Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The "Frozen" Bandwagon; Whereon Sitting, Our Bums Get Cold

A flurry of criticisms, cross-criticisms, and reasoned posts about the movie Frozen have been spinning around like a swirling storm in the wake of the movie's acclaim. This movie deeply disappointed me, not because of any hidden agenda or scary subtext, but because it wasn't enough. The plot was 100% predictable, I knew exactly what was going to happen before it did, and with such a stunning playground of deep relationships to utilize, it lived far below its potential. (Note: my prediction for the next step is a sequel about Anna's marriage and a love interest for Elsa, which will only ruin it more.)

And yet, despite my disappointment in the outcome, there are a few places that the glorious potential of the storyline peeks out, just to show us what we're missing. I don't want to harp on the disappointing parts, I want to explore that great part, and maybe contradict some of the concerns.

As my friend, J. Max, has pointed out in the above linked article, what makes a great story into a classic story is the universality of application. There is no one message, no "moral of the story." Rather than being about a message, it is about relationships. This is where Wall-E fell entirely flat, and Brave excelled. An ultimate story is not about events, it's about how personalities adapt because of events. It's not about morals, it's about how people interact. The events and morals merely provide structure and packaging. Truly good stories tease out parts of YOU, the viewer, and make you examine them. After inhaling a great story, you leave a better person, motivated to change.

Whether there was a particular moral that the writers of Frozen intended, such as homosexual references, is pointless. I don't care. What matters to me is what the story meant to me.

I related far too well to the principal, Elsa. My whole life, I've wanted to be an Anna. Sure, her bubbly personality was unfairly sequestered along with her sister's, though her prison was somewhat larger. But she was able to rise to the top, still be her beautiful, happy, bubbly, cheerful self. She didn't have to deal with anything worse than boredom and the (to her) inexplicable loss of her best friend. But Elsa, Elsa lived in constant fear and self-criticism. She knew that the very nature of the gift she had been born with would cause fear and censure in everyone around her. And worse, she knew that they were afraid for good reason. Her gift was truly dangerous. And she had no mentor to teach her, only parents who did not understand and, though doing their best, ended up making it harder for her to learn to control what she had been given.

While I have no superpowers, I relate. My passion for life, the intensity with which I approach everything has much the same effect. My hands don't spout freezing wisps, but my mouth spouts offensive words. Constantly. And just like Elsa is immune to her own powers, I don't get offended the way other people do. It's been a constant lifelong struggle to master my powerful feelings, my intensity, and my tongue. I don't often lose control of my emotions any more. Like Elsa's literal gloves, I insulate my true passions and love for life away from everyone else because it can hurt them.

I think many people have something like this. Sure, for some it might be homosexual attraction, for others it might be a temper, a debilitating fear of failure, insecurities about their appearance, conviction of their own lack of intelligence, a lack of guilt or emotion, depression, a desire to not have children despite societal pressure, or a loss of faith. It can be anything of which we feel ashamed, or feel will hurt those around us.

But for me, the message of Elsa's song "Let It Go," was not that it is okay to run away and isolate yourself from the world because of the things in you that can cause pain. It wasn't to just let out all the power that you have, regardless of who gets hurt. That wasn't the end point for her, it wasn't the "Let It Go" song that ended the story. In fact, Elsa herself could never have singlehandedly gained complete power over herself. In both cases, she was a slave to her power and uniqueness. It wasn't until she was shown complete love from her sister that she was able to be herself without fear. At that moment, she was no longer defined by the power within her. She was no longer the girl, ridden with a curse and cowering in her room. Nor was she the woman, afraid to hurt the world, feeling rejected and glorying in her icy independence. She became the sister, the queen and the friend that those around her needed her to be. She was free of fear, the way she needed to be.

To me, the "hidden subtext" doesn't end with personal freedom, it ends with interdependence.

To me, even if the "hidden agenda" WAS intended to be homosexuality, that message of mutual support and interdependence is a message I can fully embrace. It does not celebrate differences, and make individual differences supreme. Rather, individual power and differences fall apart in the face of unselfish and unquestioning love. Bonds of an open heart allow Elsa to conquer herself, become a master rather than a slave of her unique abilities and intrinsic traits. What message could be more Christlike than that?

But either way, even though I may not support or glory in the various internal hidden shames that people may hold, I fully and wholeheartedly embrace the message of fellowship. "Now [we] know" that there is a whole world of people out there who feel similarly trapped by their secret shames. We are not alone. Will we build our icy towers and post monsters at the door to keep out all comers, or will we seek out others in their icy retreats, risk the arrows of those who do not understand, but prove to them all that our love for them is greater than the bonds of death and hell? They are alone and hurting, too.

What are we going to do about it?

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