Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Rise of the Guardians and Easter

(image via kidzworld)

Happy Easter everyone! By the time you read this, I will probably be done with church and knee deep in vegan chocolate. I admit that I struggled a lot with today’s post, because there aren’t exactly many things about Easter in pop culture. I think that’s because Easter is either viewed as silly (bunnies delivering eggs) or “too religious” by our secular culture. But other than resurrection motifs, which we have already talked about, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which we have also already talked about, there really isn’t much about Easter in our pop culture. However, one movie does discuss Easter to some extent, and that is Rise of the Guardians. While no reference to Jesus is made in the movie, it still discusses the important religious elements of hope and belief.

In Rise of the Guardians, the Guardians of Childhood, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the Sandman, along with the newly inducted Jack Frost, fight against the villainous Pitch Black, the boogie man. Pitch hopes to rule over a world of fear. He infects children with nightmares and steadily attempts to get them to lose faith in the Guardians. As children stop believing, the Guardians try to use the upcoming Easter holiday to give the children hope and help them keep their faith in the good in the world. However, Pitch rigs things so that none of the eggs Bunny made get from his world into ours. The children stop believing in the Easter Bunny when they realize that there are no eggs to find. Without this belief, their hope also starts to disappear. The only child who doesn’t stop believing is Jamie Bennett, who, with some help from Jack Frost, manages to keep his faith and spreads that to the other children.

This story reminds me a lot of my favorite Gospel—the Gospel of Mark. Mark is my favorite Gospel—not because it is the shortest, but because of its ending. Many of you may be unaware that Mark actually has two endings. In the original ending, Christ rises from the dead, but no one hears about it because the apostles were too afraid to say anything about what happened. The second longer ending that was added later details peoples’ encounters with Christ after the resurrection and how the good news of his resurrection began to spread.

The first ending goes as follows:

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The longer ending, however, goes into details about how Jesus appears before Mary Magdalene, then to the disciples. He orders them to go into the world and preach about the good news, and the book finally ends with Christ’s ascension into heaven. The longer version of Mark is the story that we are used to. Very rarely do we see the version where everyone is too afraid to speak about this miraculous thing that is the resurrection, but it serves a very important literary purpose. The author of Mark is essentially calling out his readers by saying: these people were too afraid to preach about what Christ has done for us. Will you do the same, or have courage and speak to others about Christ’s resurrection? It’s profound in the way that it asks the readers to participate in the Easter story, not just read about it.

This is similar to how the Easter story plays out in Rise of the Guardians. When Easter doesn’t happen, the children lose what little hope they have left and stop believing in the Easter Bunny. Unlike Jamie, most of the kids are already too afraid to even attempt to enjoy the holiday. Pitch has instilled such fear in them that even before Easter is ruined they already don’t expect anything good to happen. Their fear is so strong that they are unable to see the hope Easter represents. That could have been the end for the Guardians, but Jamie prays for a sign and Jack Frost helps him believe in the Easter Bunny. Jamie then rallies the kids and helps them find hope again so that they are able to believe.

(image via easom.info)

Jamie essentially responds to the call of the first ending of Mark. When all the other kids are afraid, Jamie still believes, holds out hope, and keeps trying to keep the other kids’ spirits up. It’s after this that Jamie experiences the second ending of Mark. He begins to believe, like the Apostles did, that everything is over and that what he believes is wrong until he comes face to face with a mystical being, Jack Frost, who reminds him to keep hope. After this he can more confidently preach to the other kids about what he believes. The Rise of the Guardians may be devoid of any actual mentions of religion, but its themes of hope and belief during Easter definitely reflect the actual Easter story. For Christians, Easter is all about the hope that we too will rise again from death, just like Jesus did. In Rise of the Guardians, though it is never stated explicitly, Easter is still about overcoming fear and having hope in a new life.

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1 thought on “Oh, My Pop Culture Religion: Rise of the Guardians and Easter

  1. I literally just watched Rise of the Guardians again last night. I just wanted a fun animated film and didn’t think about how timely it was, my subconscious must have been running the show last night.
    I honestly don’t know anything about religion but I really like the comparison you’ve made, its a really interesting analysis.

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