(Photo by Selma Komisky)
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Soaring to New Heights
Lessons Learned from Dumbo
By Brittney Perez
When I found out that this month’s issue was going to be “Disney” themed, I was excited. I remember having this theme in the past and was looking forward to doing it again! It’s just a fun theme and it’s cool to see what characters/movies everyone gets to write on and compare/contrast. As soon as I got the email notice for this month’s issue and theme, I quickly scrolled down to see what character I got. “Dumbo? Hmm…” I thought. Now I know Dumbo is an old classic, but to be fair I never really saw the original in its entirety to my recollection (at least I don’t think I did), and if I had it was when I was a kid so like 20 years or so ago! All I could remember was that Dumbo was an elephant with abnormally big ears who could fly and whose mother gets taken away…pretty sad. Maybe the reason I wasn’t “into it” as a kid. Regardless, I was up for the task to use this character in my article and it just so happened that Tim Burton’s “Dumbo” had just recently been released in theaters and my boyfriend had wanted to see it so we went and I was able to see what Dumbo was really all about. After having watched the movie three central themes stood out to me: overcoming adversity, the hope for a future, and not trusting in the things of this world.
Early on in the movie there was one scene that stood out to me. Just to preface, before Dumbo was called Dumbo, he was called “baby Jumbo” by the kids (Milly and Joe) since his mom’s name was Mrs. Jumbo. Upon learning that baby Jumbo can fly he’s put in the Medici Brother’s circus act to show off his talent, and of course, “wow” the audience. In this scene baby Jumbo has his face painted to look like a clown so as to fit in with the rest of the performers and he also has a sign placed above him with his name on it, along with some other writing, as he is wheeled in for his big debut. It’s in this scene that baby Jumbo begins looking out into the crowd as he’s being hauled in and the kids and adults in the audience begin to mock him because of his ginormous ears (literally feeling sad just remembering this scene). On top of the mocking and laughing it doesn’t help that baby Jumbo’s little face is painted to look like a clown (*inserts crying face emoji). As the laughing and mocking gets louder and louder, baby Jumbo starts to become unsettled and obviously scared/hurt by the crowd’s mocking. It’s in this moment that the sign above baby Jumbo gets hit causing the letter “D” from the other words on the sign to fall in place of the “J” in Jumbo, ultimately making his name look like it’s “Dumbo”. Upon this occurrence the crowd continues to mock and call him Dumbo (sad right?!).
As I watched this scene I couldn’t help but feel I knew this story, but the story that came to mind didn’t involve a baby elephant with giant ears and clown paint all over his face. No, it reminded me more of a story about a man who was mocked, beaten, laughed at, and eventually crucified. It reminded me of Jesus. In the gospel accounts we read about Jesus’ final days leading up to His crucifixion. In Luke 22, after Jesus’ arrest, in verses 63-65 we come to find that Jesus was mocked and insulted by the guards who were in charge of watching Him (See also Luke 23:35-36, Matthew 27:29-31). In John 19:19 we read, “Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (sound familiar to our Dumbo story?) Dumbo was mocked, laughed at, and called names, our Lord and Savior was mocked at, spat upon, flogged, and eventually nailed to a cross where He would give up His spirit to purify us from ours sins.
Just how Dumbo experienced many adversities in his life i.e. having his mother taken away from him, being made fun of, used for his talent, etc. Jesus faced adversity, only His adversity brought about our salvation! Jesus overcame trials, hardship, and even death itself! He paved the way for us and showed us and continues to show us that we, too, can be overcomers if we place our faith and trust in Him. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we can trust in Him to help us overcome our trials no matter how large or small, and we can know that we have salvation through faith in Him because He Himself overcame.
Another overall theme that stood out to me in the movie was this idea for a “future hope”. The Medici Brother’s Circus is not doing well. Financially it appears to be on the rocks, and there are scenes that allude to the fact that the circus just isn’t what it used to be. Due to this reality the worker’s overall countenance and outlook toward the circus seems bleak. Something needs to change if the people want the circus to continue to thrive. Maybe you know this situation all too well. Ever had this feeling like things in your life are stagnant or that life just “isn’t what it used to be”? I feel we have all experienced these feeling to some degree and in various ways and while we know something needs to change, we’re not entirely sure what it is or what that change will be. All we know is that we need new life breathed into us. This is exactly the condition the Medici Brother’s Circus was in. It needed to know that there was hope for its future. That’s where Dumbo comes on the scene. His arrival to the circus, though not so welcomed in the beginning, proves to be just what the circus needs. Dumbo brings this hope to the workers of Medici Brother’s Circus and shows them that there is a hope and future for them.
As Dumbo brought this glimmer of hope to the workers of Medici Brother’s Circus and the circus goers, Jesus brought that hope to us. We were dead in our sins until Jesus came to cleanse us of our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (Ephesians 2:1, 1 John 1:9). In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jesus offers us hope when we feel as though we can’t continue on. When we’re tired, worn out, confused about the future, whatever feelings of complacency we may have, Jesus comes to offer us hope for the future! He has a plan and purpose for us! When we recall the faithfulness of Jesus, remember who He says we are, and hold onto His promises, our countenance is lifted. We are reminded that though we may feel the battle is too overwhelming, ultimately the war is won through Jesus. We remember we are not fighting alone and that God has a plan and purpose for our lives. We just need to trust His plan and wait for it to unfold.
The third theme that stood out to me in Dumbo was the idea of not trusting in possessions or the things of this world. Around the middle of the film a character is introduced, V.A. Vandevere. Vandevere is an entrepreneur and owner of a theme park called Dreamland. Right off the bat you can sense his cunning character and bad intensions. Upon the widespread news that the Medici Brother’s Circus has a flying elephant, it’s no surprise that Vandevere takes a special interest in the circus; especially Dumbo. Vandevere “collaborates” with Medici and his circus workers to get Dumbo to debut at Dreamland, which doesn’t go as expected to Vandevere’s disapproval. As things begin to not go Vandevere’s way he gets more and more upset with Medici, the circus workers, his own employees, and, of course, Dumbo. Because of Vandevere’s desire to succeed and make money he lets his greed and anger get the best of him, which leads to his terrible downfall (again, not going to spoil the ending if you haven’t seen the movie yet!). Vandevere’s trust in the things of the world such as Dreamland, his success, status, and power prove to be meaningless in the end.
In life, we, too, can place our trust in possessions/the things of this world. It can sometimes happen so subtly that we may not even realize it at first. We may find ourselves trusting in our jobs, family, friends, significant others, status, finances, the list can go on. When we place our trust in things created rather than the Creator we’re bound to be disappointed. Like Vandevere, if we don’t keep ourselves in check it can lead to our downfall. The things of this world are fleeting, they’re not secure, but God is a solid Rock to which we can always rely (Psalm 18:2, Psalm 62:6-8, 1 Samuel 2:2). When we place our hope in things, we are not trusting in God. It can be a hard realization, but it’s nothing short of the truth. In Exodus 34:14 it says, “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” God is jealous for us. He wants our undivided heart and when we place our trust, like Vandevere, in the things of this world it puts God somewhere in the back when He should be and wants to be in the center of our lives. We all have the propensity to or have trusted or even are trusting in things of the world (Isaiah 53:6), but we CAN choose to trust in God. It’s a choice we have to make every day. This life isn’t easy and we often make many mistakes throughout it, but God is faithful and just. When we turn back to Him He’s there waiting for us just like in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).
All in all, we can choose to be a Vandevere, who ultimately let his trust in possessions lead to his horrific downfall or we can choose to be like Dumbo, though faced with many adversities, was able to hold onto hope and overcome them. And how much more so can we hope when we place our trust and faith in Jesus who has gone before us to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11) as well as an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade (1 Peter 1:3-4)!