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Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Part in Frozen No One is Talking About



Let's get this out of the way. I love "Frozen." It is probably my favorite Disney movie since "The Lion King." It holds a special place in my heart as the first movie my daughter (3) has ever sat through. It holds an even more special place as the first movie my daughter has sat through 3 times. So let's talk about what I love about it first. Spoilers ahead for those who haven't seen the film.

For too long in movies, true love has been something that a princess must obtain.  And not just obtain from anywhere, obtain from a man. It is a gift he gives her. In early Disney Princess mythology it was as literal as a kiss. The prince wakes Sleeping Beauty with a kiss. The prince saves Snow White with a kiss.  Ariel has to earn her legs by getting Prince Eric to kiss her. So when in "Frozen", after accidentally getting iced in the heart by her Ice Queen sister, Princess Anna must race back to her "True Love" (whom she had just met a day or so earlier and has had 0 quality time with) to get his magic, lifesaving "kiss", I rolled my eyes. Here we go again. The music was amazing. The story of Anna trying to connect with her sister was captivating. And now it had all been reduced to another "dude saves the princess with a kiss story." But then the writers threw in the first big twist.

Anna's "true love" turns out to be an opportunistic douchebag who just wanted to marry her because she was a princess.  He was never in love with her, and his kiss would have been lame anyway. But now Anna is going to die unless she finds an act of true love! Luckily another gentlemen, the kind and attentive Kristoph is galloping down the mountain and across the frozen fjords to lay a big smooch on Anna's lips before she turns to ice! Oh well, at least Anna spent more than a half an hour with Kristoph before he became her only hope for salvation. I had still hoped for more… and then more happened. 

Opportunistic Douchebag goes after Anna's older sister, Queen Elsa, with a sword intent on killing her and usurping the throne. Anna sees this about to happen and turns from a quickly approaching Kristoph to go and save her. Suddenly we all realize what has been happening the whole time. This isn't a love story between Anna and Douche Canoe. It isn't even a love story between Anna and Kristoph. This is a love story between Anna and her sister! In her final moment Anna sacrifices her life to save her Elsa. True love is her gift to give. And through it, she is saved. 

Bravo! Genius! Empowering! I was honestly moved to tears. Here is a movie I can show my daughter over and over again. It has depth and thought behind it. It is beautiful. But wait, the movie isn't over. 

After Anna is resurrected by the giving of love, not the receiving, and after the fjords melt and the endless winter is ended, everyone is standing around on a boat having a nice time. Suddenly, Douchenozzle Liar Prince is found on the deck. After being properly restrained, I am sure he will be punished according to the law of the magical cartoon kingdom. Anna and Elsa have reconnected and all is well in the world. Aaaaand then Anna punches Prince Doucherton of Douchetonia violently in the face sending him flying into the water. Everyone smiles in the movie. Everyone laughs in the theater. My daughter laughs. I sit silent. 



Stick with me here. Aside from being a princess, there is nothing inherently female about the character of Anna. She is human. She wants love. She wants to connect with her sister. She wants companionship. All of those character details are non-gender-specific. If Disney had wanted to, Princess Anna could have easily been Prince Adam. Aside from changing the key of a few of the songs, they wouldn't have even had to change the script. Well, except for violently punching a member of the opposite sex in the face. They probably would have to change that. What if, at the end of the movie, the opportunistic Mrs. Douchette had been found on the deck of the boat, defeated and readily available to provide contextual closure to her part of the plot line, and the beautifully written, rendered, and character developed Prince Adam had proceeded to punch her directly in the face? I doubt there would have been as much laughter in the theater. 

Look. I know I'm being a bit nitpicky. And really, it is just another part of the movie that will inspire conversation between my daughter and I. And I realize there are hundreds of other examples of female on male comedic violence in movies that I have probably enjoyed and not critiqued in the past. It's just… it's just that "Frozen" is so good, and so smart, and so wonderful, that the one, completely unneeded punch in the face took me out the world that Disney had worked so hard for the previous two hours creating. It wasn't necessary, and it sent the wrong message that violence against men is a joke - which it isn't. 

I still love the movie. I still think Disney is working hard to move the idea of "princess" from one of entitlement to one of empowerment. That is wonderful, and I support it. Maybe just do it without needless, non-self-defensive punching of men in the face - even if they are horrible, lying douchebags.

Love, Dad (John)

Yadda yadda yadda... find me on Facebook!

PS: I probably don't need to say this again, but I really do love the movie. I think it is spectacular. I just think the punch warrants further discussion. Please feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments. I don't have a monopoly on being right :)


45 comments:

  1. I have not yet seen this movie but I applaud your stance on this. This is an ALL too common theme in a lot of shows and movies for all ages. It makes it really hard to teach kids no hitting when it is ok for a girl to hit a boy, but never a boy to hit a girl. In self defense I think it should ALWAYS be acceptable to stop an attacker, however that needs to be done. Otherwise, I think it is completely inappropriate. Thank you again for writing this!

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    1. Thanks Cassy! I still think you should see the movie. It really is wonderful. The punch is but a tiny miss step in a huge and wonderful step forward. I just thought it warranted discussion.

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    2. Oh we will own it once it comes out. My kids are going to see it Sunday with their Auntie Nea. I was not trying to imply the movie was scrapped in our house. Too many funny snowman moments for the kids to let that happen! ;)

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  2. I agree. True equality is "If its not ok for a guy to do it, it shouldn't be ok for a girl to do it either and visa versa!"

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  3. I actually thought the ending was weird for different reasons: the evil Ginger prince openly admitted to be working towards hers and her sister's deaths. He was EEEEVVVVIIILLLL I know I'm probably part of the cultural problem here, I'm very American when it comes to wanting to see justice done. That punch in the face was the least that he deserved. From my perspective, he deserved much, much worse. I like how strong Anna is and i'm happy that she punched him in the face.

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    1. I love how strong Anna is too, but she showed her strength in the moments before when she sacrificed herself to save her sister. That was the whole point of the movie, that love and the ability to connect is the strength. I just think punch went completely against the themes the writers worked so hard to establish. That said, it is a FANTASTIC movie. I don't think the punch ruined it, I just think it was poorly thought out.

      I'm curious though! Why did you think the ending was weird?

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  4. This is great. In all of the conversations I've seen about this movie, I hadn't heard this angle. My son saw the movie and loved it. Violence against men in media is a tough one because it's EVERYWHERE. And nothing forces people to draw a line in the sand more than engaging in the "women are equal --- don't hit a woman" argument.

    Great insight man, thanks for speaking up.

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  5. Oh there are other things to critique about this movie too. Princesses. White people. I guess Disney has set the bar so low with female characters that anything seems better. Also, I'm not so sure about your point with comedic violence. Men perpetuate comedic violence in film and kids movies constantly. We see violent things happen to women in cartoons all the time. Medusa. What about the Dwarves driving Maleficent off the ravine? I get your point. But if you put the movie in context, I don't think your point is as salient.

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    1. Are you saying that Disney only has white princesses? If so you may want to check out The Princess and The Frog.

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    2. Also Princess Jasmine from Aladdin. And Pocahontas. And Mulan. Granted a small few, but there are some.

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    3. The story of Frozen was written by Hans Christian Anderson, who was a German author. Frozen is set in Germany, for all intents and purposes. It makes more sense to have the girls be white, given the history behind the actual story. Brave is set in Scotland; Scots are usually light in color. Little mermaid; also another Anderson classic. It makes more sense to make the movies realistic for the time period and location. If Disney made Jasmine a blonde and named her Jessica, or had Mulan with red hair named Mary, I could see your point being more valid.

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    4. Also, the dwarves and Maleficent are from two different movies........

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    5. We Germans would love to take credit for Hans Christian Andersen, but he is Danish. That's why the statue of The Little Mermaid is in Copenhagen, not in Berlin. Olaf, Sven, Elsa are Scandinavian names. We also don't have many fjords in Germany as were featured in Frozen (we have exactly zero, actually).

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  6. Loved your perspective. Made me want to see the movie myself. Like you, I like to use movies like this as conversation starters.

    http://isaiah3020.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=535&action=edit

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  7. get over your self it's a movie!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. But movies are what kids know. They idolize these characters and they create thought patterns whether we even realize it or not. It is at least something worth a conversation, and John isn't saying it isn't still a valuable and entertaining movie.

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    2. Totally agree. It is a movie. And I do need to get over myself... for many reasons that aren't this article. But to Lauren's points, movies I show my kids aren't "just" movies. At least I don't want them to be. I want them to be conversation starters. I want them to be ways for me to connect with my kids, not just distract them for a couple hours. So yeah, I'm being nit-picky. I think I said that in the piece. But I like being nit-picky sometimes, it helps me learn. Thanks for your comment though!

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  8. First of all, I think that Anna's character does indeed need to be female to fit the central themes of the film. Frozen is as much a reaction to the other Disney Princess films as it is anything else. The classic Disney trope that has been ripped on for decades is that the weak female character relies on the strong male character to save her and they live happily ever after. One of the most important parts of Frozen was the direct subversion of that trope. Anna thinks that she needs to find true love from a guy, but it turns out that familial love is what saves her. You change Anna into a guy and Kristoph into a girl and this doesn't hit nearly as hard.

    Regarding the punch, I think that you are overreacting here. Your theme here seems to be why is it ok for a girl to punch a guy but not for a guy to punch a girl, and that neither should be ok. However, if you flip the scene so that Anna is a guy and punches Hans (who is still a guy), I don't think you'd be writing this blog. Male-on-male violence is incredibly prevalent, but we're so used to it on screen that we don't really care, its only when the violence is cross-gender that you become upset. I don't think you can really honestly get upset about Anna punching Hans without getting upset about all other violence against males, because ultimately there is no difference what the source of the violence is.

    If your real concern here is violence in general, then thats fine, but if you're upset about Anna punching Hans simply because she is a girl, then if you're being intellectually honest you should also be upset with any other violence regardless of where it comes from.

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    1. Thank you for this comment! Your first paragraph is spot on. I agree. My point was not that the movie would be the same with a male instead of a female. Just that Anna's character attributes are not stereotypically gender specific. You are absolutely right that the message and point of the movie would not have come through had she been male.

      I disagree with your second paragraph. First off, with the assertion that I'm overreacting. I think that the punch didn't fit in with what the message of the movie and that it warrants discussion. I'm not sure how that is an overreaction, unless any reaction is an overreaction. I went out of my way to explain that it by no mean ruins the movie, but I do think that thematically it doesn't fit with what the movie works so hard to accomplish up to that point.

      "Your theme here seems to be why is it ok for a girl to punch a guy but not for a guy to punch a girl, and that neither should be ok. However, if you flip the scene so that Anna is a guy and punches Hans (who is still a guy), I don't think you'd be writing this blog."

      That dichotomy is certainly part of my point, but it isn't all of it. To be fair, my point is my responsibility to make, not your responsibility to get - so I could have formed my argument better. If Kristoph had punched Hans instead of Anna, or if Anna had been male and punched Kristoph, I still think it would have detracted from the movie. Up until that point, there was no aggressive violence from the protagonists of the movie (that I can recall, correct me if I'm wrong). Having that punch was uncharacteristic and antithetical to the overall message of the movie. That the punch was played for laughs is where I think the issue of gender comes into it. Had a male Anna or Kistoph performed the punch, it would have been accepted as violent justice but without the laugh. I think the reasoning for that is worth exploring. I'm not coming at this from a weird MRA standpoint. Why a female punching a male is funny says as much about our bias against women as it does how we feel about men.

      Lastly,

      "If your real concern here is violence in general, then that's fine, but if you're upset about Anna punching Hans simply because she is a girl, then if you're being intellectually honest you should also be upset with any other violence regardless of where it comes from."

      My concern isn't with violence in general. I could have made that clearer, but like I mention earlier in the piece, there are probably endless other examples of violence that I haven't reacted to negatively. My concern was how that violence, in that moment in the movie was poorly times and did not support the message I think the writers worked so hard, and succeeded, to get across up to that point. Everyone expected Anna to punch Hans. It would have been another genius twist if Anna had just said "It's your heart that is frozen," visibly thought about punching Hans, and walked away. That would have fit their message.

      Anyway, thank you again so much for your comment. Contrary to a lot of people on the web, I love it when people disagree with me - especially with comments like yours. I'm always open to being wrong, or kind of right, or less wrong...

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    2. "Why a female punching a male is funny says as much about our bias against women as it does how we feel about men."

      Bullseye!

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  9. So many great comments here and on Facebook! Thank you so much everyone.

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  10. One thing that struck me about the ending was that it felt very harsh. We had read the story countless times before we saw the movie so my daughter and I knew that Hans turned out to be a jerk (jerk was the most appropriate word I could come up with for a 4 year old to describe him.) Even knowing it was coming, I thought the way he berated Anna when he told her why he decided to target her was heavy for your typical Disney movie. I mean, Mother Gothel verbally and emotionally abuses Rapunzel, including calling her fat in the Mother Knows Best song, but it's nowhere near as blatant.

    I agree that had the genders been swapped, the slap would have been a national controversy. I also agree with the "violence is never the answer" mantra. However, I did think the slap made sense within the already harsh context. I was proud that Anna stuck up for HERSELF - I would have been more upset by the slap if it came from Elsa or worse, Kristoff, stepping in to avenge Anna.

    Also, a general comment about Disney movies. They are all pretty violent. But oddly, having watched the classics (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty) and the newer classics (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King) as a child and a teenager, I didn't remember how violent they were until I started re-watching them with my children. I remember absolutely adoring The Lion King and thinking about how great the music was and how funny it was and then sitting down to watch it and being horrified. It makes me wonder if kids REALLY do read into/retain things at the level adults do.

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  11. I overall agree with Michelle about Anna having stuck up for herself. It was another point being made that a princess can handle her own battles and Kristoff doesn't need to storm in and handle the 'villain' afterwards even. That said, you're right about the punch (specifically followed by an overboard result) was meant for laughs too. If she had just punched him, the theatre wouldn't have laughed nearly as much as the resulting splash that make the kids chuckle. Perhaps pushing him overboard would have received the same results from the kids but appeased the less violent option? Considering that man had just held a sword above her sister's head literally, and was still nearby and able to be a threat (though visibly was not threatening at that particular moment) I'd say he deserved a lone punch from the woman he mistreated and left to die in a cold room. Does that send the best message to my kids about not needing revenge? No way. Does it show them that they are allowed to hit? Not if I'm parenting them appropriately because as you've said, this makes a good conversation point.

    Lastly, does anyone else find it ridiculous that this man attacks a QUEEN let alone attempts to speed up the death of a Princess and he is simply tossed on a ship and sent home to his older brothers for punishment of whatever sort? Anyone else remember him claiming treason as a shield while he was ruling and implying that the penalty of this crime would be death and allowable in that kingdom? Yeah...a punch and a non-luxurious ride home seems like he got off easy....Still, not a great message with the punch, but I'm not impressed that we didn't show some more serious consequence for attempted murder...

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  12. John,
    First off, I love your blog.

    Second, I agree wholeheartedly. He could have slipped and fallen over and iy would have accomplished the same end... his comeuppance.

    I also wish that when Elsa finally ttransformed during the Let it Go scene she would have looked larger than a size 0....

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  13. What stood out to me was two very clear references to Arrested Development. The "finish each other's sandwiches" line could have been coincidence had it not been for the little old bad-guy doing Lindsay's Chicken Dance.

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  14. A little more 'food for thought'. This movie was NOT rated "G".
    It was rated "PG".

    Now, that said, we all want to believe that bad guys get what's coming to them. Leading on the princess isn't a punishable offense by most laws. It was empowering to see someone so needy, clingy, and desperate for attention do something that said, "I don't need what you stand for anymore." That said, yes, there are other ways to do it, however most kids in our generation grew up watching Tom and Jerry and the like. (Have you ever seen some of those black and white Mickey Mouse cartoons?! They are down right violent and Mickey is quite the womanizer! But we show them to our kids now as 'quiant' and consider them a peice of animations historical landmarks.) We didn't grow up killing cats because Tom usually got the better of Jerry.

    I am glad this film was rated PG for many reasons, and some of them have to do with your point - and this discussion. It's PG because you can talk about these things with your kids. They aren't ment to sit in a room alone and process what they see. They are ment to include "parental guidance".

    Long ago, my parents taught me something I look forward to passing on to my kids. Do NOT get your morality from things INTENDED for entertainment. Farting loudly on purpose is still rude in public, despite the giggles it obtains from Shrek. Being a jerk doesn't win you friends like Donkey. It gets you into trouble.

    And, being a jerk like Hans IS likely to get you punched in the face at some point in your life. In some ways, it's a cautionary tale.

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    1. Just want to say I really like your parent's lesson. "Don't get morality from things intended for entertainment" is excellent parent wisdom.

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    2. If you do a little reading on the MPAA, you will learn that a G or PG rating has less to do with movie content than marketability. There is solid G, and undeniable PG, but there is a huge gray area inbetween where the MPAA decides which will sell better (regardless of the content's particular shade of gray). Please don't use ratings to explain violence. They are independent entities.

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    3. I thought all of Johns ideas were thought provoking, Thank-you so much. Just to make a comment on What J. Darling said, "Don't get morality from things intended for entertainment." Our children are like sponges absorbing everything they see and hear, I don't think they say "Its a movie, I can't act like that". "The movies gets a laugh when she punches, why doesn't it in real life when I do it". I really wish our entertainment held higher values and morals so we wouldn't have to reteach them after a movie. Just a thought. Loved reading through all the comments.

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  15. I agree with your morals here and I haven't seen the movie. Your post has changed my mind. Off to the theatre !

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    1. So glad you're going to go see it. It is a wonderful film :)

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  16. I thought that part was great; why shoud guys have all the gratuitous slap stick scenes? Tell me you weren't a fan of the Little Rascals or the Three Stooges.

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    1. The thing about a slapstick is that it makes a noise without hurting the recipient. The laughs are had from the pratfall. A punch in the face isn't hilarious. Quality slapstick comedy is great and kids 'get' it and love it, but a punch isn't very...subtle.

      It's good to be mindful that a punch can be deadly (1. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/lewis-gill-killed-andrew-young-3181527 2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2565041/Look-Ive-knockout-Baby-faced-teenager-16-bragged-friends-killing-grandfather-single-punch.html) while a push, a slap, a trip (all slapstick staples) are not.

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  17. Oh dear, all this energy, all this thinking. Parenting is a marathon. If you are spending this much angst and energy on a movie and disciplining for hitting kids at daycare you are going to be exhausted when she is a teen. Pace yourself father.

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    1. :) Worry not. No angst was spent. Writing about this stuff makes me happy, and is calming. I've always enjoyed looking at movies through different lenses and seeing what I come up with. Now I look at them through the lens of a father, and I find it equally enjoyable. Thanks so much for you comment and your concern. I promise to pace myself!

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  18. John, this is an interesting post and discussion. What you've done is ask where we draw the line between humour and social conditioning—a tough debate for anyone, let alone a parent. Perhaps the best option (as JDarling advised above) is to use these subtle moments as a way to start important conversations with our children. Let the positive messages of the movie hold the child's interest while the absurdity of other elements gets called out for the slapstick and inappropriate, perhaps even fantasy. (We also do it with the stereotypes of characters; the bully, the bimbo, the brain, the beauty, etc, ... all one dimensional for effect, but unrealistic.)

    Also, I really appreciate your respect for dialogue. That says a lot about the validity of your perspective. Keep it up.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Stephen. I think JDarling made a great point too!

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  19. I just saw Frozen this weekend with my 3 year old and thought the exact same thing as she was laughing at it

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  20. He tried to KILL her. He tried to kill her. HE TRIED TO KILL HER. And her sister. The fact that all she did was punch him (which I didn't think was funny, BTW) was incredibly restrained. One of the biggest challenges in this life is teaching our daughters to stand up for themselves. He. Tried. To. Kill. Her.

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    1. True. And I'm not saying that I don't understand her motivation for hitting him. I'm saying it was unnecessary, and would have been more in line with her character if she had delivered the line and then hadn't hit him.

      That aside, I do think it is interesting that you imply that because he tried to kill her - the punch is justified. I'm not saying you're wrong. I think a lot of people would agree with you. And yet, outside of self defense we don't let victims walk up to criminals and punch them in the face, regardless of their crime. But that is a much bigger conversation. I think the punch, in the movie, was out of synch with the other messages the movie was communicating.

      Regarding teaching our daughters to stand up for themselves, I would argue that violence and standing up for yourself are not the same thing. There are other, more productive ways to stand up for yourself.

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  21. I really enjoyed this movie, as much as you and everyone else, yet my perspective on the punch is different. I didn't see it as a "joke" punch. I didn't even see it as a come-uppance for Sir Douchebag, or as any revenge (either calculated or knee-jerk) meted out by Anna. I saw it as a human being, who almost lost her sister, being human and losing control in a moment of anger. This is what was funny and also what was cathartic: that Anna was a highborn, well-educated, well-groomed "lady" of that time (in which I doubt any femle was encouraged to stick up for herself on her own) and yet her emotions got the better of her in the moment and she lost it. Is it OK to give in to such guttural and base, lizard-brain impulses? No. Under the circumstances (emotionally and physically exhausted, wasn't she?), it is an understandable action, and afterward the comedic chagrin is then shared by the audience. We all succumb to our weaknesses, from time to time. I'm 44, so perhaps my notions are outdated, but this is the way some of us perceive this. I spend a lot of free time delving into ethics and ethical fallacies. Sometimes, though you just gotta lighten up and forgive, just a little.

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  22. I feel the same and came across your blog because I was searching for other peoples' views on 'the punch.'

    If Anna had just pushed him into the water it would've been fine, but taking it to the level of a closed fist in the face goes against all the other positives the story had going for it.

    Showing kids that a man hurting a woman is bad but a woman hurting a man is funny is not the coolest concept.

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  23. The simple fact is that everything in this movie changed when the producers heard the wonderful song Let It Go and changed Elsa from the villian to tragic heroine. They needed some kind of traditional villian so they tagged on that 1 minute evil speech by Hans which changed everything about him. Up till then he was prince Charming. Take the fight at the ice palace. At first that was his big hero scene. He beats the monster, prevents her from going over to the dark side, then saves her life. I expected Hans and the queen to get together just like the prince did in Enchanted. On second viewing it becomes her big hero scene though. She beats the men who are trying to kill her and does not go over to the dark side. Again, Without that 1 minute speech, it would appear that Hans is trying to save Anna by killing elsa. Why else would he have saved the queens life at the castle? I think the new movie was better, but more confusing especially Hans.

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  24. Thank you! I'm so glad someone is pointing this out. I watched Frozen with my niece last night and was disappointed with the punch. Especially when my niece started leaping around the room punching the air and said it was her "favorite part". Sigh.

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