A year after the worldwide smash ‘Frozen’ hit cinemas, I have finally got round to previewing it for my just-turned-3 year olds. After all, it seems that everyone has seen it, and so many of the our playdate friends are avid fans. However, much as I liked it, and as much as I am thrilled that it has done so well, BabyGirl and BabyBoy won’t be watching it anytime soon.
‘Frozen’ is a beautifully drawn film, with some fabulous features. The subversion of ‘find Prince Charming and live happily ever after’ is long overdue and welcome, as is the immortal line ‘You can’t marry a met you just met’. Realizing that ‘true love’ does not have to mean romantic love, and that sisterly love is equally as valid, is frankly amazing from Disney. Not once is there mention of the princesses’ beauty, ‘fairest in the land’ etc etc. Anna and Elsa actually get out and do things. As Disney films go, this is one is up there as one of the best.
But, but….all is not rosy.
Firstly, this film is one heck of an emotional rollercoaster. It’s not quite up there with the tear-inducing death of Bambi’s mother or Simba’s father, but Anna saying to her parents ‘See you in two weeks’ and then their ship sinking into a watery grave is enough to strike fear into any kid whose parents travel. Also, Anna is a person. Not a hunted deer or a lion who is pushed off a ledge. A person. Ouch. Way to up the reality factor.
The death of the parents come hard on the heels of ‘Do You Want To Build A Snowman?’ – a genuinely sad song about the estrangement of the sisters. Basically, the first part of the film is intense. Getting young kids through it could well be tough.
There are other dark elements: Elsa being shut away in order to ‘keep everyone safe’ (no mention of trying to find a cure or helping her to control her powers, although she does eventually ‘let this go’) and the bizarrely unnecessary abominable snowman that Elsa deliberately (!) sets on Anna (wouldn’t an icicle fence have done the job just as well?) for example. And while Prince Hans turning out to be a villain nicely subverts the ‘Prince Charming’ role, there are literally no clues throughout the vast majority of the film that this is the case – so it hugely bewildering.
The second big (and more insurmountable) problem is the over-sexualization of Elsa and, to a lesser extent, Anna. Both princesses have eyes that take up half of their faces, lollipop heads and wasp-waists. But it is Elsa’s transformation during ‘Let It Go’ that is the kicker. From her ‘Queen’ regalia she transforms into a positive vixen, complete with a skirt slit-up-to-there, low-cut neckline and a provocative look. It’s a fabulous dress, for a worldly-wise adult (hey, I’d like a sparkly gauze cape!) However, it’s not something I’d want my preschooler emulating. And ‘vixen-ish’ is certainly not what I want her to think of when she takes on board the message ‘be yourself’.
And therein is the problem. Kids who watch this film are going to want to emulate Elsa and Anna. There is so much good stuff in these characters, but the subliminal message is still be skinny to the point of anorexia. I’ve heard on the grapevine that ‘the Elsa dress’ is more requested than Anna’s costume – does no-one wonder why kids are looking to dress up as the much more tragic figure of Elsa than the feisty, funny Anna? Is it just sparkles or is it a more sinister reason – the Elsa is sexier and therefore ‘prettier’?
As a child who loved the classic Disney films, I thought Frozen was brilliant. As a child who grew up with ‘happily ever after’ it is wonderfully refreshing to see this new angle on love and marriage. As a film viewer, the animation is spectacular. But as a mother of young children, I think they need to be shielded from the torrent of emotion in this film until they are older. And a mother, I have many many doubts about the messages about body image and inappropriate sexualization.