‘Frozen’: story obstacles versus messages

Snowman THIS!

Snowman THIS!

I’ve got a friend who was ranting on Facebook the other day about Frozen. Not about the terrible ear-wormy nature of some of the songs (NO I DON’T WANT TO BUILD A GODDAMN SNOWMAN STOP ASKING!), but about the terrible parenting.

Now, I agree with her in a sense. Elsa and Anna’s parents were terrible. Their reaction to finding out their daughter was going to imperil their country if she didn’t learn to control her power was to lock her in her room, and then not explain why to their other daughter, thereby breaking them both. I wasn’t particularly sad for them when their ship sunk, although I was sad for their poor, unprepared daughters.

(Mind you, the trolls have to take a certain amount of responsibility here; they knew “love melts a frozen heart”, heard the father outline the plan of locking Elsa in her room, and didn’t object. If anyone was negligent in the back-story, it was them.)

However, this did secure prophesy’s traditional story role in Frozen. You know what I mean: X person (usually the bad guy but in this case Elsa’s parents) finds out about a prophesy and takes steps to stop it coming to pass, thereby guaranteeing it comes to pass.

Also, their reaction of hiding their “shame” was very culturally appropriate, if not healthy. Hell, people still do it.

Which brings me to the point of this ramble: sometimes readers or viewers see obstacles in a story—things that the author (or scriptwriter) does to make their characters’ lives hard and the story interesting—and mistake them for the message of the story. Frozen wasn’t advocating that parents lock their kids up to teach them self-control; it was showing the inevitable damage that results. It was providing the obstacle for Elsa and Anna to overcome.

On the other hand, the movie has some of the best messages I’ve seen in a Disney princess film to date. The princess is self-rescuing. The “true love” angle didn’t require a kiss from prince charming (or the ice farmer) to resolve; the important love was the one Anna had for Elsa. Plus there’s a message (in so many words) about how you can’t “fix” someone who’s broken, just support them and encourage them to do their best. That’s a far healthier message of romance than, say, Beauty and the Beast, where if you just love the awful, abusive person for long enough they’ll turn into a handsome prince.

Also, the idea that self-acceptance is the path to self-control and happiness (rather than fear and repression) is a good one.

Also, Olaf’s adorable. 😉

If I were going to poke one hole in Frozen (other than the annoyingly catchy songs NO I STILL DON’T WANT TO BUILD A SNOWMAN!), it would be the fact that when Elsa decided to “let it go”, her outfit suddenly got bizarrely sexy. If I were going to let it go, I’d look at trackies and a baggy jumper.

Is that just me?

5 Comments on “‘Frozen’: story obstacles versus messages”

  1. People tend to focus on the negatives rather than the positives. One of the things that my sister and I talked about was how, although Anna and Elsa’s parents loved their children and meant well, they did the worst possible thing they could have done. They hurt their daughters by not trying to understand Elsa’s abilities. It’s not the overall moral, you’re right about that, but it is a possible moral that some people can get out of it.

    I do disagree with your ideas about Elsa’s costume change though. Her new outfit is just a breakdown of her coronation outfit, and before she ripped her French braid out she was wearing her mother’s hair style. There’s some symbology there. I’m with you on the baggy jumper though.

    • It may be a breakdown of the coronation outfit, but it includes an off-the-shoulder look and a thigh-high split. I’m just not sure that was necessary. (It’s like a lot of Hollywood dresses that get strategically ripped as an action movie progresses.)

      I hadn’t picked up on the hair thing, though; that’s awesome!

  2. Kate Sparkes says:

    “If I were going to let it go, I’d look at trackies and a baggy jumper”


    I totally agree. I think it’s a fantastic movie, even if their parents weren’t the brightest. Did you see the video about how it should have ended? So funny!

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