Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Thoughts on Frozen

Back at the end of November of last year, Disney released their latest animated adventure, “Frozen.” Prior to that, if you’d gone to a child’s movie, you might have seen a teaser trailer for it featuring the beloved character Olaf, the snowman who loves warm hugs and Sven, the reindeer who loves carrots.

First, I must give you some background information. I have two girls, age 5 and 2 at the time we saw the movie. Growing up, I LOVED Disney films, but I couldn’t help but grow up wondering why movies told me that my value was in getting married and having children, to be saved or rescued by a handsome prince, and that my life would be happily ever after…until I discovered Mary Poppins, but that is a story all of its own.

Later, as I grew and had daughters of my own, I realized that I didn’t have much to pull from when it came to strong female characters in Disney animated films. I’m not a man-hater or anything. I’m saying it would be nice to see strong and mighty girls, is all.  I’m not knocking the Disney princesses, because in all honesty, I wasn’t familiar with all of them when I had my own daughters. First came Mulan, and I was ECSTATIC! Then came The Princess and the Frog (yaaay, a princess of color with dreams of her own!!), Tangled (wahoo, a girl who has a best friend, great hair, and can defend herself!), and a couple of years following was Brave. Yes, yes, yes!!!

With Merida and Elinor, Disney knocked it out of the park. They nailed it! Merida was wild and lovely. You saw her “prettied” up as a princess, and she was lovely, too. But when you saw her as her real self, unapologetic for who she was, that’s when she was beautiful. The relationship she had with her mother was real. Furthermore, her mother was present and in her life, not a monster, not absent, and especially not a doormat for her husband or anyone else for that matter. They had real arguments and real struggles and the element of magic and fantasy, that sparkle that makes Disney movies, well, special.

So when Frozen came out, you can understand why it had such a high bar for me. (Caution: Spoiler Alert) I expected less traditional Disney and more girl-power Disney. Which there were some elements to of that. Sister’s before misters, right? She didn’t need someone to save her, she saved her sister. Plus, so much of that music was outstanding. So fun, so rich, so catchy, so very classic Disney, that you wanna blast it in the car and sing along, and go right ahead, because I always try to sing a duet with Idina Menzel in my car as much as possible! Kristoff, mocking her choice of becoming engaged to Hans after just meeting him that day. Olaf was delightful and the kind of true and genuine spirit of optimism and innocent hope. Part of me thinks that Elsa put all of her hopeful childhood into Olaf’s spirit. Reindeer Sven was a great character, too.

In the early part of the movie, the two girls are playing. Wild and free, it was very similar to the way my girls play together. This was a huge, positive takeaway. What transpired after the injury and how Elsa excluded her little sister Anna. This was a teachable moment we have referred to for our 5 year old.

Then there was the rest of the film that had me chewing on things, asking questions, and wondering, what?? WHAT?? what?? wait, what? :: scratches head ::

These are the questions I’ve asked myself and wondered, was the script cut short? Was the budget too much? Did they just not consider these things? Am I really dissecting a Disney film like this? Seriously Bianca, hellooooo, it’s just a movie.

First off, what about their mom? Where was she, in the shadows, so to speak. She didn’t hardly have much to say. I realize the parents died, but really? That’s it?? And even beyond that, they live in a massive palace and NO “MOTHERLY” CHARACTER whatsoever?? They didn’t have anyone male or female to show them about love and compassion? Then again, she would’ve known love and there wouldn’t be a need for plot, so there you go. And speaking of parents, where were Kristoff’s parents? How did he go from childhood ice kid to human kid of the trolls? And why did he not remember the whole scene with Anna and Elsa? Did the trolls do troll magic on him?

Speaking of people in the castle, they lived and worked with these girls ever since their parents died. They HAD to have known that Elsa has special powers. And yet, SHOCKER…they were so fearful to have discovered what she could do that immediately upon recognizing something as different, they judged her and left it to the old, “We’re so afraid of what we don’t know.” No one stood up for Elsa but her sister. What? Really?

Elsa seems distraught and torn because of her skills. In the Faerie Tale Theater’s Snow Queen that I’d seen, that was what I loved about that character. She was so unapologetically wicked. Melissa Gilbert, the girl, sets off and rescues her male friend, so already it was a powerful statement for girls! A queen embracing her gifts. A girl rescuing the male. Friendship, friends, not romantic love…

Big sister Elsa creates this amazing castle and this fabulous dress showing off some va-va-voom curves. So she wasn’t apologetic for Anna is so very complimentary to her sister, wanting to show her sister love through her words and actions. Elsa is the snow queen and thus is too afraid of the harm that will ensue as a result of letting anyone close to her. You know, I have an older sister. While I may have been an utter pest to her growing up, she never once hesitated to pay me a compliment, even during the times when she loved me, but didn’t like me a whole lot.  Elsa couldn’t have written her sister a note?  Why did she have to be totally devoid of all feelings…numb? Yes, icy and cold, duh, she’s the snow queen and because, right, women can’t control their feelings and have to run off to some remote location to recharge and cut off the world in order to deal with their issues. Or, they have too many feelings and are in constant need for feeling validated by the people that reject them the most. In the end, if they would’ve had a dialog about their feelings and been taught that feelings were ok (and not afraid of them), but most of all, to use their words to express these emotions, then we probably wouldn’t have had a plotline. It wouldn’t have stuck to the story.

Love…oh love, sisterly love right, but laced with romantic love in the plotline. You have Hans fawning over Anna (albeit with ulterior motives), then eventually Kristoff jumps in. No one wants Elsa? Elsa is too busy being self-involved to care about a piddly thing like romantic love? Ok, that’s cool. Why can’t Kristoff just be their friend? Why does it have to involve a *gasp* kiss? Then that horrible “Fixer-Upper” song. Catchy and cutesy, but did you hear the words?? “You can fix this fixer-upper”---why fix? We are all inherently broken and with baggage, but the improvement goes on the shoulders of the person. It isn’t the responsibility of someone else to fix you. They finish off the song with dialog about true love and how it is applicable to just love all, father, sister, brother (no mother?? hmmm)…true love will fix the fixer-upper. But what if you are alone (or feel alone) and you don’t have that kind of true love. Sad, but true.

That’s why I didn’t love Frozen. I would even venture to say that I didn’t particularly like it either. I didn’t hate it, I just had more hope for it. I wish there was a movie for just Olaf and Sven. I wish they would’ve developed Kristoff’s character more. I wish that Kristoff would’ve only been their friend and didn’t have to have the romantic element. I wish that they would’ve been better able to convey the love that Elsa had for Anna in a better way than just a last few moments of ALLLL BETTERRRR now, everything is unfrozen and I love you. I wish they would’ve had the trolls to teach them about love early on, too. There were too many loops that I saw they were trying to go somewhere with it, but then didn’t. I know I think about it more, though, because of the questions my little ones will ask me afterwards. Also, the expectations they’ve created in their little minds because of these impressions.

As parents, we can guide only so far, equipping our children with whatever tools we can give them. It is for that reason that when I left the movie (and most movies we watch together---even if they aren’t “real”) I had so many questions than just the happiness of watching the film. With that said, we will probably purchase the film for the girls to have at home. We will probably watch it more times than I will want to. But I will enjoy it more because of the time we share together while watching and for singing along to it. Big kudos to the song writers because even my smallest one knows most of the words to “Let it Snow.” We will, however, not go to the sing-along in the theater.

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