On top of that, the film also stumbles a bit in the areas from which it borrows from some of Disney’s subsidiary companies. Elsa’s predicament is straight out of Marvel’s X-Men. A young girl born with extraordinary powers must hide from a populace who fears the unknown. Except that’s not quite what the movie portrays. Really, the king and queen simply accept the rock trolls’ admonition that people will react that way if they learn of Elsa’s abilities, and instantly force their daughters into a psychologically scarring living arrangement. But when Elsa’s powers are finally revealed, only one (count’em one) person actually accuses her of being a witch (you would think in a movie that doubled everything else, they would have at least of had two people make the accusation). The rest of the city just seems to want the warm weather back. Not exactly the mutant hysteria one was expecting.
But that’s a minor quibble. More bothersome is how
Frozen messes up what it tries to borrow from Pixar. In the classic Disney films of old, the characters acted more or less along the lines of traditional gender roles. Even though the princesses were the main characters, they eventually got into trouble and the princes had to come and rescue them. In a post feminist world, of course, this kind of arrangement was intolerable. After all, what kind of real (or animated) woman could possibly need a man to save her? So in recent years, Disney fell in line with conventional wisdom and made sure their princesses participated in their fair share of battles and did everything a boy could be expected to do.
Pixar shook up that new status quo, though, with its contribution to the Disney princess roster, Merida from Brave. Spurred on by her father’s approval, Merida develops into an accomplished archer, better than any man in the kingdom. But over the course of the movie, much to the horror of hyper-feminist reviewers everywhere, Merida learns from her mother that rather than a direct confrontational approach, more traditionally feminine traits are often called for when addressing certain situations. Merida comes to know and appreciate what Pope Francis recently pointed out in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium
(The Joy of the Gospel), that is "the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess.”
Following Pixar’s lead, both of Frozen’s princesses are strong, capable characters, but rather than just being boys with suspicious curves, Elsa and Anna surprisingly embody those traditionally feminine traits the Holy Father was speaking of. While the men of the city make warlike preparations, Anna’s solution to the crisis at hand is to simply find her sister and talk things over. She never once brandishes a weapon throughout the whole movie. And Elsa, who could easily kill every single living being in the kingdom, never willfully uses her power to harm anyone. Her first thought, in fact, is to separate herself from others so nobody gets hurt. She uses her powers only to create (the building of her ice castle is a visual highlight of the film) or in a defensive way. Even the giant ice creature (non-threateningly named Marshmallow) she manifests to guard her palace does little more than try to chase people away. There’s not a warrior princess to be found in Frozen and it’s a better movie for it.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t treat its male characters as nicely. Of the two main male protagonists, the one who comes the closest to embodying traditionally male traits such as chivalry and physical courage is stupidly turned into a villain at the last minute because the scriptwriters wrongly assume the movie needs one. Meanwhile the other main guy ends up embodying… nothing. He’s probably the most useless male lead yet seen in a Disney film. I’m trying to think of one thing he accomplishes during the whole film and I’m drawing a blank. So instead of borrowing properly from Pixar and giving us a Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, Frozen instead provides us two Mrs. Incredibles and zero functioning male role models.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why my eleven year old son wasn’t ecstatic about Frozen. Oh, he enjoyed it, for sure. He found the reindeer and the snowman funny, and had a good laugh whenever they were on-screen. But as we walked from the theater, he didn’t demand that we immediately buy the DVD, which is sort of his version of saying a film is a must-see. And I have to agree with him. Frozen isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just not a great movie either. If I may borrow from the late great Siskel & Ebert, for a film that tries to give us two of everything, Frozen unfortunately earns only one thumbs up.