at Kenai's claims to be a man than helping him. Along the way, Kenai meets a talkative, pesky bear cub named Koda, who claims to know the way to the salmon run where the bears gather to fish and where the lights seem to hug the mountain.

The two become friends along the journey, spurred toward their goal by Denahi's grief-maddened hunt. At the salmon run, Koda reveals to the group that his mother disappeared after bringing him some fish.

Kenai puts two and two together: A bear took his fish, but he killed the bear. The times and places were right, and in a moment of stark and terrible conviction, he realizes he killed his new friend's mother.

That's right, folks. Because he wasn't willing to admit a mistake, his actions escalated, first causing his brother's death, then the death of a mother bear trying to feed her cub. This is the Christian core to this New-Age-ish movie. THIS is why "Vengeance is Mine, saith the LORD." If Kenai had done the right thing, admitted his mistake in not tying his fish in the tree properly, his brother would still be alive, Koda's mother would still be alive. There are more fish, but on the alter of his blame he sacrificed his brother and someone else's mother.

(For the purposes of the movie, which clearly shows bears and other animals talking to each other, we'll treat Koda and his mother as people for now.) He runs from the gathering of bears, realizing that it was all his fault, that his choices caused the consequences.

This is the
best depiction of sin I have seen from any fiction, Disney or other secular, or even Christian. This is also the best depiction of the need to reconcile, of the need for justice.

When Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, He took the sum of all punishment that we rightly deserve for all sins throughout time. He made it possible for the thousand daily hurts to be healed, and for a future world in which they don't exist. His love for us was so great that He was willing to be put to death by mankind, to loosen death's grip on humanity.

Jesus extends this offer to everyone: Accept my death as paying for your sins, and you will be adopted into God's family, be given a new heart that does not blame, hurt, or have petty selfishness. You will be transformed into what I meant you to be. You will be given an infinite lifespan in a wondrous place you've only seen in dreams. Your needs will be filled. Your life will be made whole.

The God-shaped hole in your heart will be filled. Though the world will still be the same dangerous, pain-filled place, God will give you an inner peace that the world says you have no right to have. The stark and terrible conviction you rightly feel for any bad deeds, any petty wrongs, and any spiteful hurts you may have committed... will go away.

Accepting Jesus' offer will not make your life perfect. All He asks is for you to let Him help.

Can this movie be seen in a monotheistic context? Certainly. In our reality, all who have died know the truth about God and their lives. Suppose that in the Brother Bear reality, the Spirits are all the people who have died. In the movie's reality, the Spirits take the place of angels, and have a real, lasting relationship with the Great Spirit.

The Great Spirit was saddened by Kenai's actions, and made allowance for justice by having Kenai's dead brother Sitka transform Kenai into a bear for the purpose of caring for Koda in place of the mother.

The only reason to suppose a polytheistic or pantheistic interpretation is presupposition of the metaphysic used in the film based on our polycultural society. Keep in mind that the other major fantastic element, talking animals, is just as unreal as the spiritism shown, and can be interpreted as a metaphor for clashes of competing cultures, yet nobody clamors about how it symbolically describes the white man's uncaring for black inner-city youth, or whatnot.

The monotheism metaphysic fits just as well in Brother Bear as it does in Lord Of The Rings. (See the first chapter of the Silmarillion, if you don't believe me.)


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