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In Which I Gush About Frozen For A Few Minutes

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...



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.




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.

But, y'know.

Still does.

*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.

When was the last time you can think of a mainstream female lead being given extraordinary power and getting to keep it?

In many ways, that's why I was tickled with the end of the movie adaptation of Matilda. In the book, she loses her powers, and in context I was okay with that, but the movie turned around and said, "You know what? Nope. The powers are sticking around. She'll just use them more subtly. But they're there."


Dude, that was my first thought too!

right on!! Absolutely aggree w/ everything including the Mary Poppins it <3 Score one for the Free Wild Wonder Women!


And, of course, I now want the Corgi.

Well, now I _know_ I have to see this movie.

Also, corgisquee!

And to give you a few more exclamation points you can co-opt for later use:
I have a Digger Omnibus in my library! It is shiny and lovely! The stickers are shiny and lovely! So are the pins! Whee!!!

My favorite was that the True Love was not romantic, but familial! How often has that happened in a Disney movie?

I was also quite fond of Kristof going "You just *met* this guy and you're engaged?!".

But yes, Elsa getting to keep her magic and just be Queen and everyone going "okay, the Queen has magic, who is up for ice-skating?" was lovely.

SISTER LOVE IS TRUE LOVE! When they said "an act of True Love," I almost exploded with the HOPE that they'd go that route.

re: Mary Poppins... I, for one, welcome our spoonful-of-sugar overlady.

Also, clearly I need to see this movie. (I chose to go past the corgi of my own free will.)

OMG YES. All the things about Elsa. With the additional angle that I am an older sister and I just felt a connection with her for that! She kept her awesome powers and learned to control them and also JESUS COULD SHE SING. (There's an additional lyric in the bullshit Demi Lovato pop cover of "Let it Go," and while the cover is mostly blah, it was an interesting little addition to her story. Something along the lines of "I know I've left my life behind, but I'm too relieved to grieve." FINALLY she can just go full blast on her power!)

An interesting thing to note--possibly part of Elsa's keeping her power is that she is a Queen. (Also liked that about Brave.) I always wondered as a kid why it was always kings and princesses, but queens rarely showed up. Unless they were evil. I think it's because queens are adult, and thus dangerous. A prince becomes a king and that's cool, but we can't let princesses grow up. Except in this movie, where the queen doesn't turn evil or have to give up her power; she still gets to be QUEEN, dangit, and a sorceress queen at that, AND IT IS ALL GOOD.

And as a sister, let me just say that their definition of "an act of true love" made me happy. Not just because it was an act of sister love, which is a kind that doesn't get enough appreciation, but also because Anna was the one doing the act. Usually the "true love" act involves the affected party (the mermaid or the eternally sleeping princess) passively trying to attract someone else (and since it's always heterosexual romance love, that someone's the prince) to perform the act. Here they explicitly stomped on that notion. That made me REALLY happy.

(I am also happy that Elsa didn't have a love interest! Not everyone needs a love interest, dangit. Elsa gets to work on being herself first.)

I admit I was hoping Hans would turn out not to be a villain, but rather just the Wrong Fit, but all the clues were there. They'd never have let a nice guy get away with those sideburns/muttonchops.

Edit to do some correct italicizing! It's important, I swear!

Edited at 2013-12-17 01:32 am (UTC)

Heck, the reason it's 'Princess Celestia' when she's a solar deity in the latest My Little Pony incarnation is because some executive went, "Queens are scary, they're always the badguys, so our matriarchial ruler is a princess. Deal with it."

... Though I should admit, as a kid who grew up on the Snow Queen I was kind of going, "Where's Gretel? And the bandits? Is this supposed to be like a prequel? Gretel was kickass, I miss Gretel and having a Dude in Distress and a girl going off to rescue HER sweetie."

(Deleted comment)
OMG CORGI. I'M IN LOVE WITH THE CORGI!!! (I haven't seen Frozen yet, so I didn't read that part.)

ME TOO!!!!! Could I have a higher res version of this to put on my phone screen, pretty please? (Have not seen Frozen)

I'm glad I braved the Corgi of Ultimate Cute to read your review/spoilers! This sounds like a really fun movie, and I'm looking forward to seeing it.

While you are cool and powerful and freakish and creative and generally no longer in need of Disney's validation, having a Disney princess who is also those things (and becomes a Disney Queen, on top of all that) matters a lot. For one thing, it's one more step in getting society as a whole to stop saying "Dude, why can't you at least try to act normal?" For another, it makes life that much easier for all of the other girls who will "grow up" to be cool and powerful and freakish and creative. Yes, Disney still has a long way to go in giving girls the role models they deserve, but this sounds like a step in the right direction.

Interestingly, according to some interviews, Elsa was originally intended to be a villain, and then after Idina Menzel performed that piece, they realized they needed to change the storyline because the song was so powerful and actually revealed her true motivations.

Well, I know it went through a lot of rewrites, and the Snow Queen in the original story is the villain, so I would not be surprised. I am glad they changed it. I'm a bit tired of straight hero/villain stories. (And I find Hans Christian Andersen's stories to be completely WHACK, so I am 100% okay with Frozen having pretty much nothing to do with "The Snow Queen" beyond the concepts of snow and a queen.)

WELL now. I think I'm going to go see this movie. Hell yeah.

Yes ! You want to go see this!!!

There's room for critiques and criticisms, but you want to watch this. Especially the "let it go" sequence in full theater audio.</p>

* makes shoo'ing motions with a dish towel *

I was in two minds about seeing this movie... NOT ANY MORE !!

I wonder what your reaction to Malicifent will be? I look forward to that review...

You left out the messages that men are not the solution to problems, and that there's a difference between true love and sudden infatuation, and that real relationships take work and compromise.

I admit that I identified more with Ana than most people seem to have. I was watching that interaction with the guys and thinking, "Well, this is the story of my love life right here." And then every time the plot twisted it got uncannily closer to reality. By the time we left the theater we were trying to figure out who all the characters were in our actual life -- near as we can figure my sister-in-law was Sven, and the hordes of Italian relatives stand in pretty well for the trolls.

My one-sentence review I've been giving people is "This is the first princess movie that I wouldn't feel guilty letting a little girl watch."

Oh, and there are some songs available in the OST that were cut from the movie. I'm particularly fond of "We Know Better," the message of which is "people are going to tell you what you can and cannot be, but fuck that noise."

Absolutely loved this movie. LOVED it, I tell you!

Granted, I go see every animated movie no matter who's putting it out but damn, this one WORKED for me. Elsa, Hans, so many Disney rules plopped right on their stupid heads. Not to mention, Kristoff actually asking permission there at the end (I'm looking at you, Phillip and what's your name from Snow White!). It had its flaws, all the songs but one could have been punched up a notch or two, but this is easily my favorite animated movie in years.

There were POC in the coronation crowd. Not speaking roles but at least Disney admitted that maybe there are non-white nations out there as trade partners, you know? Rapunzel was also there with Finn, which I thought was a nice touch.

I was not going to see this movie, and you have convinced me it may be worth a look. Thank you.