Frozen is not my favorite Disney movie. There were many things I found just ok, and even downright annoying. However, in the past couple of weeks, fellow bloggers of religious ilk have targeted the movie for its immoral messages or – ready for this? – its hidden gay agenda – of which parents need to beware. I acknowledge their vigilance. I appreciate their courage. I also think they are over-analyzing (this coming from a rabid-analyst) and not giving kids nearly enough credit.
Let’s start with the most reasonable arguments. Some are taking issue with the transformation of Elsa from good girl Elsa into sexy Elsa as well as the lyrics to her anthem, “Let it Go.” I admit, I’m uncomfortable with my girls singing this song over and over at the top of their lungs – which my husband and I discuss in a Podcast on the topic (Reinforcing the Positive Messages Disney Films Teach your Girls).
I happen to agree that the lyrics convey a message of rule breaking and rebellion right alongside those of self-discovery and empowerment. However, I disagree that Disney was doing it subversively, advocating anything insidious, or trying to blur the lines between right and wrong. There is a simultaneous moment of learning and growth going on, but she's also filled with fear, rage and rebellious angst.
Elsa is throwing a tantrum. With a catchy song.
But that’s simplifying - it’s way more than a tantrum – Elsa is taking dangerous steps down the road toward becoming the villain. Luckily, because of the faith, devotion and love of her sister, her journey toward isolation and cruelty is stopped. WHICH IS THE STORY. Instead of Frozen: How the Ice Witch Became Evil – we sort of get, Frozen: The Journey Towards Becoming a Scary Evil Witch and Back Again.
The only thing I can think of to convey what I’m getting at is a Star Wars analogy: if Anakin Skywalker were singing as he turned into Darth Vader, it would be something along the lines of “Let it Go.”
Giggles. I know. The visual of that happening makes me giddy. I'm kind of ridiculous and now I want to write a Star Wars musical. But think about it for a minute. It works. Sort of. An extremely powerful, talented young adult rebelling, pushing limits, wreaking havoc, journey to the dark side, return to the light, in this case, because of his son. (Now I've got the "Tell your sister, you were right about me," line stuck in my head!)
But seriously. Yes, Elsa’s song is powerful. Anger feels powerful. Rebellion feels powerful. Yes, for that moment she feels like she’s on top of the world. She is finally using beautiful talents that have been misunderstood. And Yes, she is absolutely leaving the good girl and rules behind. But the film does NOT advocate this as desirable behavior. Unless you walk out of the movie right there, in which case, I can see your point.
However, shortly after the song during which she truly discovers the wonder of her powers, her talents almost kill her sister then create a monster to throw them off a cliff! Hello. Villain. Just look at her eye makeup – she’s a villain ;) Only Maleficent rocks the eye shadow harder.
Which brings me to her somewhat vampy look people are decrying. Here’s my question I’d like to pose to the board for consideration: If Elsa had started off the movie as THE ICE WITCH, an evil antagonist, and she looked EXACTLY the same as she does in her ice castle scene, would anyone be pitching a fit? Just sayin’
The big difference in this film is, again, that we’re seeing how a villain becomes a villain. We’re getting the back story. The transformation. Not that a tight shiny dress and eye shadow are evil, but hopefully you get my point. Besides, that dress is hardly groundbreaking in the revealing category when you consider Tinkerbell…
Ah, you say, but children are not sophisticated enough to see this. They sing the song, they want to dress up like Elsa, they want to be like her so they’ll think it is ok to leave the “good girl” and “right and wrong” and “rules” behind like Elsa does. To that I respond with two answers.
First, back to Star Wars – pretty sure that every kid ever has dressed up like Vader at some point or another. Pretty sure society is still in tact. Sometimes the villain is just cool. And Elsa pulls herself back from becoming the villain. She shows strength of character to stop that path. Not too bad a morality lesson.
Second, ASK THE CHILDREN! They get it. While us frantic adults run around the internet analyzing and policing, all it takes is a conversation to see that sometimes we’re the blind ones.
Here’s my dinner conversation with my children:
Me: You keep singing that song. What does it even mean?
Chloe: It’s about how Elsa has been locked up in her room and now she’s free to use her powers.
Me: So it’s a good song?
Chloe: Well, sort of – because she’s also running away and doing some bad things too. So she only thinks she’s free. But then, she's not really bad because she's really just a lot scared.Me: She builds an Ice Castle though – that’s pretty cool. And powerful. Is that when she’s most powerful?
Lily: No. She isn’t. Because she can’t control it and she hurts people. She isn’t really powerful until she can control her powers at the end. When she loves her sister she is most powerful.
Hello. Counterarguments anyone?
Out of the mouths of the children themselves. “When she loves her sister she is most powerful.” What are kids getting out of this film? Let’s stop speculating and ASK THEM! As we advocated on the podcast, talking to our children about what they are ingesting from media is the best way to turn it into a positive parenting tool.
As for the gay agenda in the film – I don’t really have much to say. Except if you’re looking for anything, you’ll find it. Magical power to create snow and freeze things is EXACTLY like being gay. Why didn’t I see that? (Where is my sarcasm font when I need it?)
Also, the family gloried in her power UNTIL IT ALMOST KILLED SOMEONE. Only then came the fear. Um, wouldn’t you be afraid? It’s not shaming, it’s protection. And if it is a gay agenda, why make Elsa’s power dangerous. If the film is advocating, the figure representing the agenda would have a talent that is universally positive and misunderstood, rather than one both dangerous and literally and figuratively “cold”.
The gay agenda argument made is simply based on how Elsa is encouraged to hide, and then finally “comes out.” I’m going to blow your mind right here, all of you who believe this. Don’t watch the Little Mermaid. Gay agenda. Being human= being gay. Ariel wants to be human but has to hide it, even from her father. His reaction to her human (gay) tendencies is entirely predictably violent. Only when he accepts that she IS human (gay) do we get the happy ending. Oh wait, don’t watch Beauty and the Beast. Gay agenda. The Beast hides away in his castle afraid of what others will think of him. And when he finally does transform, that hair…totally gay. Wait, wait…Tangled. She’s shut away in a tower because of her special power that must be hidden from the world! The only reason she doesn’t end up special in the end is because her power is destroyed by a man –OH NO – maybe we can watch that one because he fixes her and she is all better. Hey, watch out for Merida – she doesn’t want to get married, and she rides horses and wields weapons… wow, SO gay agenda. Don’t even get me started on Mulan. Oh, that Disney…
All I’m getting at here – facetiously, I admit, is that if you look for it, you can make whatever agenda you’re jonesin on fit whatever you’d like to demonize.
Or we can encourage positivity.
Ask kids what they are learning. Because I think they are more sophisticated than we are sometimes. If they pick up questionable messages, nip it in the bud. But pulling out the positive, the uplifting, and the wholesome teaches our children to do the same - with people and with the world around them. Even though, go ahead and attack me now, I thought Frozen was boring and not nearly the equal of Brave, I love that my girls got out of it that “when she loves her sister she is most powerful.” I’m good with that.