Somewhere on the Internet you can find a rant about how Valentine’s Day was invented by greeting card designers or a heartwarming post about how you are significant with or without a significant other.
This is not either of those posts. Sorry.
Valentine’s Day is not emotionally difficult for me like it is for many people. I’m not a hopeless romantic. The only chick flick I think I’ve ever willingly watched was The Princess Bride, and that doesn’t even count because it has giant rats and swordfights and delightfully quotable lines that I will use whenever I can conceivably slip them into everyday conversation.
But the way I see things, you can either approach Valentine’s Day like Ariel or Wall-E.
I have to admit, I can be a little hard on Ariel. After all, she’s sixteen years old. Plenty of time to grow and mature, although she probably won’t if all of her dumb choices are rewarded in the end.
However, let’s take a look at her defining moment of character motivation, shall we?
“I want moooooore.”
That line alone makes it kinda obvious Ariel has contentment issues.
Now, let’s turn our attention to Case Study 2. Disney animators had to be remembering the mermaid trove when creating a very different kind of hoarder: Wall-E.
He’s got gadgets and gizmos aplenty and even plays with a dinglehopper…er, fork…er…spork.
But that’s where the similarities end. Here are three differences between our two main characters:
Difference 1: Ariel rebels, Wall-E sacrifices.
Ariel is all about getting what she wants, so much so that she sells her voice to a witch for a chance at her forbidden human love. This eventually endangers her father and the entire ocean, not to mention Prince Eric himself. Not a great situation.
When Eve arrives (and then shuts down), Wall-E does everything he can to protect her. And it’s obviously not a shallow attempt to impress her, since she’s completely disabled and doesn’t know that he just got electrocuted trying to keep her dry. Just like Eve’s single-minded focus on bringing back the plant, Wall-E had his own directive: keep Eve safe, no matter what, even when he doesn’t get anything out of it.
Difference 2: Ariel feels lonely, Wall-E is alone.
Even though Ariel is surrounded by hundreds of mer-people, she isn’t happy. Sure, I understand that a cave full of land-dwellers’ cast-offs wouldn’t be enough for a young mermaid. But she also has a father who loves her, several great friends, and a court of people who obviously appreciate her talent.
Is it possible to still be profoundly lonely when surrounded by people? Yes. Is it slightly harder to understand why Ariel feels the need to fall in love with some guy of another species that she sees once from a distance? Also yes.
If we’re comparing circumstances, I can be generous and say that Ariel was misunderstood. Maybe. But when Wall-E counts up his friends, he has the sum total of one resilient cockroach and the VHS cast of the musical Hello Dolly. That’s it. If anyone had a right to self-pity, it would be the tirelessly industrious robot who missed the evacuation notice. Which brings me to…
Difference 3: Ariel throws a temper tantrum, Wall-E goes to work.
We can tell that both Ariel and Wall-E want true love. But why do we perceive Ariel’s as the immature diary entry of a whiny princess and Wall-E’s as a profound longing for something very good?
I think it’s because of how they react to what they want. “Daddy I love him!” referring to a guy you’ve never even met is a laughable reaction compared to rocking yourself to sleep after a hard day’s work, listening to the fading strains of a love song you hope you’ll understand someday.
Here’s my point: many of us make an idol out of true love. We put it in a place of honor like Prince Eric’s statue, dream about it, complain that we don’t have it yet or put our identity in it if we do.
This does not usually end well.
God created us with the desire to know and be known, and declared that good when he declared that Adam being alone was “not good.” (Do you really think it’s a coincidence that Wall-E’s new friend was named Eve?)
I don’t want to sit here and tell single people to stop feeling sad on Valentine’s Day. But I would say we can learn something about being less like a pouty mermaid and more like a self-sacrificing robot.
How? Collect things that matter (books, experiences, good conversations, opportunities to serve others, stamps on your passport). Take care of your friends. Do the work in front of you as best you can, even if it’s the same day after day after day. Become the kind of person we can cheer for by the time the movie’s credits are rolling.
And if you’re in the mood to watch a chick flick, come over to my place. It might not be quite the same as the romantic strains of Hello Dolly…but I’m playing The Princess Bride and really, that’s pretty hard to beat.