My Problem With “Frozen”

February 16, 2014 § 6 Comments

Over the weekend, I had the chance to watch Disney’s Frozen with a few friends — well, it was almost 4 a.m. when we started the movie, so we only got through two-thirds of it.

A little background: I absolutely love watching animated movies. Two of my favorite movies of all time are Coraline and The Secret of Kells; one of my favorite films of 2013 was Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2. However, this doesn’t mean I’m not picky about what I watch. Almost none of the other animated features of last year (Monsters University, Despicable Me 2) appealed to me, including Frozen.

Overall, I’d say the movie was charming. The animation was beautiful, and the songs and voice acting were superb. But I couldn’t get over the fact that the entire plot was based on a hugely flawed premise.

I can accept without question that Elsa was just born with magical snow-making abilities. Fairy tales usually have an element of fantasy, after all. But what I cannot wrap my head around is that she has to go through a huge period of her life believing that she needs to hide this superpower.

Frozen

Her parents are largely to blame. It’s strongly implied that they knew about this ability even before the incident and had told young Elsa to keep it under wraps. Why else would nobody in the kingdom know about it? But the thing is…what are they afraid of? They’re the royal family. Can you imagine if the Queen of England had the power to shoot icicles?? Wouldn’t awe and respect of the throne be magnified by a million percent?! Did they think that the police were going to come and cart their daughter off to join the circus?? (Were they afraid ice-haulers like Kristoff would be put out of a job???)

That brings us to the part where Anna’s memories gets erased/replaced. It’s weird enough that we don’t get any explanation (other than a map that falls out of a book?) of why stone trolls are the end-all, be-all of magical maladies. I guess their reasoning was that if she forgot about her sister’s power, then she wouldn’t tempt her to use it and would therefore be safe. Really? The king and queen went with that kind of logic? That whole sequence was basically shoved down our throats in a don’t-ask-any-questions way, but I demand better.

If Elsa were encouraged to cultivate her powers instead of trying to act like they don’t exist, this would’ve been a much better story. Seriously, what kind of parent tells his child to “conceal, don’t feel”?? We as the audience are asked to simply believe that her abilities are automatically bad and to be feared without being given good enough reasons as to why.

I could go on about how female characters in animated movies almost always are saddled with the burden of being overprotected, while male protagonists very rarely deal with this problem. But since I haven’t yet seen the entire movie, I won’t comment on it. (If you’d like more on the topic, read my disparaging analysis of Hotel Transylvania.)

You could argue that Frozen is just a kids’ movie and requires suspension of disbelief, but cartoon plots can and should be just as good as those of non-animated films.

Other thoughts:

The whole Anna-gets-spontaneously-engaged-to-Prince-Hans bit was weird, which I guess it was supposed to be. According to the ardent fan with whom I watched Frozen, Anna is about 15 years old. Well, if that’s the case, I can understand why she’s so capricious. (Teenage hormones cannot be stopped, y’all.) Besides, apparently she’s only ever had paintings to talk to since Elsa shut her out (off-topic but seriously how many times did they use that phrase in the script?! I felt like I was getting hammered with it. Don’t shut me out, don’t shut me out, etc. x1000), so no wonder she’s kind of weird.

*barf*

But what the heck is the deal with Hans, then? He arrives in Arendelle apparently by himself on horseback and also just happens to fall in love with some random princess he just met?? It was funny of Disney to poke fun at the love-at-first-sight trope during the scene with Kristoff and Anna in the sleigh, but Hans deserves to be judged just as much for his spontaneity. And he sure as hell isn’t a 15-year-old. (I assume he gets his comeuppance later in the film when Kristoff and Anna inevitably end up together…yawn.)

I really expected to hate Olaf’s character and was pleasantly surprised to find him cute and charming. The thing is, he featured so heavily in the movie promotions (and the movie itself, I guess) that at first, I thought Frozen was going to be about a talking snowman and his goofy reindeer companion. (Another thing: It was funny that the horse in Tangled had the personality of a human and/or pet dog, but it’s less funny when you make the same joke in a different movie, Disney. Hoofed mammals acting goofy gets old fast.)

OlafAnyway, I don’t know what the deal with Olaf is. Maybe the filmmakers just loved his character so much that they wanted to include him as much as possible. Maybe they thought they were making a comedy. Personally I believe that on some level, in the promotional material at least, he’s there to appeal to a wider (read: less girly) crowd. Some of his lines (eg. “I don’t have a skull,” here at 1:25) are so random and clearly trying too hard just to get Olaf more screentime.

My other big character problem: Who is the Duke of Weselton and who does he think he is?? I guess he’s an important dignitary, but the fact that he immediately embarks on some kind of witch hunt against Elsa as if he owns Arendelle is just bullshit. She should’ve turned him into a popsicle and shipped him home.

As far as princess fairy tales go, I prefer Tangled. And as far as female empowerment movies go, I prefer Brave. I’m not saying Frozen was bad (there’s a lot to like!), just that the premise could’ve and should’ve been better.

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§ 6 Responses to My Problem With “Frozen”

  • loudlysilent says:

    I’m guessing no one spoiled the last third of the movie for you, then? Because the Hans question is answered, and the most powerful moral of the story is right at the end. Actually, the main criticism of the movie was about Hans, but because of what happens later in the movie. I saw it for the second time — I thought it was entertaining, had some decent non-sexist points that kids could catch, and Kristen Bell’s voice was superb.

  • E! says:

    Seriously, what kind of parent tells his child to “conceal, don’t feel”??

    >> Asian parents, duh

  • Pierre Viola says:

    Saw the movie outright tonight, which meant I finally read your post outright instead of skimming it.

    I can’t disagree with a single point you’ve made.

    I’m actually sitting here racking my brain over whether there was ever a disenfranchised or irreparably flawed male hero/main character in a Disney film. The closest I got was Enchanted, which isn’t even animated. Robert is emotionally dead and unable to connect with his daughter in the ways that she needs, but then again, he is a successful divorce lawyer who can afford to raise a child on his own and put up some poofy-gown redheaded stranger for a few days/forever-and-ever.

    Midas from King of Thieves (aka superior Aladdin sequel) might be, but then we’re getting to similar themes. Also, he ain’t Aladdin.

    Maybe I should take a look at a list of Disney films or something…

    And that is why I should do research before writing things. I’ve got a few examples of these sorts of ‘protected males’ in Disney films, but none so nearly motivated by gendered issues. Quasimodo was ‘overprotected,’ but for the wrong reasons. Dashiell Parr is sort of micromanaged at the beginning of The Incredibles, but so is Violet Parr. And Remy… well… he’s a genius, but he’s a mouse. None of these examples are nearly as problematic as the ubiquitous damsel trope. The only way I could see something comparable with a male ‘damsel’ would come from some sort parental super-sexist phobia of women.

    What we could hope for is a true Byronic male as a comparable (not equivalent) trope, but when is that going to happen in a Disney movie? Disney characters get resolutions and become fully actualized and functional or they get dropped off cliffs and eaten by hyenas. Byronic males need to stew in their own emotions without the cathartic release of a Disney conclusion. Quasimodo could have been Byronic, but he’s changed to a pure-on-the-inside guy instead of the twisted, deranged soul longing to be pure he was in the original Hugo. Ralph could have been Byronic, but he’s motivated by wanting to be good or at least included, so his ultimate actions are predictably redeeming.

    In the end, there’s no baggage with Kristoff. He’s a bit isolated, sure, but even though the movie tries to play up that part of his ‘dysfunction,’ we’re given no reason for it to be an actual problem, and it ends up being a passing narrative dalliance. He’s a ‘good guy.’ Ya…y.

    Minor other responses:

    Sven has a slightly different function than Maximus. Maximus is paired with Pascal for screwball comedy, and is mischievous to boot, whereas Sven leaves that to Olaf. It’s true that while cute, the joke is old, but Sven is actually there to provide the loner Kristoff with a partner for pseudo-dialogue.

    Olaf is probably less for the comic relief of men and more for the comic relief of all children. I may want to ride the tense moments all the way from the peak to the fjord, but kids might react like this: http://imgur.com/cqERzjZ

    The deal with Hans has nothing to do with Kristoff and more to do with Kanye feat. Foxx. Not really foreshadowed, but predictable given a few assumptions. Only real hint of any sort regarding Hans is that their romance song is lame. (Then again, this movie really phoned in both songs involving romance.) And what’s the deal with giving your not-yet-fiancee-of-one-day authority-by-proxy and running off into the mountains?

    That Duke guy is supposed to stand in for pure economic motivations. Nothing redeemable there. He’s a tool and just a bizarre little man.

    I had an original unprovoked thought, but that might have to wait until
    you’ve seen the whole film.

    Cheers!

    • auradis says:

      I had to look up what “Byronic male” meant, haha. I’ve never actually seen any of the Aladdin sequels! (Thought the original was fine but overrated. Couldn’t really relate to him that much and didn’t think he was as awesome a character as everyone seemed to think.)

      I did figure after writing the post that Hans and Duke whatshisface likely had ulterior motives that would be revealed later, so I’m glad those get resolved. It was just annoying to watch, and I guess…also annoyingly predictable lol

      The overprotected woman/girl trope is everywhere! UGH it’s one of the reasons I didn’t watch Despicable Me 2; it’s right there in the trailer, when Gru gets tense about his daughter texting a boy, and then tells his youngest daughter to “never get older.” Barf, seriously.

      I’ll ask you for your other thought when/if I get around to finishing the film! :)

      • Pierre Viola says:

        I don’t think Aladdin is supposed to be as relatable as he is pitiable. People don’t admit it very often, but you watch Aladdin for Robin Williams.

        That daughter thing is going to happen in films so long as fathers can relate to it, and then a little while after it’s gone as a period reference.

        I just watched This Is The End last night, and it had fun with the trope by turning Emma Watson into a frenzy with a fire axe.

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