You would think by now, people would stop talking about FROZEN since the initial “this movie is so progressive for a Disney animated movie” marketing has lost its novelty but thanks to Internet memes, the damned thing keeps rearing its ugly head to remind me of why I was so bored with the movie (and glad to see people finally saying how annoying “Let it Go” is).
Well, since it’s on my mind again, let me reiterate my feelings about FROZEN in a more constructive way than I have in the past. It’s not that I think it’s a horrible movie and I can understand why people liked it but, for me, the things people say they liked about it was pretty much already done (and done better) in a movie called TANGLED. In fact, that was my first reaction when I saw the trailer prior to FROZEN’s release: “Hey, look. Disney is making a new movie that is pretty much TANGLED but with ice.”
To prove my point, let’s take a look at the most common reasons why FRZOEN lovers consider the movie so much better and supposedly more “progressive” than it deserves to be credited for:
1. “Elsa and Anna’s abusive parents”
Really? Abusive? Actually, they were misguided. And can you really blame them? They were at a loss because no one ever prepared them with the idea that one of their children COULD MAKE ICE AT WILL one day. If you have to blame them for anything, they should be called out for making the idiotic decision, when they realized they needed guidance, to go to a bunch of stupid, hairy trolls for advice. Hell, had they not had the dumbass versions of Ewoks giving them bad advice, things may have not turned out the way they did.
Now, this is where TANGLED scores a point (and then some) because the person who Rapunzel thought was her mother WAS A TOTAL BITCH! Cripes, she locked her “daughter” in a tower and would not allow her to see the world in any way and was simply using her as a way to benefit herself. Rapunzel would have been better off had she been born into Elsa’s and Anna’s family. So, like I said, Rapunzel gets one point for this bullet.
2. “Elsa’s self-empowerment”
The problem I have with general reactions to social problems is that when addressed on a general level, people go to extremes. If you are taking a stance against something, instead of the natural growth of a moderate progression to healing and balance, we simply do just the opposite of what we are against. But this is very rarely ever a way to resolve anything. In this instance, Disney wanted to draw in the supporters for a strong independent female character so they made one that was so “strong” that she did not need anyone else. But if you really analyze what she did, that self-empowerment caused even more trouble and hurt many more people than when she was hidden away in her room.
Rapunzel came to the decision that it was time she saw the rest of the world and, in doing so, went against her mother’s wishes and ventured out beyond her tower. But as she did this, she struggled with the guilt of defying her mother, who she loved and believed loved her back in the same way. Then, as she continued on her journey of self-empowerment, she saw that she needed support from others to succeed in this, hence forming strong bonds with those who would be her friends that she did not have before. True self-empowerment is being able to recognize that you have the ability to take charge of your life, which includes the relationships you can have. Elsa’s “self-empowerment” was selfish and self-serving and not what I considered a strong role model for this. Another point for TANGLED.
3. “Anna’s clumsiness, awkwardness and honesty”
Not sure why this one always makes the list. Awkward, clumsiness, and honesty are common traits you can see in lead characters. Maybe not as common with Disney “princesses” but not entirely new (see MULAN, ALICE IN WONDERLAND) and when it comes down to it, Anna’s was to a fault. A fault that nearly killed her and Elsa when she leapt right into an engagement with a man SHE JUST MET. I can’t say I would applaud this character trait if it leads her to making such a huge, selfish mistake (which seems to be the common thread with the lead characters in this film). Her so-called “honesty” caused her to make rash decisions and speak up before she could consider how she should speak up. When people say, “I’m just being honest,” they are often times using this as an excuse to be insulting and condescending instead of understanding and empathetic, which is what Anna (And Elsa) lack in their “honesty”.
Now, Rapunzel was all of this, too, but her actions did not threaten the life of others and it was part of why her growth in being a part of the real world was much more endearing. Also, where with Anna, it was simply a two-dimensional, quirky personality trait, Rapunzel’s clumsy akwardness was incorporated into her actions where, even in one instance, she made a regular kitchen appliance the most sought after weapon of choice in the movie. Rapunzel’s honesty was an awakening and she handled that awakening in a more thought out and strategic approach, which also kept her honest in the fact that she was honest to herself that negotiating with her mother to venture out of the tower would not happen and in doing so, she no longer spoke of it. This is something I think a lot of people in the world could learn from: sometimes, being honest is not the best policy in the general sense of what honesty is. Sometimes keeping it to yourself is a better policy because your honesty may not be required in some instances outside of you merely wanting to be heard, which does not justify everything. Both films technically get a point for this one but because Rapunzel used it better, TANGLED gets the tie-breaker.
4. “Kristoff’s ability to lead next to a strong woman”
Kristoff was a pivotal element for this film because he was the one thing that kept this movie from being a blatant, faux-feministic man-bashing piece of propoganda. Pretty much every man in the film was portrayed as manipulative, greedy, war mongering, stupid, and on and on. Kristoff was the only example of a more complicated heterosexual male character in the film so his presence was key to avoid making the movie so biased that it would not have played well for one of the demographics for the film: all the fathers who had to take their kids to the movie and sit through it with their daughters who would have only seen men as the negative list I mentioned above without the presence of Kristoff.
Again, TANGLED already had this in the character of Flynn long before FROZEN claimed to be so progressive. I don’t believe anyone could argue that Rapunzel was not the strongest character in this film, which she should be because it was her movie, but they made Flynn a complex character who, hidden behind his “macho” facade, he was still a child using his behavior to validate himself, but through his relationship with Rapunzel, he learned that putting his desires below those of others was a more genuine way to be strong. Where Kristoff was simply a device to keep the movie from being 100% biased in its protrayal of men, TANGLED gave us a male character who not only led next to a strong woman, he was able to learn from her. TANGLED takes the point.
5. “Oaken’s gay family”
Similar to point #4, this was another plugin character simply inserted to meet a generic check-off list of things to include so as to distract from the obvious agenda of the film and to score points with the progressive crowd but the fact that it became so talked about so quickly, this only supports that Disney needed this charcter device as a tool and not a necessary character to the development of the story. And who came up with this title? Oaken may have been gay and his partner in the sauna may have been gay but there is no indication that the entire family is gay so the phrase “gay family” is a bit ridculous. I do find it surprising, though, that the snowman who displayed homosexual tendencies is less talked about because if I were playing the marketing strategy card, I would push this character as the “gay one” more because he was more beneficial to the story. So, with that, I believe FROZEN has this covered but everyone seems to be focusing on the wrong one.
TANGLED did not blatantly hit us over the head with this messaging like FROZEN’s PR people did but it was there. The scene where Rapunzel and Flynn go to the bar full of “bad” guys, the musical number “I’ve Got a Dream” lets us meet quite a few of the charcters in the bar, some of which displayed character traits that could be related to their sexual orientation. But because it was more subtle and not brandished all over articles and discussions, I think it was more sucessful because it gave the audience a chance to see a room full of men who were interacting together regardless of sexual orientation while showing us that there quite possibly may have been some gay men in the scene but they did not make that the key trait for us to recognize them by (isn’t that the true meaning of equality, seeing everyone as a person and not a character trait?). Another technical tie, but once again, because TANGLED did it better, the point goes to TANGLED.
6. “Arendelle’s unquestioning acceptance of a queen”
The last two points on this list pretty much go to FROZEN by default because they were not plot elements for TANGLED but to stay consistent, I will address them both in relationship to both films. Yes, this is an important theme in that it should be acceptable for a kingdom to easily accept a queen as the ruler over a king without any qualms and FROZEN does address this. But the thing that FROZEN does that marrs this effort is it writes the queen as resentful, selfish, and angry, all traits that you do not want to see in a leader regardless of gender. With that, this is an example of how some advocates for equality are greatly misguided in the idea that they would much rather see one of their own in a position of power even if the candidate is the wrong person for the job as long as the other person doesn’t get it (even though she/he may even be more qualified when you look at ability over physical attributes). (Unrelated but this is the perfect place to interject this: I would love to see a woman in office at the next presidential election but I will not vote for her just because she is a woman, but only because she is the better candidate. So, let’s get the right woman out there and stop talking about Hilary Clinton in 2016)
For TANGLED, again, this is not a plot element but we can raise the point that in TANGLED, the king is not the all powerful symbol of “strength” and is portrayed as sensitive and emotional to the point that every time you see him, it looks like he is about to burst into tears over how much he misses his daughter and the look on his face when he gets Rapunzel back for the first time chokes me up every time. And behind those big sad eyes in nearly every scene, the one who is there to give the king a boost for understanding and hope and to lend a strong hand of support is the queen. And the kingdom that they rule over appears to be a happy one and peaceful and I can only attribute it to the strenth of the queen in a time when the king is not fully there without his daughter. But, to be fair, FROZEN gets this point because it is the only one that addresses this, but TANGLED has a better representation of the idea.
7. “Everyone’s reaction to Anna’s foolish engagement”
This is one that I would like to see thrown out because, frankly, I feel like it was simply tacked on because the person(s) who originally came up with this list knew that no one simply just stops at six items on a list. Seven is more acceptable and they really needed a seventh one so after really, really reaching for one more “valid” example that FROZEN was so progressive, they came up with this throwaway one. But it is what it is so I’m going to address it. For FROZEN, whoopdi-friggin-doo, someone addressed that they did not agree with the decision. It didn’t stop the decision. In fact, it only made Anna more adamant about going through with it. Seriously, is that something we need to celebrate? This one is masked behind the very thinly veiled idea that this is supposed to be Disney poking fun at itself for how many of their films presumably have young women quickly marrying men they just met, when in reality, the real message is you should be able to express your opinion when you oppose something without having to worry about consequences of what your expression may result in. Isn’t that how we live today? Under the philosophy of I should be able to say whatever the hell I want and if anyone is offended by it, it’s not my problem and they can just ignore me. Sound about right? But the hypocrocy that exists in that ideal is that if you lived by that, then you should just keep your opinion to yourself if it is about disagreeing with someone else’s point of view. Had Elsa been more caring, she would have considered how could she have approached Anna about this rash decision in a way that would not drive her more into the arms of this man she is blindly infatuated with. She would have considered a strategic approach rather than just blurting out how she felt right then and there. But that is besides the point because the conceit here is that her expressing that she disagreed is the progressive display here, so with that, yes, FROZEN meets the qualification. But then, since the other Disney movies never show that people did not agree (or agree, for that matter), we can’t really say that this is the first time it has ever happened. It’s simply the first time it was written into the scene where in the past, no one really thought about it otherwise because young lovers will do whatever the hell they want to do no matter if your opposition is vocal or not. I think I can confidently say this is pretty true in reality and so whether or not Elsa expressed it is a moot point and is simply another device used by the author of this list to trick viewers into believing this movie is so ahead of its time in its boldness and daring messages.
Having said that, again, this doesn’t apply to TANGLED because Rapunzel and Flynn did not get married right away and based on Flynn’s telling of it, their marriage did not happen until years later (in which HE chased her). But because I still believe this is a throwaway point and TANGLED did demonstrate a healthy length of time before the two got married, it is a much more progressive approach to the young lovers’ union than any wishy washy Elsa was so honest bullcrap, I’m giving this point to TANGLED for not being so obvious in its handling of this subject.
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So where does this leave the final tally? It looks like FROZEN got 1 out of 7 through a technicality and TANGLED got 6 out of 7, so, although this is going to seem like an overstatement, TANGLED wins at being more progressive than FROZEN and, in doing so, making FROZEN an unnecessary product in the social awareness agenda because Disney already did it, not only previously, but better the first time around. Now, I have to make it clear that this is merely an evaluation of an idea that is widely accepted in which I feel like is giving credit to a movie that really doesn’t deserve it. As far as whether it is a bad movie or not, well, that is subjective and although I did not care for it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good for anyone who likes it. Fortunately, for this household, the other day when I asked my son if he wanted to watch FROZEN (since he had already watched TANGLED about a gazillion times and FROZEN only about 1 and a half times), he simply said, “No. I don’t like FROZEN.” From the mouth of babes.