‘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?

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Disney girls, aka “Meg’s the best; forget the rest”…

My son has recently been watching old Disney movies. The most recent one on the repeat cycle has been the 1997 movie Hercules. He loves it because Hercules is really strong and beats up monsters, something a little boy who’s afraid of the dark can fully appreciate.

I like it, though, because it’s the only Disney “princess” movie where the leading lady isn’t a sweet little princess. In fact, I doubt she’s actually a princess, although they never reveal anything about her family origins.

I realised, watching it, that Meg was my ideal novel protagonist as well. She’s sassy and self-sufficient, not innocent and naive (and probably not a virgin, although this is Disney so that’s suggested rather than stated outright). She does her damnedest to take charge and get herself out of problems, although that sometimes gets her straight into them. Which is called life, really—we all do it.

Image copyright Disney

The image copyright belongs to Disney

When you compare her to the other Disney girls, she’s streets ahead. Some of them aren’t too offensive as female role-models (Jasmine is ok; at least she’s trying to have some independence, even if it’s not working); others make me deeply uneasy (Belle, although I love her bookish habits, basically teaches girls that if you love a man enough he’ll be “cured” of his abusive tendencies; Cinderella teaches girls the only way out of a shitty home situation is through marriage).

My characters come with varying levels of sass, but so far I haven’t had a wet noodle for a main character, and I don’t intend to start.

Here are a few choice quotes from Meg:

Hercules: “Aren’t you … a damsel in distress?”
Meg: “I’m a damsel, I’m in distress. I can handle this. Have a nice day.”

Meg: “I’m a big tough girl. I tie my own sandals and everything.”

Hercules: “You know, when I was a kid, I would have given anything to be exactly like everybody else.”
Meg: “You wanted to be petty and dishonest?”

Who’s your favourite kids movie leading lady and why?