Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Why I Hope My Children Never Watch Frozen (or most Disney Princess movies)
Have you ever had the experience of inundation? Where it seems like every circle in your life coincides on some similar theme? Maybe you saw a commercial for a new car, then had your husband surreptitiously point it out on the road and then the same make and model is brought up as a talking point at book club. Or maybe you started eating some new, hip vegetable. Not kale, kale is so last year. Oh, I don't know, let's say escarole or purple carrot or fennel. Whatever. So you're chomping raw fennel when someone pins twenty fennel recipes and then Dr. Oz (is he even still on?) highlights fennel and then you see a grocery ad that features fennel on sale! Okay, so you get the idea of inundation. At least that is what I am calling it. So it was for Tim and me regarding Disney's newest Princess feature: Frozen. We were being inundated with the have you seen its? In fact, just this morning at Pre-school story time at the Temecula Library, a little girl was prompted to tell Ms. Ginger what themed birthday party she would be having. Can you guess? Frozen.
So, after Tim heard some co-worker fathers singing the Frozen songs, and I got through about three seconds of a hideously nails-on-a-chalkboard attempt to watch a viral video, and we heard from family members on both sides that it was "cute" and "fun and good", Tim rented the video from Redbox intending to screen it for our girls.
So, what is wrong with Frozen? Well, there are lots of simple little points. On a base level, it is very dramatic. From the swelling music to the mean prince who betrays Anna, oh and the scary ice monster that chases Anna and Kristoff and the non-sequitorial reaction of Elsa to completely lock Anna out (I get it, she's "frozen") FOR YEARS. That's probably enough already to keep me from letting my 4 and 3 year old watch it. But what's really wrong with it? Here's my issues:
1. Parents are unnecessary and even dangerous.
This is not a new idea coming from Disney. In fact, where is there even two good parents? It's almost not a Disney movie unless the parents are dead. And if you parents aren't dead, they are stupid (Belle's father), controlling (Triton, Chief Powhatan, Jasmin's father, Mulan's father), abusive (Cinderella's step-mother and Snow White's step-mother) or just gone (Rapunzel's parents, Sleeping Beauty's parents, Cinderella's parents). I cannot speak for The Princess and the Frog or Brave since I have not seen them, but I am sure they follow a similar plot line. For Frozen, in particular, the father is so controlling and fearful that he essentially steals away the relationship between the two daughters and mentally steels his eldest in a cold, dark, frozen world where she can never do anything to hurt anyone again. And the mother is so passive and weak that she is willing to go along with the destruction of the family for the sake of safety? I'm just not even sure what the mom is thinking.
2. The independent-self is glorified.
It is only once the victim is able to break free from her chains, see herself for who she truly is and negate the need for others or community can she become her actualized self. It was particularly succinct for Tim and I when we heard Elsa sing these lyrics "Don't let them in, don't let them see/ Be the good girl you always have to be/ Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know.../Turn away and slam the door./I don't care what they're going to say…./Let it go, let it go/ You'll never see me cry/I'm never going back; the past is in the past." First comment: that's rude. If my girls ever slammed the door in each others' faces or had the attitude that they don't have to live in community nor even care about that community, I would hope we could dialogue about that. Second: What kind of attitude in face and demeanor accompanies a heart filled with such selfishness? It's easy as mothers to see our children's hears come to the surface: it's in their faces, in their actions and it's evident in these scenes wherein Elsa changes into the ice-queen. She slicks back her hair, struts seductively through her castle and gets to reign supreme with none to bother her.
3. Elsa never apologizes. She shouldn't have to…
This is an ideological crux in the movie: Elsa is justified in her actions because of her past history. In the same above mentioned song, Elsa also thunders: "No right/no wrong/ no rules for me." And because she has found her true self, no one can question her decisions. She has only herself to answer to. This premise leads her to abandon her queenly duties, including approving her sister's marriage. Although the supposed marriage was better off not recognized, it's a minor note about what Elsa truly does. Much like Kate Chopin's Edna of The Awakening, Elsa's character is powered by her own selfish interest with not much thought to the wake of destruction she leaves behind. But, isn't this what the roaring feminist wants? To never apologize for being "bossy" (popularized by Lifetime). To never need answer to anyone else but her own heart. When you only answer to yourself, you don't have to apologize for hurting others. Now I don't know about you, but I am constantly shepherding and discipling my children in the art of forgiveness and apologizing--the act of admitting you were wrong and in need of restoration--is something we are constantly working on. I apologize all the time to my children. Why? Because, I'm wrong. I sin. I give in to the temptation of frustration and agitation. I make mistakes and because I value the relationships I have with my family, I ask them to acknowledge with me the transgressions my actions have caused and restore the progression toward godly peace and unity. That flies in the face of society opposed to judgement. Judging is a tool, like a pencil. It is a lens we use to determine moral from immoral and identify. One can pick up a pencil and send words of healing or gratitude or record history or create new worlds and yet, another ail pick up the same pencil and gouge their freaking eye out with it. The pencil isn't destructive in itself. But to judge, one must be willing to make an assessment of actions and deem them either appropriate and acceptable or not. This necessitates an objective to which the action is evaluated. You don't get a high mark on an essay and not know why. At least not in my class. Why? Because I have a rubric of assessment that is measurable and more objective than a simple "feeling" I get while grading a paper. I make judgements every day--in very simplistic ways and in much more critical life-altering junctions too-- and I do judge other Christians. I leave the judgement of unbelievers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Regardless, what Disney and society purports at large is that judgement should have no place in life. Elsa must be forgiven and tolerated and accepted because she is free under her own right. She has rescued herself from a prison and is not bound to anyone's evaluation but her own.
Ultimately, the movie is far too frightful and the morality far too convoluted for children. Personally, as a Christian, I would not want my daughters to see this movie. Not because I believe Elsa is a lesbian coming out, as many articles suggest. Not because there are no diversity of people groups in this snow-bound movie (everything is white. everything.). Not because they would be frightened by scary parts and very sad to see the two sisters fighting and Elsa fatally wound Anna. I wouldn't want any girl from a Christian family to see it because Elsa epitomizes a humanistic anarchist who is in need of rescue. Of course, I can see the argument for Anna's Christ-like archetype, but we don't need to glorify Elsa's depravity with sparkles and magic and slutty shimmering dresses. And that is the problem. Elsa is beautiful, she is a princess. She is magical and little girls want to emulate that.
I wasn't going to write this blog, but it was actually an article from the Atlantic Monthly about a father's struggle to keep all things princess out of the house that pushed me over the edge regarding the Princess/Frozen/Disney conundrum I was skirting of the last month. He details how he didn't want any Disney-licensed characters around, he tries--in vain-- to escape what he calls the "Princess Industrial Complex". But in the end, it's his desire for a career-minded daughter that swells under his fervor to eschew all things sparkly-princess. I couldn't help but laugh at the similarities between his quest and our own as parents. We have tried for years to keep the girls away for Disney princesses. We didn't tell them their names, we gave away the books we received as gifts, we have avoided Disneyland and obviously, they have never seen a Disney princess movie. All these attempts crumbled away as the girls started to read, and as their interest in all things Disney Princess grew. Princess books showed up time and again in the nightly bedtime reading and I couldn't pass up the costumes at Costco for Halloween. Then Gracen wanted a Disney princess party...even though she's never even seen a movie. We caved. But the reasons for our desire to avoid princess and the author of the article to avoid princess couldn't be more different. He argues that he wants his daughters to focus on careers and cast off the princess "trope [that] represented passivity, entitlement, materialism, and submissiveness". Instead they should focus on what Abby Cadabby learned in a conversation with Sonia Sotomayor in a Sesame Street episode: "a princess is not a career. "A career," Sotomayor explains, "is a job that you train and prepare for, and that you plan to do for a long time."
And here comes the divergence from Disney and Hinds article: Almost every little girl loves princess stuff and innately wants to be a princess. I do want my daughters to be princesses. I am a princess; because I am daughter to the King of kings. I am His beloved in whom He is well pleased and should my daughters eyes and hearts be open, they will submit their lives to Christ and become princesses too. And I want my princesses to be trained and prepared to rule in a way that is godly, merciful and just and to do it for a long time. So, in a sense, I do want them to be career princesses. Regardless of whether they are in school, at home or on a job, my girls should conduct themselves as daughters of the king. Unlike Elsa, who shirks her familial obligations in search of herself, I hope my daughters can see the error of this path. They must be so aware, so found in the identity of their self in Christ that they realize that servanthood, not selfishness makes a true princess. That living in community, not isolation makes a true princess. That love, not fear makes a true princess.
I hope all who read this and claim Christ will re-evaluate whether Frozen will be seen more than once (if at all) by their own princesses.