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On Frozen

  At the risk of being murdered by the Internet, I have to admit that Frozen lost me.

  I don’t know where or really how it happened, but at some point I just stopped caring. I’m not saying that it was a bad movie; it was just not the be-all, end-all work that I had been promised for months. Sure, the sisters – Elsa and Anna – were strong protagonists that learned and developed over time. They had their central arcs and one of the beat-you-over-the-head morals – you can’t love someone you just met – was refreshing considering Disney’s track record of date-rapist princes and Stockholm Syndrome: The Motion Picture.

  But strong female protagonists – to be entirely honest, strong protagonists in general – can’t save what ultimately boils down to a bland movie.

  For the fifteen people on the planet who haven’t seen the film and the portion of that who also somehow fall into my readership (which by my calculation is precisely 1/35ths of a person), Elsa has magic ice powers that accidentally wound her sister Anna when they go about playing. Their parents freak out, force the sisters into solitude after magically roofying Anna, and then die (because Disney). Elsa opens the gates to the city years later upon her coronation, Anna meets a boy who asks to marry her, and Elsa subsequently freaks out, freezing the kingdom as she flees. Anna takes off after her and adventures are had, lessons are learned, and the Internet blows its collective wad.

  I think what criminally undermines the basic plot and structure is something that Disney is well-known for: their musical segments. Now, I’m generally not a fan of any form of entertainment that spontaneously breaks out into song, but I have been inoculated against getting dry-heaves thanks to Disney’s unnecessary insistence of turning almost every goddamn cartoon into a musical. The problem with the music in Frozen is that it derails the pace of narrative for absolutely no reason. Whereas many of their older films tend to more fully incorporate songs into the story to keep things moving, here they mostly just putter in place.

  Take the song that everyone just loves – “Let it Go”. Right after Elsa freaks out, abandons her sister (who she has numerous unresolved issues with), is called a monster, flees all human contact, she belts out “Let it Go”, which is a triumphant song that gives a mighty middle finger to her parents and the world at large. I don’t give a flying fuck if you like that song – it is woefully out of place in the story structure. Literally a couple of hours after nearly ice-nuking her sister, she announces that she gives no fucks.

  Strong character or not, that is unnecessarily callous.

  What would have made far more sense would be to have Elsa spend some time coming to grips with herself. She could build herself a tiny little house to live in as punishment for what she is, only to eventually realize that there is nothing to punish her for. Then she could build her ice castle to your precious song if it’s so damn important to you. To have her be so dismissive of the destruction she caused – whether or not she was aware of it – makes her less sympathetic than she should have been.

  Keep in mind that I am not saying that I wanted Elsa to be punished for her power in any significant capacity. I’m saying what I needed was something more than a song to show Elsa coming to grips with the idea that she likes being alone, so that it doesn’t come off like a hasty rationalization of her actions or just plain flippant. “I almost murdered a bunch of people. Welp, I guess I just prefer not talking to anyone at all!”

  A good chunk of the other songs just feel like treading water instead of helping move the plot forward or anything of the sort. And everyone seems to forget that bullshit song “Fixer Upper”, where the underlying messages are a) you can’t change people (but kind of sort of try anyway), b) love is mysterious so just suffer through someone’s bullshit in spite of any doubt you may have, and c) fiancés are obstacles to true love, so get rid of him and get your dream girl! Christ, that song does get uncomfortably close to completely undermining the entire defense of this film being all pro-woman if you think about it critically.

  It isn’t like Disney is completely unaware of how to write a minimum of songs for a story. My personal favorite Disney film, The Emperor’s New Groove, has a couple of songs in it, but only one has a character singing it. It suits the tone of the film as well as establishes the inherent smugitry of the emperor – he is exactly the kind of person who would hire someone to write and perform a musical number for him. Every emotional scene of the film is carried by the characters and their previously established relationship with the audience. It works so much better than throwing in a song just because someone panicked and jammed it in there.

  Or how about The Lego Movie? The song “Everything is Awesome!!!” (as performed by the amazing Tegan and Sara with support from The Lonely Island) goes from representing a soulless society where everyone follows the rules to being an anthem for originality and being yourself. AND IT’S THE SAME GODDAMN SONG. Over the course of the The Lego Movie’s runtime, it shifts its meaning to match the tone and all they had to do is just go on with the plot. The music served to add another layer of quality to a film bursting with energy and character rather than attempt to overcome a lack of development.

  “Well, Jonathan,” you cry out as your effigy-burning torch flares to life. “You waited this long to watch it. No wonder you didn’t like it. All that hype ruined it for you.”

  First off, I only watched The Lego Movie because of the hype, and it is probably one of my favorite films of all time. So back the fuck off.

  But there is some merit in that, I suppose. I was promised a story with strong female protagonists, and I had mistakenly believed that it also came with a strong narrative. So on one hand, I hold myself responsible for mistaking one thing for the other. On the other hand, though, I blame the fans of the movie for setting their standards so low that strong heroines are allowed to get bland movies.

  Let me put it this way: it has been roughly forty years since the height of the 1970's era women’s liberation movement and we are just now getting children’s films that challenge basic shitty notions of gender that our global society has been shackled with for millennia? To add insult to injury, these films are unchallenging, solely palatable, chest thumping mea culpas. “We’re sorry, girls,” Disney seems to say. “We’ve given you terrible role models for decades so let’s pound this new moral so thoroughly into the dirt that we can now and forever point to it as our ‘not-sexist’ mantra until the sun goes nova.

  How the fuck have we not evolved beyond this yet? This is the kind of stuff that should have been made in the 1980's as a gigantic middle finger to the fact that the Equal Rights Amendment was defeated by a bunch of inbred morons terrified that women being paid the same as men would undermine their masculinity (despite the fact that the only thing undermining masculinity is people’s tendency to be unbearably shitty). Instead we get a slightly progressive shuffle forward and everyone loses their goddamn mind instead of demanding more.

  “But can’t you just be happy for the progress made?” you ask, letting your torch go out because – unlike most people – you read this far and understand my frustration.

  No, I can’t. I can’t because there should be no reason to celebrate mediocrity when it comes to equality in 2014. A big studio took a tiny risk that paid dividends, and they will milk that position until it’s dry. Then, probably in 2105, they might take another step forward and be wildly over-praised for taking a position that would have seemed positively reactionary in 1990.

  Expect more. It’s the only way you’ll get it.

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