Frozen: A Whole New World for Disney

So, I know this movie came out a little over a month ago. I should have posted my thoughts then, but since several people have asked me recently, I wanted to open the discussion now.

Many of my close followers know that I was particularly frustrated shortly before Frozen came out because of the crass comments by a Disney lead animator, basically suggesting women all look alike. That’s obviously true with Disney, since all you need to do is change the hair color and the freckles and you have basically every Disney lead female animated basically ever. I was also frustrated because I felt that they weren’t really advertising this movie, and probably because it was more about girls than normal.

But since I am a guilty enjoyer of Disney, I decided to go see it on the day after Thanksgiving anyway.

In case you don’t know, Disney’s Frozen is a liberal reimagining of the Snow Queen story. Basically everything from this point onward will be spoilers. Lots of bullet points and numbered lists here!

The MAJOR issues with this film are also prevalent in a lot of other Disney movies, but here we go:

1.  I have 4 sisters. You can’t take our hair, swap it around, and get a different sister. Women don’t all look alike, seriously. The sisters look exactly alike, but since the animator was whining about that we kinda assumed this would be the case:
AnnaElsa

2. Apparently girls can’t have an interesting story without being estranged from their parents or orphaned entirely. Both parents die shortly in the film, leaving the sisters emotionally stranded and without any adult supervision really.

3. There are NO MINORITY CHARACTERS in this film. AT ALL. Unless we assume the trolls are minority characters, because they are made out of rock so their skin is grey. And they have a shaman. Jamie did point out to me that it’s likely set in Sweden or something and it IS set in 19thish century wherever, so I suppose it might make a little sense for basically everyone to be white and blue-eyed… But really, Disney? The snowman is your token black guy?
*Note that we know the reason this happens is because their market share in Japan is huge, and Japan historically prefers pale characters.

4. The music is weirdly Broadway-esque and consists of a lot of songs about the characters doing whatever it is they are doing. They have interesting music but the lyrics are generally unimaginative and subpar compared to the rest of Disney’s musicals. The song “Let it Go” is the only real exception, though the lyrics are a bit weird there too.

5. All the grownups are all-knowing, and the characters always know what’s happening next. Except Anna and Elsa, who are naive and stupid compared to everyone else, apparently.

6. Not surprisingly, the story revolves around the idea of True Love, Disney’s trademark.

 

My nitpicky and frustrated additions to this list include:
7. The fact that Anna (the redhead) apparently falls in love instantly with the first male she meets outside of the castle. And then they share a really awkward song about sandwiches. This song was probably the main thing that shut down the members of my friends list that hated this film.

8. Both of the female main characters are emotionally stunted and clueless (but this could be attributed to being locked in a castle since early childhood).

9. The second Elsa decides to just be her Ice Queen self, she stops walking like a girl and starts sashaying her hips like a sexy woman–creepy, Disney! This one was really jarring.

10. Why are there so many orphans? The lesson that kids can’t have any adults in their life or they will grow up emotionally stunted seems pretty blaring. Even Kristoff was apparently an orphan, except for his Troll family and his dog-Reindeer? By the way, Disney, Reindeer aren’t that big. I think you meant to make Sven a moose.

11. My least favorite part: Anna feels her “True Love” must save her from certain death and rushes off to get him to kiss her. Because she needs a male to save her, right?

12. GIANT PLOT HOLES like why did Anna need to have her mind cleared of knowing her sister had ice powers?

13. Most frustrating possibly, the fact that all the adults keep telling Elsa that she’s not allowed to have emotions. Any emotions. No feeling, no contact. Otherwise she’ll hurt other people. Is this Disney’s way of highlighting children’s emotional abuse?

14. Anna is obsessed with the idea of falling in love. But most teenagers are obsessed with relationships on some level (male or female) because this is when hormones+society expect us to start being sex crazed. Disney just left the sex out. This did make the first part of the movie REALLY uncomfortable though.

15. I can’t get over how much I feel like the trolls were thrown in to give us a minority character.

16. I have mixed feelings about the Trolls’ song because it seems like it borderlines on encouraging dysfunctional relationships. The song says “we’re not saying he can be fixed, but maybe you can work it out together.” What??

Now let’s talk about what Frozen did right, because there are some things I really appreciated about the movie.

1. First of all, despite being completely isolated and experiencing the boy-crazy-puberty at 16, Anna is actually a very powerful character in terms of her impact. She takes charge of the castle in a time of crisis, refuses to let any adults (even the one she thinks she loves) tell her that she can’t help her sister, and sets out to climb a mountain by herself. She does a poor job of it, but she IS a sixteen year old girl who was raised in a castle. She doesn’t exactly have mountain climbing experience.

2. Elsa refuses to let Anna marry the guy she met ten seconds ago. Because you don’t really love a guy you just met, little sister.

3. Kristoff and Sven keep getting into trouble. Chased by wolves, chased by a giant snow beast. Anna lights the wolves on fire and cuts the rope to save them from the snow golem. She’s quick on her feet and never looks back after making a decision.

4. Anna never knew (thanks to the Trolls) that her sister had ice powers. But when her sister goes a little overboard and freezes everything, Anna chases after her despite having been unable to see her until five seconds before that. Because she can’t let her sister be alone.

5. Elsa is faced with lots of armed bad guys and doesn’t falter. Despite the fact that she’s being hunted by a ton of adult males, she refuses to let them take her down.

6. Disney actually pulled a fast one, because (EXTRA SPOILER) the guy Hans that Anna thought she was in love with is actually the Bad Guy! He’s been plotting to steal the throne and he leaves her to die! I was gleefully pleased by this because “HEY GIRLS, ATTRACTIVE MEN YOU MEET WHO PROFESS THEIR LOVE MIGHT NOT HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS!”

7. The absolute low point of the movie is when Anna feels like everyone has abandoned her and she’s going to die because she was betrayed. The cheerful snowman tells her to buck up and she realizes Kristoff is trying to save her. In normal Disney movies she’d let him come to her, but in this case she drags herself half-Frozen (ah hah) into the snow and tries to find him, despite the snow storm. In other words, she gets off her ass, throws aside her depression and overcomes.

8. And THEN she sees Hans about to kill her sister, the one who pierced her through the heart with ice, and steps in to intervene–losing her chance to get a True Love Kiss from Kristoff and become a Real Girl again.

9. The reason I find 8 so interesting is because Disney broke their own traditional norm of True Love. They let two girls exhibit True Love to overcome “The Curse.” This is awkwardly incesty, but a step toward understanding that the heterosexual norm is not the only valid form of love. When they hugged (and did this weird nose thing that made it look like a preemptive kiss) Jamie got this look on her face, and I was like “Shutup-they’re-sisters-you-creep.” Naturally the whole theater heard me, yikes.  

10. In the end, Elsa realizes that her emotions aren’t what is causing her to freeze everything. She really just needs to overcome her own fear in order to control her powers. Overcoming fear is a powerful message.

11. Elsa doesn’t end up in a relationship! The trailers made Jamie and me think that we were setting up for both girls to have a boyfriend in the end, but Elsa gets to be herself and Queen without interference.

12. It’s about time a recent Disney movie (not Pixar) failed to end in a wedding.

13. The characters were almost all of “adult” age. This is mostly a sign of the times and acceptability, however.

14. Neither Anna nor Elsa exhibit ANY “womanly” characteristics of housekeeping etc. No cleaning, no cooking, no sewing, no painting. Anna is a bookworm with a wild imagination, and somewhat like I imagine Belle would have been if she’d been written with more modern sensibilities.

15. I expected the snowman (Olaf) to be really irritating, and he turned out to just be a cute insightful sidekick.

16. At the very end Anna punches the Bad Guy in the face. Just clocks him one. BAM! She’s got a good right hook.

Ultimately, Brave and Mulan are the only other Disney movies so far that have proven to have strong female characters that take their destiny this much into their own hands. But Brave wasn’t about True Love, it was about family bonds. Mulan had all kinds of other stuff to overcome, and her story was also ultimately about responsibility.  Frozen has the potential to tell girls that it’s OK for them to be themselves and be brilliant and talented, regardless of their circumstances. It doesn’t do the best job of it, but considering Disney’s track record, it’s off to a better start.

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