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Sunday, 8 December 2013

Completely Snowed; How 'Frozen' Fixed The Princess Franchises (Girlcember Part 3)

Hello hello!

So, we've finally gotten to Frozen. I've kept you waiting long enough; for the cap on this series about Disney, let's talk about the one that fixed them all. Now, if you haven't seen Frozen yet, there will be 


With that out of the way, let's do a really fast run-down!

I would love to gush on about the plot, the brilliant twist of having a prince as a villain, the well-designed alternate love interest that actually avoided a triangle, the nod to the importance of consent in a kiss, the establishment of it being possible to save the day without a man, the relationship between the two sisters, the exploration of being an introvert vs an extrovert and how coiling into yourself is bad, the depiction of love developing through conversation organically, the idea that parents can mean well and screw up, and the fact that we now have a powerful female queen who is not evil but is a bitchin' ass mage of the first water. I could mention the gorgeous visual design, the proper use of 3D, and the nice historical flavour details (though there were some anachronisms). I don't have to to gush about every detail, but I'm going to hit on the big ones. 

Source.  I promise the annoying snowman isn't as bad as you'd think.

Real girls: We can has them?

The biggest thing that was fixed is that the princesses are based on an updated understanding of femininity. Anna has no self-doubt about her ability to rescue her sister. When we first see her as an adult, she is drooling on her pillow and her hair is an enormous floofy mess. She likes chocolate! She elbows people in the face, yet can scale rooftops when necessary! (And the clumsiness comes about when she's self-conscious or not paying attention--well done, Disney!) She even makes a bad decision over a boy and is too trusting! I love the fact that she's a bit dumb, too--doesn't always clue into things that are obvious. Finally, she has no doubt about whether she can club a wolf, scare it off with a flaming blanket, or talk sense into her sister. When she finds out her prince isn't so charming after all, she punches him off the side of a boat. She's genuinely brave, warm-hearted, and kind. There are consequences for her actions, but she never gives up on people. She's not just a princess, she's a hero--and somehow, she's not excessively perfect or annoying. And as for her sister...

That One Time Disney had a non-evil queen with magic powers

Let's talk about Elsa as well, the charming and powerful introvert. She's reserved, has been taught a bad habit of keeping her emotions to herself, and isn't forced to marry anyone. Her sister's princessly duties are dealt with, and so are Elsa's. It tears her up that she's hurting her kingdom and her people, but she doesn't know how to stop it. In order to deal with the story, though, she has to not only accept herself and her gift, she has to embrace it publicly and be okay with who she is. This is an awesome self-discovery story, very inspiring for anyone trying to 'come out' as an artist, a person who fits in the QUILTBAG categories, or anyone who has a gift that they don't know how to live with. There are naysayers and people who call her 'monster', but the whole thing is handled with a lot of grace and subtlety. That's good, because the two sisters actually get enough screen time for us to see how their personal stories progress without one of the two being sidelined.

Oh, and HOLY SHIT AWESOME MAGICAL POWERS THAT ARE ACTUALLY DEADLY. I don't need to say anything else about that.

Source. Sure, she looks cute, but fucking ice spikes, man. 

Jane Austen would be proud: how Frozen references Sense and Sensibility

I am a noted Jane Austen fan, and while S&S is not my favorite, I squeed when I realised that Frozen had lifted some of its plot from this excellent novel. The older, restrained, introvert sister Elinor? Sounds like Elsa. The young, impetuous sister who falls in love too fast, to her detriment? Marianne and Anna--that can't be a coincidence. If it is, I'll eat my hat (and my hat collection is fantastic, I'll have you know). There's also the fact that thematically, Elsa's introversion and emotional restraint backfire, while Anna's impetuosity and romantic nature also lead her into trouble. It was a nice dichotomy and a great reference. 

Oh yeah, the plot and the other things

I could spend this entire post talking about the fact that they used the 3D subtly and properly. It felt like it was really snowing, I caught myself wiping away water when it splashed, and I could have sworn the theatre got cold a few times. They used colour themes properly. Since the setting involved white people, Disney relaxed and went all out with the design. They almost never drop the ball on design, but this was still exceptionally beautiful. 

The music was better than it has been in any Disney movie for a long-ass time, with Idina Menzel's chops shown off to full advantage. (There was onion-cutting, as I said.) And oh god, they remembered how musicals work; the songs didn't feel forced, unlike in TPaTF. 

There were also references to my childhood favorite from Fox and Don Bluth, Anastasia. At one point, I looked at the tousle-haired, grumpy blond Kristoff and said to Andrey, "they made a Disney prince version of you!" Both male love interests and the bait-and-switch villain were sympathetic--subtly, they made the grumpy old British guy with the mustache both sympathetic and a villain--and they didn't fuck up the trolls too badly. There were satires on marriage, some important lessons about believing in yourself and not falling for love at first sight, and a really solid lesson on family that built on Brave's foundation. I don't even need to say that it passed the Bechdel, but hell, I'll give it points for that. Oh, and they worked in imperfection with the parents! 

Source.  I like to believe this guy actually gored those annoying fucking moose from Brother Bear to death in a cut scene, because this reindeer actually makes sense.

Okay, so 'perfect' might be a strong word...

I can't really ignore the whole cultural appropriation thing or the fact that Disney once again played it safe. While it has been confirmed that Kristoff is Saami, the portrayal of one of the indigenous peoples of the Scandinavian countries has been met with ire from both Tumblr and people of Saami descent. I can understand and sympathize with that--Disney does, after all, have a long and storied record of culture-mangling.

However, I think a lot of the angry Tumblrites missed something--Disney is making an honest effort in this case. A Saami composer was involved with the film, and Kristoff is an incredibly normal character. He is a reindeer herder, but there was nothing about him that--to my admittedly North American mind--flagged him as a horribly offensive stereotype. Not only that, he plays a love interest, not just a side-kick, and as noted above, he was an excellent character. So really, Disney mucked it up, but they're trying. They're actually trying now, you guys. Not to mention that they're implying a princess will be marrying this minority character from a population met with discrimination. Oh, and the actor? Yes, he's white, but he's the first openly gay voice actor to play a Disney prince.

Final Verdict?

If you haven't clued in that I honestly give this movie a perfect 10/10, let me make that explicit. I listed off the things that worked in a rushed paragraph at the start, but let me make it clear--this was pretty much a perfect movie. Half an hour of discussion with my fellow history-geek boyfriend, and the only real nitpicks were historical niceties like the incorrect (?) lack of guns for the approximately 19th century setting and some possible anachronisms with the paintings. And yes, they're both perfectly beautiful, but do we really need to go over the 'Disney makes girls look perfect' thing again? Extra points for the minimal showing of cleavage, though. I will also mention that the thing about Elsa remembering was sort of...cut, I guess, but enh, I can forgive them a dropped plot thread when everything else was so tight. 

So, is this a good holiday movie? Definitely. You can even watch it in summer, and you don't have to be in the mood for Christmas to watch it, either! 


Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr. More interviews and witty commentaries are coming. Keep checking back to see those surprise posts, too. This is your darling SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

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