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Pros: Healthy psychology in a faery tale...who would have thunk it?
Cons: None. A new classic!
Frozen (2013) Written and Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee
Anna: But I want to help!
Kristoff: No! I don't trust your judgment!
Anna: Excuse me?
Kristoff: Who marries a man they just met?
Anna: It's true love!
Frozen is the story of two sisters, princesses. The elder, Elsa (Idina Menzel) has formidable powers of ice and snow, but when she accidentally hurts her sister Anna (Kristen Bell) she withdraws into herself, trying desperately to suppress them. Since Anna’s memories of Elsa’s powers had to be removed, she doesn’t understand why this is happening, and the sisters grow apart.
The story follows Anna’s desperate need for connection, and goes through her meeting, and becoming engaged to Hans (Santino Fontana), a minor princeling (13th in the succession) from a neighboring kingdom. Anna is sure it is true love, but when a row with her sister over the matter reveals Elsa’s out of control powers, it is all Anna can do to try to reach her sister, high up the mountains, with the help of Kristoff, local ice-cutter, his reindeer Sven, and Olaf, an enchanted snowman reconstituted by Elsa’s emotional blizzard. Anna and Elsa must learn lessons about trust…both in others, and themselves.
I won’t go into more of the story, except to say it is a fairly standard, if delightfully told, animated adventure. The art is beautiful, the music memorable, and the whole affair immensely entertaining. None of that is why I love this story, though it all certainly helps.
What I love about this story is the message.
The protagonists are girls; sisters. Anna is our hero. The boys who act as love interests are, well, love interests. But the sisters are far from passive. There are no damsels, sitting high in their ivory towers waiting for rescue…Elsa may be in an icy tower high on the Matterhorn, but she is not waiting to be rescued; she is trying to save others from herself, from the powers of ice and snow that have slipped her rigid control. Elsa is not a victim; she is a sacrifice.
Anna is not waiting for rescue either. She is attempting to rescue the entire kingdom of Arendelle from her sister’s frigid melt down, and Elsa from herself. Anna is not waiting for rescue, but is moving to rescue others. When was the last time a girl was cast in that role in an animated movie? Mulan? Anna gets help, particularly from Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), the local ice-cutter, noted for his big features, big feet, and big opinion of his own worth. He’s rough, crude, a bit self-centered, but kind. And anyone who has a reindeer like Sven can’t be all bad.
Further, the nobles in this piece are shown to be more than cookie cutter representations who are just there to give our heroine the thing that provides her with worth; a pedigree. From the romantically supercharged Hans to the ridiculous but scheming Duke (Alan Tudyk) they have personalities, foibles, faults. They aren’t quite three dimensional….but they are at least bas relief.
The sisters solve their own problems. They help each other. It is a wonderful feminist metaphor. Each is willing to sacrifice themselves for the other. Both are proactive in seeking the other’s greater good. There is also a wonderful Queer Theory metaphor in Elsa’s trying to hide, suppress, and control the powers that are a part of her, which set her apart from others, and how those powers seem to want to come out of the closet.
Gone are the patriarchal story of the princess, who by virtue of her beauty and station is whisked away to happily ever after by some handsome prince. These are women who seeing others in trouble, move to help because they can, and because they should. And that makes this a movie with a message I want the girls in my life to grow up to embrace.