|Best Movie Ever. No, really ... it's up there.|
I first saw Frozen back in December with my toddler son, and I was really just hoping to kill another snowy weekend afternoon that my husband needed to get work done. It had been a rough month, and I was just muddling along, really. To my complete shock, watching Frozen was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had. EVER!!! I left feeling uplifted, inspired, and seriously downright therapized! Why is it so great? Well, let me count the ways…
First and foremost, can I get a round of applause for the incredible fact that the Disney movie anthem of our children's childhood is an empowering ballad about letting go of society's expectations and being true to oneself?! I mean… I was like… WHAT?! My last big run-in with Disney involved a presentation I gave in high school on how abysmal the fairytale gender roles are, what with helpless princesses and nearly-always-female villains. I guess after two decades of everybody complaining, Disney finally took it all to heart. "Let it Go" includes the following lines that I would love for my children to internalize:
"The fears that once controlled me can't get to me at all!"
"It's time to see what I can do to test the limits and break through!"
"That perfect girl is gone!"; and
"I don't care what they're going to say, let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway!"
Now don't get me wrong, it's not like Elsa has it all together at that point. She's really just taking the first step toward true freedom; a crucial but imperfect step. Here, she rejects everything she's ever known in order to learn to love her true self and to be "free." It's only later, with further growth, that she is able to revisit her past and learn that she can - and must - reconcile past and present if she's to be truly happy and truly free. The depth of character here and the insight into human nature is pretty darn impressive for Disney, if you ask me. A friend of mine summed it up as follows:
"First, a lesson in how difficult and yet how necessary it is to be true to one's self; second, a reminder that even so, we all live in the world and our actions affect it. And the only way for that paradox to be resolved is through hard, self-sacrificing love."
Speaking of love, ***SPOILER ALERT*** who doesn't love the fact that this movie redefines the fairytale definition of "true love" to include sisterhood?! Wow, thank you Disney!!! The plot leads watchers to anticipate that Kristoff's kiss is needed to save Anna (and indeed, to save the day) but instead the "act of true love" comes from Anna herself, as she chooses her sister's life over her own by foregoing Kristoff's potentially life-saving kiss to save Elsa from imminent death. This "act of true love" saves not only Anna but Elsa as well, because through it Elsa sees that love is the answer to controlling her powers. This fantastic, heart-bursting moment teaches girls that true love encompasses more than just romantic love. True love develops with time, shared memories, and proven loyalty; whether or not Kristoff's kiss would have saved Anna is left an open question. To this same end, the subplot about Prince Hans cannot be beat. Who doesn't want their daughter to learn young and early that not every "Prince Charming" is worthy, and that character must be proven? And I love love LOVE that Kristoff provides the antidote, because in order to have high standards, girls also need to see and believe that there are good guys out there to be had. Yes, even as we warn our daughters about the (all too many) potential pitfalls, "good" must be seen as the norm in order for it to be expected. (Plus, our sons need positive, strong role-models too).
Other great points I want my children to learn:
- Everyone's a bit of a Fixer-Upper. Um, yes. I'm all for getting rid of the idea that romantic relationships are easy and perfect. Maybe some are; my parents' really seemed to be. But my own 16-year experience tells me that especially when life involves a lot of external stressors (as ours certainly does during these medical training years), marriage has to be about the process - about putting effort - consciously and deliberately - into the process of communicating and showing love. Imperfect people aren't likely to have effortlessly perfect relationships, but even just a little bit of effort from both sides goes a long way. (We just completed "The Marriage Course" and I cannot recommend it enough - more on that in a future blog entry).
- Even Loving Parents Make (big) Mistakes. Guys, Disney's got our backs. Chances are, even with the best of intentions, we're all going to screw up something. Elsa's parents believe they're protecting her by teaching her to "conceal, not feel" her powers, but it's clear to watchers that the remedy is worse than that malady. Still, even as we feel terrible for Elsa and disappointed in her parents, we sense that her parents are good people who love her very much and believe themselves to be acting in her best interests. Here, Frozen once again teaches us that people and relationships are not perfect, and life is a process. Such important lessons for our children, and such a far cry from the black-and-white, good-vs.-evil fairytales of the past!
- Winter can be beautiful and exhilarating, and study abroad in Scandinavia is worth pursuing. Okay I'm sort of kidding here, but really, this is a great movie to rekindle your excitement for the beauty and magic of winter. The Scandinavian-themed imagery is so breathtakingly gorgeous I could seriously watch this entire movie on mute and not be bored.
I'll end with one small criticism, that being the continuation of Disney's unrealistic standard of beauty. Anna and Elsa are thin with what seriously look to be D-cups. I guess I skipped a few Disney movies… Cinderella did NOT have a chest like this. But fantasy is, by its very definition, not realism. Entertainment almost always involves unrealistic standards not just of feminine beauty but of masculine attractiveness (Kristoff's muscles aren't exactly going to happen for most guys), wealth, intelligence, love, and pretty much everything else. Also, it's worth noting that this movie is loosely based on Scandinavia, and Scandinavian women are (at least allegedly) taller and bigger-chested.
|Is it really like this in Scandinavia?|
One final note: I'm also not sure if the Scandinavian thing provides an adequate excuse for the lack of multiculturalism. Does that fact that it's a movie portraying a culture that isn't our own mean it is "other"-cultural after all? I'll leave you to ponder.