The Cold Sure As Hell Bothers Me

“Anna and the Snow Queen”, the most uninspired Japanese title since “Wanda and the Colossus

I first watched Frozen in a cheap theater pretty late into its U.S. release. With the hype seeming to dissipate and the movie being fairly average (+), I felt no need to review it. Then I got on the plane to Tokyo and had the Japanese dub as my in-flight entertainment, along with Ted (+) and the second Hunter x Hunter bullshit filler movie (~~). Since then I’ve been unable to go five minutes without having Frozen thrown in my face.

Frozen begins with some burly dudes harvesting ice in the mountains, which is then sold at the Kwik-E-Mart for $1/bag. The scene shifts to Elsa (Princess #1) almost killing Anna (Princess #2) with her ice powers. To suppress her powers, Elsa is taught the cringeworthy catchphrase “conceal, don’t feel”. Gee, I wonder if there’s a message in there somewhere. Elsa then becomes a hikikomori during a time skip. Future Anna starts being a dumbass, so Elsa flips out and accidentally freezes the whole town. Then Elsa runs away and sings Let It Go.

Let It Go almost requires a post of its own. I’ll give credit where credit’s due: the music and vocals are great. The problem is the lyrics and context. Let It Go is essentially the chick version of Hakuna Matata. Elsa and Simba both run away and screw around while everyone else suffers. The difference? Let It Go is presented as empowering instead of irresponsible. Yeah, it’s really empowering to make an entire kingdom freeze to death. While Hakuna Matata is a fun song, even kids can sense the cloud of moral ambiguity hanging over it. Do you get that in Let It Go? No, everything is just so glamorous and liberating! Meanwhile Elsa is still a mess and everyone is dying of hypothermia while she’s singing about how the cold doesn’t bother her. Way to go asshole, why not sing to starving children about how hunger doesn’t bother you? Elsa doesn’t even really Let It Go until later in the story. Why not save the song for the end, when it might actually carry the heroic message Disney’s trying to market?

Anna chases Elsa up the mountain and proceeds to get thrown out of a shop, chased by wolves, assaulted by an abominable snowman, and confronted by trolls as she’s freezing to death. Sounds pretty good, right? Too bad the trolls ruined it all by singing about love. To be fair, just about all Disney movies have this problem. Kids don’t want to watch movies about love. Adults don’t want to watch kids’ movies about love. Who’s the target audience?

The movie is finally resolved when Elsa truly learns to Let It Go. She opens up about her true nature and expresses her love for Anna. Basically, it’s a movie about lesbians. The only people who disagree are homophobes and hipster gays who can’t admit that anything mainstream could possibly be pro-gay.

Perhaps the biggest thing keeping Frozen from the ranks of the all-time great Disney movies is the lack of a legit villain. A quick way to gauge the quality of a Disney villain is seeing how easily you can remember their name. Aladdin? Jafar. The Little Mermaid? Ursula. Sleeping Beauty? Maleficent. Beauty and the Beast? Gaston is a pretty shitty villain, but even he’s easy to remember. Who does Frozen have? That one prince guy? I’ve seen the movie twice in the past six months and I still can’t remember his name. His impact on the story was limited. Things would’ve gone down almost the same way if he hadn’t been evil. Weselton? He didn’t do shit, though it was pretty cool that Weselton is basically every anime representation of Admiral Perry. Elsa was probably the biggest villain in the story, but she didn’t really mean it so it’s all good.

What makes this movie so popular? The story? Nothing special. The animation? I was expecting better.┬áThe music? Plenty of other B-grade Disney movies have catchy songs. The characters? Eh. Skinny white chicks instead of token minorities, animals, and inanimate objects? Hmmmm…

In conclusion, this movie would be forgettable if only Disney’s marketing machine would let you forget it. If you want a story about a real badass ice queen, watch something else.

13 Replies to “The Cold Sure As Hell Bothers Me”

  1. It’s odd, I loved Frozen a lot (I wrote a decently large analysis of it too) and I still think it’s a great movie, but there was this enormous moment of disconnect for me, and I know exactly when it happened. After I saw The Wind Rises, and then realized that Frozen had beaten it for Best Animated Feature, suddenly the hype and everything bothered me immensely. Like, Frozen is a fantastic pop movie, and I know that it makes people feel things and get deeper meanings out of it… but The Wind Rises is a masterpiece, how could it possibly lose to Frozen? I do think Frozen has enough of a layered narrative to be worthy of analysis and pulling apart and even of being talked about and lauded all day, but that one little leap to the idea that it was THE BEST animated feature that year… that’s where I draw the line.

    • Pardon the delay, I had to go back and watch your Frozen review, plus a few more of your videos while I was at it.

      Haven’t seen The Wind Rises, but hey, a domestic blockbuster beating out a critically acclaimed foreign work? Say it ain’t so!

      The “you can’t marry someone you just met” thing seemed like a simple plot device when I first watched Frozen. It was kind of fun, but I didn’t think it was particularly noteworthy. A few days later I read that it was meant to criticize past Disney movies. Unfortunately that did little to change my initial impression. Looks like this is another place where you and I differ. The superficial layer is pretty much always most important layer to me, and anything deeper than that might be an added bonus but won’t significantly change my grade. Instead of layered narratives, I’d like to see that effort pumped into making a killer single narrative.

      It didn’t help that the “conceal don’t feel” catchphrase really turned me off from trying to think about this movie intellectually. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more patronizing line in any movie. It’s not just the lack of subtlety. A throwaway line like “hide your feelings” really wouldn’t have bothered me. What flabbergasts me to this moment is that they thought the line would sound oh so clever if they made it rhyme. I used the term “cringeworthy” quite literally. My favorite thing about watching the movie in Japanese, aside from Admiral Perry, was that I didn’t have to hear “conceal don’t feel” being thrown around.

    • Blame that mixup on the the boring protagonists. “Evil Queen” as Wikipedia calls her was a pretty good villain.

  2. Never seen it but I learned all about it the same way I learn about all mainstream movies.

    How It Should Have Ended

  3. SHE DID NOT KNOW about everything in town being Frozen when she sung Let it Go! That’s why she was so happy – she thought she had successfully ran away from her problems. I completely understand it, as my main tactic is to run away as well. She was shocked and felt guilty when she learned what she had done!
    But other than that, I completely agree. The movie is nice, but overrated. The evil prince is a shitty villain, and the trolls singing about love moment was awkward as hell even for the main characters. I really loved Olaf, though. I don’t know how did they do it that he was a funny, and not an annoying mascot. But I would watch a spin-off about him.

    • But the audience should know better after seeing that song a few million times. Why is Let It Go known as some super liberating feminist girl-power song when it’s all a fraud?

      Olaf was pretty cool. Of all the songs I liked his the best. Still you gotta wonder why super liberating feminist girl-power Frozen made its comic relief character a stereotypical fat, bald, stupid male.

  4. Narratively, it’s pretty clear that Let it Go was supposed to have it’s darker implications, it’s not really the movie’s fault that it became more popular than the whole thing, and seen by idiots as the climax of the story.

    “No right, no wrong, no rules for me” sounds like something that Voldemort would say, while “the cold never bothered me anyways” sounds like a passive agressive sour grapes justification (not to mention the later “yes, I’m alone but alone and free”).

    I think Hans’s villain reveal was pretty good twist at the time. Today’s kids will quote “If Only There Was Someone Out There Who Loved You” the same way as “Luke, I am your father” is quoted. His earlier song is also pretty genius in retrospect, the way he is pretty much just parroting Anna’s lines back to her, but with a few modifications that imly he is really singing about something entirely different.

    Too bad I was watching the movie first in a local dub, and my language only has separate words for familial and romantic love, so it was signaled pretty clear that the “Act of True Love” won’t come from Hans, and not even Kristoff.

    • The movie’s fault? Perhaps, perhaps not. Disney’s fault? Absolutely. They’re the ones who are blatantly selling Let It Go as a song of triumph and bravery. That’s not to say you shouldn’t also blame the public for eating it up.

      Hans’s villain reveal was a pretty good twist in the sense that I didn’t see it coming. I simply expected the kiss to fail. The problem is that it ultimately had little impact on the story. In the race against the clock, Hans’s being evil at most delayed things slightly. Even if he hadn’t been evil, the movie surely would’ve made things come down to the wire.

      I went back and looked at the lyrics to Love is an Open Door. (It’s one of the songs that hasn’t been beaten to death in Japan.) Looking at it through the lens of an evil Hans, it’s kinda slick, but the song is also very short in terms of non-chorus lines, and Disney characters, whether evil or not, always magically know what to say during the chorus.

      Even in English, the true meaning of “true love” was predicatable. Then again, I watch too much anime.

  5. (Sorry for the necro, but whatever)

    Wait wait wait. I disagree with you on a bunch of things I’ll agree are subjective, but memorability of villain being a criterion for quality, what?

    Part of the reason I liked Frozen was specifically because it shook up the narrative structure. Disney villains are renowned for being monodimensional and hammy as hell. No way I’m going to complain they went for a slightly less obvious antagonist with a reduced role.

    I liked that the primary conflict was between sympathetic characters and non-character-driven problems. Frozen broke so many stale tropes, especially for Disney, that I’m really surprised you disliked it more for doing so.

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