Friday, April 4, 2014

"Frozen" (2013)

My second-favorite scene in “Frozen” is the one where Olaf is introduced and he sings his little song about summer. Olaf is more than just a comic-relief or a distraction for boys in this Disney Princess movie; he is a clear distillation of the struggle that all the characters in this film have, and the message that this story is trying to deliver. He holds a dangerous and false belief dear. Olaf thinks that summer and warmth must be the most wonderful things for a snowman to experience. He does so out of a misunderstanding about love. He thinks love is a feeling, much like the warmth of summer must be. Kristoff wants to tell the snowman that he is mistaken, and that his dream is a deadly one. But, it is a cute and even sweet lie, so Anna doesn’t want Olaf to know he is wrong.

This film is full of characters with fundamental misunderstandings about love and the world, and the film is so subtle and clever in the way that it sets up its lesson that I am not sure the target audience (kids and Disney loving adults) gets it. Oh sure, they see the clear and in-your-face message in the moment of its delivery in the film’s climax, but in the lead-up most of the audience is right there with the characters caught in the lies. And that is likely because Disney has long been the biggest proponent of those very misunderstandings.

Love is a feeling. Emotion will never betray you in the end. You need to fulfill your own desires and needs and not let others hold you back. If you follow your dreams, even by betraying or ignoring all the figures of wisdom or authority in your life, everything will work out fine.

Anna thinks that romantic love is the answer to her loneliness. Elsa is told at first that she must become someone she is not protect them from her dangerous power. (This is a belief given to her by the Trolls who think the solution to a problem is to create a lie in Anna’s mind and for Elsa to willfully be someone she is not, and not capable of becoming.) Later, Elsa buys into the lie that the true solution is not to turn off her dangerous power, but to be alone so she can let it control her without consequences. She embraces loneliness.

Of course, my favorite moment comes at the end, when the film reveals the truth that all the characters (and the audience) need to discover. I was cringing when it appeared as though the film was headed for that Disney cliché of “true love’s kiss.” However, when it throws that away in the realization that the act of true love is self-sacrifice, it is a wonderful moment. From that point on everything becomes clear. Elsa is finally able to control her power (not hinder it or be controlled by it) by having her motivation be the good of others. She quits worrying about protecting or not hurting people and begins to help them. She and Anna can have a right relationship again. The kingdom is healed, relationships are made whole, and bad motivations are exposed to light because love (putting others first) becomes the guiding principle.

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