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.