Thursday, January 9, 2014

a little late on the uptake

(spoilers will follow. just so you know.)

i really don't like animated movies. especially in recent years. the only ones that managed to impress me probably in the last decade were Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. this was because, hello, they were/are hilarious. and clever. and original. and fun. and i can just watch/quote them over and over. meanwhile, i hated Up, Brave, Cars, Tangled, Wall-E, The Princess and the Frog--pretty much anything animated and/or for children. it just felt more of the same (tangled) or just way too out there (up) and i just...yeah. so much vitriol. that i couldn't even explain.

so when i saw disney had plans to release another princess movie--called Frozen--i rolled my eyes and swore i would never see it. because disneyland is getting way too crowded with these uninspired and unoriginal princesses flouncing about. plus, let's be honest, the trailers for frozen sucked. seriously, the worst ever.

but then it was getting some talk on the feminist front. which i didn't really buy into at first because people thought tangled and the princess and the frog were feminist and, while i appreciate the effort, those didn't really hit home for me in any meaningful way. mostly because they were so cookie-cutter disney with the meet-cute's muddled with disdain, quirky/awkward leads who still needed a boyfriend to feel fulfilled, and the penultimate true love kiss right before...marriage. marriage after mere days.

ah, there's the rub.

but i did what any self-respecting movie aficionado without interest in actually seeing the movie does: i read the spoilers. and when i liked what i read, i youtube'd it. and i watched the clip of Idina Menzel's character belting out--quite beautifully, i might add--"Let It Go." and while my inner feminist purred, the inner child gasped at just how pretty the animation was.

so then i went. and...i loved it. so i saw it again. and i bought the soundtrack. and i tell everyone to watch it. and i gladly defend it to anyone who will listen. because i think it's so good.

regardless of structure, script, or characterization--which i think is all impressive--i just think it's so good that there's a story out there that's so utterly unromantic. where love is more charitable than starry-eyed; where the men are mere side characters [warning: some language] rendered relatively useless to the true heroes' transformations; where two women with completely different personalities and desires have to discover and decide who they'll be.

and where disney makes fun of itself in such a subtle, clever, self-aware way that finally sheds the archaic, traditional tropes.

honestly, in the beginning, it's everything you think a disney movie will be. parents die, girls blossom into beautiful princesses, and one of them prays to meet a perfect prince to sweep her off her feet. and when she does, it all happens in one sweet-as-cotton-candy ditty that is just everything disney (while still being clever).

but then the story shifts. because as anna tries to tie the bow on her happily ever after with the expected marriage to the charming and pleasantly perfect Hans, her sister says because contrary to disney tradition, love doesn't happen in one song over one night. and neither sister takes that well, so off elsa storms (literally. as she sends the entire country into an icy winter) and anna rushes after her. a part empowering in and of itself since most princesses simper for at least a while until being told what to do. but anna charges fearlessly forward, meets another guy, kristoff, whom she interacts with with easy determination. and when she explains what set elsa off, she gets an earful about how infatuation isn't love, and how love is much...more.

sure, throughout the movie, anna is a bit bumbling, easily excitable, and a very naive girl who thinks, you know, merely talking to her sister will fix things, and that it's her business to tell people (or snow monsters) that it's not nice to throw things. she's usually a little slow on the uptake. pretty the bitter end. but that's what is so great about her as a character: she's human. you know, flawed. this is a girl who doesn't quite know how to understand emotion, having been kept locked up in the palace with only her cold (literally) sister and her ever-fearful parents. who then...die. she has no idea what it is to be excited (or if it's merely gassy) and so she can't be expected to understand love or appreciate the layers of it. but the beautiful thing is, she learns. and she keeps trying to learn. so, eventually, she does. mostly thanks to her good ole snowman friend, olaf.

people discount olaf as the comedic relief. which he is, and adorably so. but i think he's also a representation of the girl's innocence, a literal reincarnation of their childhood joy. and he becomes the source on what love is exactly because he understands it from that childlike perspective. where it's not selfish or calculated, but just...pure. without ulterior motive. so when he says kristoff loved her enough to leave her forever, anna doesn't first understand because anna's never loved like that before--or at least she doesn't realize she has. love to her is loud, boisterous dance numbers at fancy balls where the champagne flows and the chocolate keeps on coming.

yeah, try again, anna.

but the thing is, even when olaf tells her kristoff loves her, it's still a very simple kind of love. so when olaf sees kristoff racing back and he ruefully declares "I guess he didn't love you enough to disappear forever" there's truth to that too. because even though anna goes racing after him, and him to her, i don't think had she chosen him on the ice that it would have worked.

true love's kiss? please, that's so 1937. 

in that moment, the only person anna loved--the only one she knew enough to love--was her sister, elsa. because she'd been swept up in mere infatuation with hans, and she'd categorized kristoff as only a friend. she hadn't had time to reexamine those feelings or that understanding. so, really, it was only elsa that she loved. and that's why she turned to save her on the ice. and that's what saved her. and that's why it saved elsa.

and that's why frozen is awesome.

also, it didn't end in a wedding. props to them for avoiding that one entirely. in fact, it only had a wonderfully, realistically, adorably awkward first kiss that was kind of an afterthought for these two friends tiptoeing shyly--and carefully--into new territory. one that has kristoff asking rather than just assuming he can kiss her. thank you. they're still figuring things out, and that's okay. in fact, it's completely irrelevant to the real story: which is about two women finding themselves and each other. so the last shot of the film focuses on the two sisters ice skating together, each celebrating their own version of freedom (from fear and oppression), as they're chased about by olaf, the representation of innocence and the memory of unadulterated love between two sisters.

too much? maybe. but i love it. and i think it's worth talking about and reading into because, yes, surface level it's a fun, funny, clever film that everyone can engage in. but there's also depth to it. and a conscious effort on the filmmakers' part, i think, to step out from the shadow of traditional disney romances. they do break new ground, but they do it in a subtle, natural, silly way so you're not left rolling your eyes at the obviousness of their ulterior motive.

(i'm looking at you, wall-e.)

so go see it. or don't. i probably will again. and i'll keep "let it go" on repeat. oh, and i'll watch this about a thousand more times because there's nothing more adorable than a bunch of girls singing a princess song that has nothing to do with wanting anything more than to be themselves. just saying.

1 comment:

  1. i stilllllll haven't seen frozen! now i need to more than ever. also, that video is so insanely cute.