Just saw “Kung Fu Panda 3”

KFP3 Image

Less of a continuation of the series and more of a chance for DreamWorks to show off some awesome CGI particle effects.

Although one could argue that the pacing and character development were greatly lacking compared to the previous features, that’s because this latest installment has a lot of information and secondary characters to compress into the same running time. The previous movies had interesting villains with somewhat tragic back stories while the latest antagonist, Kai, is mostly just an obstacle for the heroes to overcome and develop from. There was an attempt to tie the previous films into thematic trilogy but there was also a missed opportunity to tie them together in a more interesting way. By all accounts it appears that the creators of this project basically assumed that anyone who saw the previous movies would see this movie and decided to make it as flashy and as exciting as possible; but not much else.

There was also a fleeting moment of positive ethnic identity as Po meets not only his panda father for the first time but a whole village of pandas for the fist time. But this is a kids movie so who has time to appreciate something that unusual?

Finding Christ in Steven Universe

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Being born in a Christian home I believed that anything and everything was complementary to Jesus Christ and Christianity, especially my favorite cartoon series. As I got older and became a believer I realized that almost nothing is complementary to Jesus Christ and Christianity, much less my favorite cartoon series. However because cartoons are essentially fiction I could try to find middle ground between the messages in the series and the message of the Gospel. But after a while I realized that trying to find Christ in entertainment is not only tiresome but often fruitless. Cartoons are made primarily to entertain not edify so any connection I can find to Christianity is more or less a coincidence. Recently however one show has had enough Christian coincidences contained in it that I am compelled to wonder if I’m the only one noticing them. That show is Steven Universe, which is in my opinion, the most awesome cartoon currently in existence.

Show Line

For those who haven’t heard Steven Universe one of the is the newest animated series on Cartoon Network created by Rebecca Sugar; former writer and storyboard artist of the same studio’s popular series Adventure Time. Best described as a coming of age story Steven Universe follows the life and adventures of a boy named Steven as he figures out his place as one of the Crystal Gems; a quartet of heroes who protect humanity by wielding weapons and abilities from the magical gems attached to their bodies. Steven inherited his magical gem from his late mother and throughout the series he learns new abilities while dealing with magical monsters, the Gem’s conflicting personalities, and just being a curious, musically-inclined, always-willing-to-help little boy.

At this point you might be wondering how one could possibly find Christ or Christianity in such a show and at first I didn’t. I only saw a series of magical adventures and a possible middle ground message of “putting away of childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). That was until the 20th episode that one Christian coincidence made me remember and reconsider the other Christian coincidences that I previously disregarded.

(Warning: The following will have spoilers to elements of Steven Universe)

Caoch Steven Enjoy

In the episode “Coach Steven” the most intellectual and protective of the Crystal Gems, Pearl, is concerned that Steven is too focus on achieving physical strength rather than inner strength. Disheartened, Pearl starts off a musical soliloquy where she eventually states:

“And I want to inspire you
I want to be your rock
And when I talk
It lights fire in you”

The song itself was beautiful as Pearl’s voice actress Deedee Mango-Hall carried the lyrics with such conviction, but what struck me the most was the use of word “rock”. My mind immediately thought of Jesus’ beatitude of building your house on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27), and Jesus himself being the cornerstone of the church. It’s so rare for me to hear the word “rock” used in that way during sermons or worship, much less in a cartoon about a magical boy.

Indirect Kiss Enjoy

Another Christian coincidence was in the episode called “An Indirect Kiss.” After realizing that he doesn’t have his mother’s magical healing tears Steven is worried that he will never be useful to the Crystal Gems and won’t be allowed to be with them because of it. However his lady friend, Connie, reminds him that he doesn’t need powers to be with her and starts leaning in to kiss him. Suddenly Connie twinges in pain and realizes that she can see without her glasses; her eyesight has been healed. It turns out that Connie was taking a drink out of Steven’s juice box and came into contact with his saliva. It is concluded that Steven doesn’t have healing tears but healing spit. At that point I couldn’t help but remember the stories of how Jesus heals the blind; where Jesus uses His spit to restore a person’s sight. (Mark 8:22-25) (John 9)

Aslan Parallel

It was when these coincidences were considered that I reassembled a collection of coincidences that form together what I like to call the “Aslan Parallel.” In C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Alsan was the name of a sentient lion who was a literary metaphor for Jesus. During a Crystal Gem mission in a desert Steven befriends a lion, who he also names Lion, who has some very interesting characteristics. Although Lion was found in the wild he is actually tame. While technically being Steven’s pet Lion only selective obeys Steven’s commands, only helps Steven in dire moments, and mostly wonders off doing whatever he wants. While giving Steven and Connie a ride Lion takes a detour into the nearby ocean revealing that he can walk on water. Aside from being able to open teleportation portals and smash structures with his magical roar, Lion can deliver a magical sword to Steven by taking a royal bow and having the sword emerge out of his head. So just to recap: Lion is a tame lion, who does what he wants but helps in dire times, and can walk on water. All that Lion needs now is to have the sword emerging out of the mouth instead of his head and have a voiced played by Liam Neeson for the parallels to be complete on an almost transcendent level.

To be clear

To be clear I am not suggesting that there is direct Christian influence in the creation of Steven Universe. For all I know the “I want to be your rock” line was inspired by Beyoncé’s “You are my Rock” while the healing spit and “Aslan Parallel” are just whimsical hodgepodge ideas created for the sake of humor and entertainment. Not to mention that most of the episodes have almost no middle ground connections to Jesus Christ or Christianity. The newest episodes, “Mirror Gem” and “Ocean Gem,” are long awaited epic moments of action with hints of greater adventures to come. These coincidences are as superficial as the Zeitgeist Movement’s Christianity-to-Paganism connections, and are merely speculations born from the mind of a Christian fanatic. What I am trying to say is that it is rather amazing that a cartoon show that engages me in every secular way actually reminds me of Jesus Christ and Christianity. I am also gratified to realize that Jesus didn’t need to be referenced directly in order for me to be reminded of Him; a factor that I plan to implement in any future artistic endeavors. However I do hope that at least one member of the staff at Cartoon Network is at least aware of these Christian coincidences. I can’t be the only one who notices them.