FROZEN – 4/5/14

2013 – Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song

Wow! I was finally going to be able to watch Frozen, the first Disney movie to NOT look and sound horrible in 20 years! Being unshakably confident in my own heterosexuality, I decided to use a Saturday afternoon to give this thing a spin and see if the film itself was worthy of so much praise.

I want to point out that, before I even get to a DVD menu, I’m asked whether I want to view everything in English, English Descriptive Video Service, Francais or Espanol. Then the “Disney castle intro” plays. THEN it tells me my DVD will be using FAST PLAY. FAST PLAY means that the movie will automatically start unless I hit the “Menu” button. There are three movie previews, and they all seem dreadful. Then, at last, I see a screen telling me that this is a Disney DVD and that the movie I’m watching is Frozen. This can all be skipped by hitting “Menu,” of course, but why should we be forced to opt OUT of the avaricious advertising pitch? Either way, I have to sit through the “Disney castle intro” AGAIN. I just want to watch the movie. I want to put a DVD in and watch the movie that’s on the cover. Is that so wrong?

One of my main takeaways is that the Kingdom of Arendelle is not destined to become a great European power. The King and Queen die in a storm at sea, and their country is left in the hands of a never-identified regent for three years until their neurotic mutant daughter Elsa can take the throne. She then plunges everything into eternal winter and brings international trade to a standstill by freezing in the country’s (apparently) only inhabited town. Its only exports appear to be clothing and ice, and its only trading partners are Spain, Germany, Ireland and a fictional nation of suspiciously English-seeming greedy merchants.

The other is that, while this is a children’s film – and a very entertaining one – on the surface, there are some extremely disturbing undertones to it. While the King and Queen may appear to be kind, loving parents at first, it’s very telling that neither of their children make a single reference to them after their untimely deaths. No “I wish Mom and Dad were here.” No “I miss Mom.” Nothing. It makes you wonder what exactly was going on behind the closed doors of the castle for all those years… and why Elsa really has such an irrational fear of being touched by another human being. “Conceal it, don’t feel it. Don’t let it show” begins to take on a somewhat more menacing tone.

Of particular note is Anna, who we are supposed to accept as the goofy, awkward, spunky heroine of the film. We’re apparently expected to forget that she single-handedly causes every major crisis in the movie: In the beginning she gets carried away while playing, ignoring her sister’s increasingly frantic pleas to slow down. She becomes engaged to a foreign prince the same day she meets him. She causes a scene at her sister’s coronation ball and, when Elsa flees in panic, shouts “I’m leaving Prince Hans in charge” (of the entire country!) before riding off, alone, in pursuit. She talks to her horse. There’s a scene where she paces to and fro in the background, endlessly muttering to herself. She relentlessly hounds her sister despite Elsa repeatedly asking to be left alone and showing increasingly drastic signs of distress. Sympathizing with her is like feeling bad for a kid who throws rocks at a bees’ nest.

In addition to all this, it’s worth noting that the “act of true love” required to unfreeze Anna’s heart is not someone else showing true love for her. Everyone makes immense sacrifices to protect, save, and help her. Elsa isolates herself from her only playmate and lives a life of tragic loneliness; Kristoff loses the sled that is the basis for his entire income; Olaf risks his own life to drag her close to a warming fire; Sven the reindeer nearly drowns while galloping across the crumbling bay. The fact that she actually gives of herself to help someone else – an “act of true love” that she had apparently never made before – is what finally saves her. It’s disturbing to think that Anna – selfish, solipsistic Anna – is the “princess” that young girls may most identify with.

Also, I hate to say this, but that reindeer would have been long dead by the time everyone is grown up.

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