Obviously, spoiler alerts. Major ones in fact.
No seriously. If you’ve been living under a glacier the past months, stay under it until you climb out to see the movie. You’ll rarely get the chance to experience what it’s like to see a twist as major as Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Really.
Eh, whatever. Most people probably heard of everything already. But if you didn’t, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
The Wicked Connection
So, Frozen. It was the movie most of us expected to hate. It has nothing to do with The Snow Queen! (to be fair, that one’s not a first for Disney). It takes the strong girl protagonist and makes her subservient to guys! Why is everyone so white? That snowman is freaking annoying! Those are a sample of complaints leading into it. And now it’s a worldwide phenomenon. Never has the collective world reacted so strongly to a Disney movie since The Lion King. Everyone can’t get enough out of it. Let It Go is practically an Internet meme, and the best known song of the year!
And somehow I avoided listening to the entire thing. Until now. So, since we all can’t get enough of Frozen, here’s my review.
First off, yes, it has nothing to do with The Snow Queen. In fact, just toss the original story out of your head when watching it. Also, a lot of noise was made about how it subverts the Disney movie tradition or how it doesn’t, whether it’s a refreshing change of pace or an unamusing self-mockery. But I think that misses the point, because it owes itself more to Wicked than anything. I mean, Elsa’s voice actor, Idina Menzel, is also Elphaba. That much is obvious, and the Internet has taken notice:
Let’s see, a story about a character who was a villain in the source material who gets reinterpreted as a tragic figure ostracized by society. She sings an awesome musical number about freeing herself from the constraints of society. The deuteragonist is a cheerful girl who acts more like the traditional fairytale protagonist while sharing a close emotional bond with her (and with actors named Kristen). The traditionally heroic figure turns out to be evil. Now am I talking about Wicked or Frozen?
Suddenly, the title change makes sense. As an analogy, Wicked is to The Wizard of Oz as Frozen is to The Snow Queen. Both titles describe an attitude. Not sure if that was what Disney intended, but there you go. At least they were honest about it not actually being about The Snow Queen. And unlike Peter Pan in which the live-action movie is completely better for restoring the themes cut out of the Disney version, Frozen is worth watching alongside the original tale as its own story.
“If only there someone out there who loved you” is the most dickish thing anyone has said in a Disney movie since “Long live the King.” Worst date ever. Yes, Hans being the villain seemed to have little foreshadowing, but it does make sense if you’re familiar with antisocial personality disorder. And that’s what sociopaths do; they masquerade as a charmer only to reveal their true nature later down the line. Also, “unnecessary risk-taking”. He didn’t have to go “lol, I’m really evil!” He could have just made some excuse about the kiss not working. But that’s in line with someone who doesn’t think things through.
And Olaf? Doesn’t he remind you of those gargoyles in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, those embodiments of Quasimodo’s imagination? He is like them, except I actually liked him, much to my surprise. It helps that the movie actually shows how much he embodies the cheerful innocence Elsa and Anna used to share before their mother and father picked up such bad parenting skills. His humour is not entirely to my taste, but he does fit in perfectly with the Anna gang. And of course, “Some people are worth melting for” indeed. Besides, if you wanted annoying mascot musical numbers, “Fixer-Upper” is your “A Guy Like You” equivalent.
Finally we arrive at one of the movie’s themes, “You can’t marry a man you just met.” I hate it when pop culture lies to me. Some herald it as Disney finally coming to its senses, while others point out that it’s not that revolutionary. Yes, movies Beauty and the Beast and especially Mulan took stabs at feminist themes before, but it’s certainly refreshing to hear such a message outright, as if Disney was apologizing for the unfortunate implications of, say, The Little Mermaid. And it fits in with the Wicked-style upheaval of fairy-tale conventions.
I have to say, though, it is impressive that it still feels like a sincere Disney movie even through masquerading as one. And while people constantly debate its feminist credentials, again, those who reduce it to a mere checklist miss the point. Feminism isn’t about checklists, after all.
The True Meaning of Frozen
This section comes courtesy of two other fantastic blog posts about the movie, summed up in two points:
1. Let It Go is the movie. (Libby Anne from Love, Joy, Feminism) It singlehandedly transformed the entire movie from a conventional Disney adaptation into something special (kind of like The Emperor’s New Groove). You can still hear traces of how it could be interpreted as villainous (“That perfect girl is gone!”), but it’s meaningful that they changed their interpretation of Elsa because of the song. A powerful woman such as a queen is not to be feared, but respected and admired.
As I said, I avoided hearing the entire thing until I actually saw the movie, and I was enraptured when I finally saw the scene. The first thing that came to mind was that it sounded like a gay anthem, that unleashing her powers was a metaphor for “coming out.” But it’s more than just that. Being repressed and hiding your true self is a universal theme, so everyone can interpret the song in their own way. It’s empowering, yet a sadly ironic reminder of reality. I believe that’s why it caught on with international consciousness in a way not seen since Gangnam Style; it unites children and adults, girls and boys.
And, gotta say, hitting that high E-flat is extremely cathartic.
2. Who would have thought people wanted to see a story about two women? (Sara Lin Wilde) This is easily my favourite opinion piece on Frozen, because at its core, the movie is simply about two sisters trying to reconcile their strained relationship. We’ve all heard of the Bechdel Test and how it’s rare to find a movie with two women talking about something other than a man. If we can enjoy a buddy comedy about two men learning to get along (the aforementioned Groove; seriously though, it’s well worth watching), why can’t we enjoy a heartwarming tale of two women learning to get along? It’s what made Wicked enjoyable, and the same applies for Frozen. Against the expectations of the marketing circlejerk, boys have embraced this movie as much as girls have, and again, it’s because themes of family love are universal.
And as Sara astutely points out, it’s not about taking a side. Like Elphaba and Glinda before them, it’s a story about both Elsa and Anna. I felt just as much of a connection Anna feeling shut out and abandoned by her sister as, well, Let It Go. She is the one that comes to Elsa’s rescue, and Elsa in turn rescues her in the climatic scene. The main conflict is not about them individually, but how they could become as close as they used to be. And that they could share such a strong bond despite their opposing personalities, well, that’s the Bechdel Test incarnate. I agree, it’s more satisfying to see women work together rather than against each other, and the movie’s more successful for it. That’s the essence of feminism, and that’s the essence of this movie. Not gay propaganda. Not Disney slandering its classic movies. Not hating men. Just two sisters and love is all you need.
Besides, For The First Time In Forever is just as good a song as Let It Go. Well, the reprise is…a bit short. But you get my point.
So is it as good as it’s hyped up to be?
Yes and no. It’s not anything revolutionary, but that’s not the point. It’s just a simple, charming story of two sisters that happens to be self-aware of Disney clichés. So yes, the hype is justified.