A Counterpoint to Mayim's Frozen Thoughts

So Mayim Bialik has penned a rant about Frozen. I'd like to offer some counterpoints to what she's said and will be liberally quoting what she wrote for context.

Sure, it's sort of hidden, but the search for a man/love/Prince is still the reigning plot line in the movie, as it is with pretty much all movies for young people which are animated. The sister's desire to marry this guy she just met, and the other sister getting mad at her–we still have a plot about the identification of a woman being based on her desire and search to meet a man.

This makes me wonder if we watched the same movie.

Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?
I never see you anymore
Come out the door
It's like you've gone away
We used to be best buddies—
And now we're not

Love Is An Open Door
All my life has been a series of doors in my face
And then suddenly I bump into you

Anna is eighteen at Elsa's coronation. She was what, three? four? when they snuck down to that great hall and set off a series of events that culminated in Elsa going to her room and being alone for years. Anna's had some fourteen years of having no one. Do You Wanna Build A Snowman? and Love Is An Open Door support this. And Love Is An Open Door comes right after Elsa rejects Anna's attempt to be close, to really have a sister after all these years. I get the idea that Anna would forgive everything, if Elsa would "just let me in"…

In my view, Anna's desire to marry Hans isn't about wanting or needing a man. I believe that you could make an argument that gender doesn't matter here. I truly believe Anna would have latched onto anyone, because Elsa's abandonment created in Anna a desire to have someone, anyone. I don't believe that Anna would have given Hans a second look if, when Anna approached her at the coronation, Elsa had swallowed her fear and let Anna into the fortress of her icy solitude. Or if she had never been shut out in the first place.

Anna is after romance, yes, but I think that's because she wants out. Her sister's abandoned her, her sister will be queen… if she marries a prince, she will leave Arendelle, leave the pain behind. All of this is about Elsa's abandoning her.

Hans says: "You were so desperate for love you were willing to marry me just like that!" She was desperate. But not for love. At least not unless it was her sister's.

Aside: I personally would have liked Anna being presented as a lesbian, because of inclusiveness and representation, but Disney has some advancement to make in that area, so Anna is presented as straight and I suppose the 'easiest' thing was to showcase her desperation in a male/female romance.

Of course, in general, in the Universe, heterosexual women tend to want to meet men and I am one of those women. My issue is not that. My issue is that this is a movie geared to small children who I don't think need to be focusing on that as the main driving plot of a movie, especially when it's not a literary or historically-based fairy tale. And these characters are young; certainly not old enough in my socially conservative opinion to be searching for mates!

I accept her point about the main driving plot of a movie, even if I don't necessarily think her interpretation was correct. I am rather disappointed that she says these characters are too young to be searching for mates without offering an age where they would be old enough. Anna is eighteen, (Elsa is twenty-one, for the record)… if eighteen is too young to be searching for a mate, when would be old enough?

I've had just enough already with this finding a man business in most every kids' movie. Disney classics were all about this and look where it's gotten us! Naked billboards of singers and women still not paid equal pay for equal work and ridiculous standards of beauty and body image and campaigns such as "Why I Don't Need Feminism" and tons of other things proving we still have a ways to go.

Whilst this was undoubtedly not her point, her phrasing comes across to me as "Disney's promoting finding a man is the sole blame for all of this stuff that I now list", and in my view, that is so absurd as to be ridiculous.

I don't think that Disney's portrayal has helped the situation, and as I said above, I'd've liked Anna to be a lesbian rather than straight.

The Prince/hero turns out to be a scheming villain. He pretended to love her and then he double crosses her and she gets the lesson taught to her not to trust those nasty scheming conniving men. Because you know, men can't be trusted? Meh.

There were two assholes in the film, both male. The Duke of Weaseltown and Hans. (Four if you count the Duke's muscle. I don't, inasmuch as they were merely tools to act on the Duke's asshole behaviour.) Kristoff and Olaf are quite nice counterpoints to the asshole behaviour, in my opinion. And what about Wandering Oaken? He was nice and polite to Anna. I personally don't define chucking Kristoff out after Kristoff called him a crook as being an asshole. His store. He doesn't have to sell to people he doesn't want to. Plus he didn't stop Anna buying the stuff for Kristoff.

I know, you're confused by me. Yeah, take a number. First I claim to be a feminist and now I claim to be against male-bashing. That's because feminism doesn't equal male-bashing. And this movie isn't empowering because it shows that a Prince is a jerk and should not have been trusted. That's weird too. It's just confusing.

Yeah, you don't need to bash men to be a feminist; feminism isn't about bashing males. I totally agree. That doesn't confuse me. What does confuse me is why the movie isn't empowering because it shows a Prince is a jerk and shouldn't have been trusted. Wow, a Prince is human and has human flaws. What's the problem there?

All of the talk I've heard about "Frozen" revolves around how it goes against all the stereotypes of princess movies. And in some ways it does; it shows one sister trying to convince the other sister not to trust this guy she just met. Then the guy turns out to be a villain and the sisters need to rely on each other, using their love to transform and save them ultimately. It's a lovely notion, but it was just not executed well at all in my opinion.

Maybe it wasn't executed well.

What I personally loved about Frozen is how the ending was set up.

Elsa loves Anna… and she has shut Anna out because she will not kill or hurt her sister. She loves her too much to do that. And when Hans told her Anna was dead, she had nothing left. All she had done out of love to protect Anna was for nothing.

Anna loves Elsa, so she goes after her to find her, to bring her home.

Once Elsa freezes Anna's heart, we are led to believe that 'a true love's kiss' will save Anna, when what was said was 'an act of true love'.

Hans wants to kill Elsa, mostly as an attempt to grab the throne, partly because doing so will stop the winter (or so I infer). And if Anna hadn't gotten there to stop him, he would have. And before the sword can hit her outstretched hand, she's an ice statue. Think about that. If Anna had gotten there too early, even a second too early, she would have lost like half her hand at least.

She couldn't know what would happen. All she knew was that whatever the cost to her, she had to protect Elsa. Her sister.

Anna's frozen heart is thawed out by her act of true love. And finally, Elsa understands; fear is her enemy. Love will thaw.

So yeah, I loved the way the ending came about, how the movie as a whole was about two sisters. Perhaps it could have been executed differently, but I will admit I'm not sure how. I also admit confusion: Mayim appears to believe that Frozen adheres to princess movie sterotypes, but beyond the 'searching for a man/man as woman's identity' that I've discussed above, I'm not sure what else she is referring to.

…maybe it's the different ways we've reacted to the movie.

OK, my biggest problem with this movie was the way the female characters are drawn and animated. The male characters look like cartoon men. They have some exaggerated features, sure. But by and large, they look like they have the proportions of human beings.

Not so with our lead ladies. They have ginormous eyes. Like really ridiculously big. Teeny-tiny ski slope noses. Exaggerated delicate ski sloppiness, actually. Barbie doll proportions of their bodies in general: tiny waists, ample busts, and huge heads. They look like dolls. They don't look like the same species as the male characters even! What's up with that?! My sons thought the females looked like BRATZ dolls, truth be told. I kind of agree.

I agree with this. Only the lead ladies have this exaggeration of features. Their mother didn't, nor do the servants. It could be in part mitigated if Arendelle was home to humans who all looked this way, but it is not. It sort of makes me wonder what biological factors came into play there… another time.

Society's belief of what makes one beautiful has evolved over the centuries; with media, it's painted an unrealistic ideal. While everyone is—or should be—allowed to find pretty/sexy what they find pretty/sexy, constantly pushing one ideal is not good. Which really ties back into wanting Anna to have been portrayed as a lesbian.

People are different… and it would be really nice if Disney acknowledged that by making their princesses different in all sorts of ways.


2 Responses to “A Counterpoint to Mayim's Frozen Thoughts”

  1. Anna says:

    Hmm. See. Frozen.

    I have issues with it, but not the exact same issues Balik does.

    The center of the plot is Anna and Elsa's relationship with one another – like you said, the Hans-thíng is just Anna latching on to *anyone* who will pay her the slightest bit of attention. This is the hinge of the conflict; Elsa's fear outweighing her desire for closeness with other people, Anna's wish to be close to her sister and never mind the consequences. And I think it gets the message across pretty well.

    HOWEVER. The romance with Kristoff? Unnecessary. Anna could have realised her Hans-infatuation was ridiculous and simply a reaction to a lack of sisterly love WITHOUT also being given another love-interest. I know, I know, Kristoff is a LOT better than Hans in terms of romance – he treats Anna like a human being, he aids her on her quest rather than hindering her; he asks for consent before kissing her at the end (which is sad how important and unusal that is, let me tell you), blah blah blah.

    But it's still using romance as a reward-system. Yay, Anna learned better than to fall in "love" with a sociopathic stranger! Now she gets a romance as a reward! Because every story about a princess needs a romance! Instead of, you know, focusing on the theme of the story – sisterhood.


    Seriously, that thing is extremely creepy and out of place, and consists of a bunch of overbearing relatives singing about how they know better than the main characters (y helo thar, removal of agency from female character, it's been all of five minutes since I've seen you!) and it's way too long and way too early in Kristoff and Anna's acquaintance for it to lay the groundwork to ANYTHING and aaaaaaaah

    And, finally, Same-Face-Syndrome. God, do I ever have beef with the Same-Face-Syndrome.

    The main female characters of Frozen both have the Glen Keane-face (Keane being one of the character designers at Disney – he also did Tangled and Tarzan). Elsa and Anna have LITERALLY the same face. Elsa has longer eyelashes, and that's it. THAT'S IT. THAT'S NOT HOW YOU DESIGN CHARACTERS – ELSA AND ANNA ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE IDENTICAL TWINS ARGH.

    (Sidenote – the mother does have the exact same face as Elsa and Anna. She's just a colour-swap of the two. ARGH)

    Since Tangled, there has been a disturbing tendency to just reuse female faces for all main characters – note how nearly-freaking-identical Rapunzel and her mother looks. Note how Gothel is *incredibly* similar to the two, except with a slightly exaggerated cheekbone thing going on, as well as slightly larger eyes. It's still very much the same basic shape.

    Sergeant Calhoun in Wreck-it Ralph – same basic facial shape as Rapunzel/Gothel/Elsa/Anna/Jane from Tarzan/Honey Lemon from the upcoming Big Hero 6.

    Look. Glen Keane CAN design characters. He's pretty amazing at it – I mean, look at his filmography. It's incredibly diverse. And AFAIK, he didn't even WORK on Frozen – Disney just decided that the standard Glen Keane-girl face was so great, they'd just run with it.

    And then.

    And then they said that girls HAD to have a limited facial diversity because it was TOO HARD TO ANIMATE THEM AND STILL MAKE THEM LOOK "ATTRACTIVE" IF THEY DIDN'T AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

    It is lazy, it is unworthy of Disney as an animation-studio, and HOLY HELL is it ever sexist. It only EVER happens to female characters, and this fills me – as an artist – with the kind of rage I can't even properly put into words.

    • Dianna says:

      …you're the artist, so I will accept that the mother has the same face. I think what threw me off is that the mother has NORMAL EYES. …except I just rewatched the beginning of Frozen to check my facts and she doesn't. It's possible her eyes might be smaller than her childrens' (but I say that as a non-artist who thought the mother's face was different!), but they're still larger than her husband's.

      …so what the hell did I think she had a different face for? *shakes head*

      Maybe if there is enough outrage/backlash, Disney will change. Who knows?

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