Okay before we start spoiler warning: In order to talk about this I'm going to have to spoil Once Upon a Time, Frozen, Maleficent, Saturday’s Warrior and Star Child.
You've been warned.
What exactly is true love? Disney has been harping on this concept since it's first animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It took true love's kiss to wake up Snow White, it took true love's kiss to wake up Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, it took true love's kiss to break Ursula's spell in The Little Mermaid, what is it?
If we take a shot in the dark based on these and most other movies and TV shows we can guess that true love means the one you're supposed to be with forever, despite barely knowing them or sometimes even having officially gotten their names. True love is the power of love no matter what the obstacle, weather distance, time, magic or common sense.
And it's the one thing from children's entertainment that's been criticized the most.
The problem isn't in children necessarily believing in true love. A five-year-old girl thinking that someday her prince will come doesn't do that much harm. However, a 25 year old woman who blindly cruses into a relationship with someone she barely knows because she believes it's true love, that can be a problem, especially when the guy knows how to manipulate the poor princess fan.
Everyone has seen this happen.
Lately true love has had a bit of a makeover form it's romantic roots. The season finale of Once Upon a Time's first season includes a true love's kiss, but it's between a mother and child. Frozen broadened the concept of true love by making it an "Act of true love", so that the act wasn't a kiss but a selfless sacrifice between sisters. In Maleficent (now for the big spoiler) the curse isn't broken by the prince, in fact the prince is barely in it. Maleficent breaks her own curse with her own kiss, and it doesn't even bother explaining if it's the love of a mother to a psuedo-daughter, or the love of friendship, or part of the curse itself.
So does this work? Well considering the overwhelming popularity of these films, yeah I'd say it works. For audiences at least. As far as a story telling trope it makes a lot more sense than the person I just met is automatically my true love and that love is powerful enough to reverse death nonsense. It creates for some interesting character dynamics and relationships to be addressed besides romance, like sisters and parents.
Now you wanna know something awesome?
LDS cinema did it first.
Before we had God’s Army (Which I’m talking about next week) and Single’s Ward, LDS cinema only had a few ponies in it’s stable, one of them being Saturday’s Warrior. The film was a play BYU made a movie about and featured the maid from the Brady Bunch as well as a couple of catchy songs. It’s was pure cheese, a little apocryphal, and generally harmless. One of it’s biggest plot points was the idea that two characters had met in the pre-existence and had promised to find each other on earth, marry, and live through the eternities. In the film they do thanks to some loveable but dopey missionaries. There’s your typical true love story.
Yes apparently this weird little play/film was so popular someone wrote a sequel called Star Child. The play was filmed during one performance and was put to video so somewhere out there this little gem exists, and it is awesome. The story once again starts in the pre-existence but instead of a man and woman pledging eternal love it’s two men pledging eternal friendship (Don’t freak out they’re just friends). The tension comes when they find out that one will be born into the gospel and the other will not, so thus the one pledges to become a missionary to bring the gospel to the other. They then, and I’m not making this up, create a constellation of a child riding a unicorn as a sign of their friendship in the hopes that some part of them remembers it until they find each other again.
Skip ahead to earth life and our guy born into the gospel has taken some wrong turns and has become a drinker and smoker, and our non-member has become a scientist in another country. The inactive member ends up somehow getting into BYU and becomes roommates with the missionaries from Saturday’s Warrior, and they make it their project to get him on his mission for some reason.
More nonsense happens and the guy eventually gets his testimony back and ends up on his mission to-you guessed it- whatever country we’re pretending the other guy is in, and on his P-day runs into his buddy from the pre-existence. I couldn’t find the scene on Youtube but it really does feel like all those stupid fairy tale scenes when the prince finds his princess, and yet it doesn’t. There are no romantic ties between these two characters. When they see each other it really is a moment of quasi-recognition and love, and with the context I would honestly call it true love.
The film ends on a happy note, everyone gets baptized and married and whatever and the two men stay BFFs forever, no curses broken, no acts having to be performed, just love.
So if anyone tries to act all superior saying how innovative Frozen is, you can now with an air of complete hipsterness to you say we did it first.