Yesterday Kevin and I went to see the Disney movie “Frozen.” It is a Disney Princess movie, a genre of which I am generally skeptical.
And there were a couple of the usual problematic elements that Disney never seems able to fix–everybody’s whiter than white and the princesses generally have a waist thinner than my wrist. I have a dream that we will get beyond this some day, but today was not that day.
There was also entirely too much singing for my taste: two really good songs, one cloying one, and at least one scene where I wanted to yell “Stop singing and talk to each other, goddamnit! Attempting to work through your respective communication issues will not be made easier by trying to rhyme!”
And all that said…
OH MY GOD I LOVED THIS MOVIE SO MUCH LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I LOVED IT OH MY GOD
Spoilers are going to happen here, so if you haven’t seen it and want to, stop reading. I will attempt to make sure nothing jumps out at anyone by including this picture of a corgi.
DO NOT GO BEYOND THE CORGI. THE CORGI GUARDS THE PLOT INTEGRITY OF THE FILM.
YOU ARE NOW PAST THE CORGI.
I have been trying to figure out since yesterday why this movie kicked me so hard in the chest–I am effectively an only child, as my kid brother was not born until I was in my twenties and certainly I have never had a sister (nor wished for one.) You would think that “Brave” would hit me much harder, since, y’know, I did have a very nice mom and all, and that was about a relationship I’d actually had, and anyway, most of us have kicked at the societal traces until our feet are sore.*
And “Tangled” was objectively probably a better movie.
And still…dude, “Frozen.” Wow. Way to take a Disney princess movie and hang a lantern on it. (The thing with Hans! I knew it and then I thought “Oh, don’t be stupid, it’s a Disney movie, they’ll never do that.”)
It was Elsa, of course. The younger sister was a cool heroine, perfectly happy with her, nice kid, but dude, the Snow Queen. The ice palace! Yes, “Let It Go” is in my iTunes right now, and I can’t think of the last time I bought a song from a movie soundtrack. (Okay, yes, fine, it was “Despicable Me.” And…um….the theme from “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.” And the Minas Morgul music from LOTR. Hmm, I have eclectic tastes. Anyway.)
We got a princess who was powerful. Like really powerful! Not “I could be so much more if the world would let me” ala “Brave” or “I have a totally socially acceptable nice little power” like “Little Mermaid” and “Tangled.” Not even “I am pretty powerful, but someone’s going to come along and whomp me flat.”
We didn’t even stay stuck on “I wish I didn’t have these powers and I could be normal” which is so damn default that I am beyond sick of it. After the initial concealment was off, she was like “Yes! Finally! I’m so relieved I don’t have to hide that any more! This is so much better! Let me make a ginormous ice castle and a snow golem servant and sing a really kickass song and you know, I think this place needs some more flying buttresses…”
They never let you be glad to be powerful! You’re supposed to hate it and wish you were normal! Girls aren’t allowed to go “Hot damn, I am the shit! Look at my ice palace!” But they did! She got a musical number about it! Usually only villains get musical numbers where they do awesome magic!
Hell, usually only villains even get to do awesome magic! Dude! I am running out of exclamation points!
And more than that! (Had one left.) When was the last time you can think of a mainstream female lead being given extraordinary power and getting to keep it? Generally you gotta nuke that stuff. The spectrum runs from Carrie to Rapunzel, (rather extreme ends, I grant you) but whether you destroy yourself or somebody else de-magicks your totally benign powers for your own good, you never get to stay magic. Competent magic women are way too dangerous to run around loose.** Throw a bucket of water on that witch, quick! (Okay, there was another in the bottom of the bucket.)
Only in books are you allowed to stay awesome, and even then it’s rare.
By every law of Disney-esque narrative, she ought to have had a mechanism to sacrifice her powers forever to save her sister and go back to being normal and that should have been the happy ending.”Look, I’m not powerful and scary any more!” (Found another bucket.)
Also, she should probably have had a love interest. And her magical pet definitely should not have been a twenty-foot snow golem named Marshmallow.
I was counting the minutes to get back to Elsa. (Don’t get me wrong, loved Kristoff too. I’m sympathetic to cranky snarky people who like animals. Still.) For all us women who are powerful and freakish and creative and do weird glorious things that make other people go “Are you sure you should be doing this?” and “Dude, why can’t you at least try to act normal?” Elsa was–god, way beyond a breath of fresh air. I came out of that movie with my chest feeling looser. It was like having a really good cry.
It shouldn’t matter so much. It’s Disney. I am cynical and cool and an artist and I go to Disneyland and admire the character design and the carvings on the underside of the ceiling and the speed with which they handle dead rats. Tinkerbell’s fairy dust makes me sneeze and will prompt a ten minute lecture on everything wrong with Peter Pan.
If I was as cool as I like to pretend I might someday be, it wouldn’t work on me. Having Disney, our arbiter of modern myth, say “This is okay. This is allowed. This is perfectly acceptable,” wouldn’t matter.
*My ultimate mix of delight and dissatisfaction with “Brave” is perhaps better left to another post.
**Except for Mary Poppins who, as Kevin points out, would be ruling the earth with a gloved fist if she were slightly less rigorously ethical.
Just a passing thought – the comics/fiction writer Peter David (whose youngest daughter is named Ariel, which should give you an idea of his Disney fan level) once pointed out that THE BLACK CAULDRON, as bad an adaptation of Lloyd Alexander’s books and generally the nadir of Disney animation as it is, has (or had in its day) the one Disney princess (Eilonwy) who generally goes out and prods buttock…
Awww. I had the same reaction to Mulan, although specifically for an *engineer* heroine. There aren’t many, and even fewer who are eventually admired for it. (The sequel doesn’t exist. Tell me nothing of the sequel. Flaming corgis stand in the way.)
C. S. P. Schofield ,
I was delighted at the ethnicity and chubbiness of the elder sister in LILO AND STITCH, and hoped to see more of same. No such luck. I generally like Disney, but don’t worship. They get major points for importing the Studio Ghibli films (though I understand that the Suits freaked when they saw Princess Mononoke for the first time). The LOSE major points for turning Kaa, the Great Rock Python, into a bad guy and sucking all the subtle out of Pooh. TARZAN was terrific; Jane was improved all to hell over the original and the people who complained about them messing with the “Classic Story” can’t have read any Burroughs recently (great storyteller, dreadful writer). On the other hand the idiots responsible for Treasure Planter need to be skinned.
And I’m still waiting for a Beauty and the Beast where Beauty wants the Beast to stay the same way she fell in love with. Robin McKinley did that the second time around, in ROSE DAUGHTER, and it just made sense to me.
But I’m a moderately homely guy with a loving wife who LIKES how I look.
I went to see this largely because of you. I had a different reaction.
No, I don’t think it was bad. It was rather good, in fact. I could have done without the snowman (but I loved the fact that he was a connection between the two sisters); that troll song needed to GO. (I’m curious which were your two favourite songs — I liked “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “For the First Time In Forever” and “Let it Go”.)
But I thought this was lots better than Tangled — I really didn’t like that movie.
I also thought, while the movie was happening: they’re setting things up for a great story about familial love, responsibility, guilt, and how you can hurt your loved ones even though you love them a lot — and then they stopped in the middle of it. And I realized it was so it would be an acceptable movie to kids. I really want to see the PG-13 version of this movie, where they show a lot more from Elsa’s side, and where the climax takes more than a snap of the fingers. (Consider the equivalent scene in Iron Giant, btw: nearly as quick, but that had *impact*.)
Anyway. I am glad I saw it; I may take the wife to see it when she gets back.
I think Tangled would have been better if the princess cried on Flynn, the tear flared into a flower and then nothing happened. Flynn actually dying would have had more impact. I think such an ending would have been awesome!
One other comment: I was more than half-expecting Elsa to end up with Kristof. What their their shared love of ice.
I went to go see this movie purely because I read the top part of this post and wanted to read the rest of it sooner than the “eh, I’ll catch it when it goes to DVD” that I was originally planning to do. The only trailer I saw for this movie (which featured 100% of “we only invented this character to sell toys to young children” and 0% of anything having to do with the plot) did not leave me with much interest. But I am glad I did!
In this one particular instance, because the story takes place in a nordic country, I will excuse everyone being whiter than white.
I absolutely loved the resolution though — “That guy I met the other day and thought was my true love in a matter of hours wasn’t, but this OTHER guy I only just met a few days ago totally is” seemed like bad form. I, too, was expecting him to end up with Elsa. And Hans felt too much like someone just flipped a switch from prince charming to disney bad guy way too suddenly, and the foreshadowing earlier in the movie led me to believe that the snowman melting was going to be a much bigger deal in the end that just kinda fizzled out.
Like with Brave, my main problem here is a very large unexplained plot hole that would have solved everything. Early on, they very strongly imply that if the little sister ever found out that Elsa had powers, her memories would return and her head would freeze again. I mean, that’s the whole reason they had to keep it a secret, right? But then… she does find out, and… nothing happens to her. So… what? The troll guy was lying to them?
I didn’t like Brave either. The premise makes it sound like she is going to go on a grand quest but she never actually does. The Croods had a female main character but I personally don’t think she was the main character. Her father did more character building than she did. I don’t think she did any, actually. Though, a movie with a female main character that gets to keep her powers is Susan in Monsters vs Aliens. She wishes she doesn’t have them but when she looses them, she willingly gets them back in order to save her friends and finds that she is happy after all.
I wasn’t interested in seeing Frozen for the longest time because it looked like a typical Disney film. But when I watched it, I found that I liked it. It isn’t my favorite animated film because I find all of the singing irritating and I have to walk away during those parts but overall it was cute. What I like the most is the emphasis on platonic love which is completely new for a Disney film. Anna also doesn’t end up marring the first guy she meets. Le-Gasp! There is also no cliche true love kiss. I was rolling my eyes when the characters thought of that solution. Anna curing herself by choosing to sacrifice herself for her sister was much better and original!
I am glad that Disney finally made a movie that didn’t focus on a love story. I am even more impressed that the movie had strong female leads that didn’t have to get married in order for there to be a happy ending. Over all, there are a lot of good messages in this story and I certainly would not mind letting my female children watch it. Though I would still likely mute most of the singing scenes.