Because fans should be critical, too

Taking Official Hiatus from “Korranalysis” to Do “Frozen” Review

There’s no point in having everyone wait for something I’ve yet to find motivation to finish. As such, the Korranalysis will be officially put on halt for a while.

Why? Frankly, I’ve become more interested in Frozen, that little animated film that doesn’t seem to be leaving the public consciousness anytime soon. The paradox is that I can’t stop thinking about the movie even as I have absolutely no incentive to ever watch it again except for reviewing purposes, and what fun is that? Maybe it’s a good movie, maybe it’s not. Maybe it was a big step for feminism, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe I’m just getting old and cannot begin to understand my generation’ s attraction to this movie. Either way, it’s a phenomenon worth looking into. Who knows, maybe a more careful analysis will sway more over to the other side. After all, this entire Avatar: the Last Airbender review site was founded on a passage from a book called How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘N’ Roll that stemmed from classical pianist and historian Charles Rosen:

“…one of the things that makes it hard for us to appreciate new and unfamiliar styles is that they demand that we accept no only sounds that are strange to us but also the absence of qualities that we consider necessary… ‘The appreciation of a new style is as much an effort of renunciation as of acceptance.’ “

I was able to do it for Avatar (and the Beatles, for that matter, whom I intentionally hated upon first serious listen; what a fool I was!), why can’t I do it Frozen? Of course, in the case of Avatar, there was less of a populist incentive: Avatar, as far as I can see, remains a very minor footnote in the public consciousness, whereas no one seems to be able to get away from Frozen and it’s self-prophetically catchy tunes. Admit it: not a single song in Frozen is remotely memorable or original on purely musical terms; it’s the bone-headed lyrics that have seeped their way into the psyche, as evident by the numerous parodies of “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” and “Let It Be.” (For the record, the same charges can be held against The Lego Movie‘s theme song, “Everything is Awesome,” except in that film’s case, the idiotic catchiness was part of the joke and message, and not merely an end in itself as the songs in Frozen were.)

If there are any conclusions or speculations I can draw at this moment, it’s that Frozen owes much of its popularity to Tangled. Perhaps people regretted not seeing that flawed, but charming film in the theaters when they had the chance, and decided not to miss the boat with Frozen. Or maybe the female-centric interactions and thematics of Frozen had a much wider appeal than the broad, almost ironic comedy of Tangled. I don’t know. That’s why I’m making the video review. Hopefully I can have my thoughts and ideas together in time for a July 1st release?


18 responses

  1. Nautilus11

    Heh. Looks like we have something in common; I also loathed the Beatles (although, unlike you, I still loathe them and consider them overrated; but, that discussion is for another time).

    I don’t think you’ll change your mind about Frozen, though. The thing about Avatar, and, as loathe as I am to admit it, the Beatles, is that there is a lot beneath the surface about them that is not apparent at first that can alter one’s initial perception.

    I personally think that is not the case with Frozen, where what you see right out of the gate is exactly what you get. Nothing more, nothing less.

    June 12, 2014 at 2:41 am

    • Sadly, you are correct. Upon watching Frozen a second full time, I came out of it more cynical and confused than ever. I simply do not understand the overreaching appeal of this movie (even as an aspiring animator interested in the technical aspects, Tangled still has Frozen beat thanks to the involvement and influence of Glen Keane).

      I’m still going ahead with the review, even if Michael Barrier probably summed it up better than I could:

      “My lingering impression is that Frozen is the apotheosis of the “Disney Princess” movie. The girls in the film, Anna and Elsa, are not fairy-tale princesses but are instead, much more than their predecessors in other Disney features, idealized versions of the girls in the audience. The gap between the princesses on the screen and the “princesses” in the audience has been bridged… The Disney people seem to have realized that by making the movie appeal so powerfully to little girls, they could shrug off any concerns that a “princess” label might discourage boys from seeing it.

      Throughout, Frozen is an expertly machined piece of entertainment… But ultimately, the air of calculation, the sense that the commercial possibilities were weighed with a jeweler’s precision at every moment during production, to the exclusion of possibilities of other kinds, makes Frozen tiresome as even other recent Disney animated features are not… Movies manipulate; that’s what they do. But usually not so relentlessly and single-mindedly.”

      June 12, 2014 at 4:26 pm

  2. rosemon

    I personally can’t stand this film or its rabid fan base. It’s gotten quite obnoxious hear people calling both this film and the newly released Maleficent “feminist”; the former mangles the Snow Queen into a near-sausage fest and the latter (whose true love’s kiss is now getting compared to that of Frozen) employs the cheap and frankly inappropriate “rape as backstory/crazy ex girlfriend” on Disney’s most powerful villainess.

    June 12, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    • Feminism is pretty trendy these days (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!), so any minor moment that seems remotely feministic [sp?] will be celebrated and blown out of proportion, even if it’s warranted (the twist ending, for example).

      June 13, 2014 at 1:07 am

  3. rosemon

    I suppose most female viewers have gotten so tired of the Megan Fox window-dressing archetype that anything slightly above such a low threshold is considered “groundbreaking.” I honestly believe it would have been more groundbreaking in terms of Disney’s usual gender roles had they followed the origin story: the girl actually sets out to the save the boy with a kiss and is helped along the way by several female characters. But Frozen’s ending just seems like a tacked-on, heavy-handed twist that doesn’t really make up for Anna interacting more with the men than her sister (as far as the viewer’s concerned, thus making the ending emotionally unfulfilling) or Anna constantly getting saved by her future boyfriend who responded with little more than an eye-roll. Aside from its woman problem, Frozen just seemed like a rather bland film with a confused, meandering story. I can just forget about it and move on with my viewing experience, but I’m a bit sad that this film is overshadowing better animated features, feminist-friendly or not. Still, give it another ten years or so, and I wonder if anyone will actually remember Frozen.

    June 13, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    • Wow! I knew that film created a lot of plot holes by focusing too exclusively on the sisters and their relationship, but you just made me realize how little face time the two of them actually have in the entire movie. This has got to be one of the most poorly thought out scripts I’ve ever seen. Someone needs to make sure Jennifer Lee never writes another screenplay by herself again.

      As for Frozen‘s staying power, I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. This is Disney we’re talking about: if they want something remembered, they’ll do their damndest to keep it alive in the public eye, and vice versa (Song of the South, anyone?).

      June 14, 2014 at 12:57 am

    • “Still, give it another ten years or so, and I wonder if anyone will actually remember Frozen.”

      I think you’re woefully (and from the tone of your post, likely willfully) underestimating/downplaying the impact Frozen has had on people’s lives. It didn’t reach its vast popularity or make the insane amount of money it did (top-grossing animated film ever, and number five highest grossing film of any genre, just in case you didn’t know) simply because it’s a cute family-friendly movie with a feel-good message and catchy songs. Sure, that’s part of the reason it did so well, but not the only factor. Plenty of other films meet that description, but don’t come close to the critical, cultural, or financial success that Frozen has enjoyed. So what makes Frozen so different?

      Ask ten different people that question and you’ll likely get ten different answers, but in my opinion, in a word, it’s relatability. In a nutshell, here’s what I took from Frozen: I relate more to Elsa than to literally any other person, living or dead, real or fictional. She could be me, and I could be her. No, I don’t have hidden magical ice powers, but the powers are just a symbol. I know exactly what it’s like to live a life of emotional isolation, constantly eaten up by anxiety but unable to share that burden with anyone. I know what it’s like to be unable to be who I really am because I know from experience that people will judge me for it. I know what it’s like to struggle with depression and feel that the world would be better off without me. I know what it’s like to be misunderstood, to be considered weird, rude, monstrous because I’m not just like everyone else. I know what it’s like to be reserved and introverted and to be sneered at by extroverts who don’t get that my brain is wired differently from theirs. If I had a dollar for every “but why can’t you just be more outgoing/extroverted/talkative?” I’ve received, I’d be rich. (Coincidentally, I also have a younger red-headed sister with questionable taste in men, but that’s neither here nor there.)

      When I saw Frozen, and watched and listened to Elsa sing “Let It Go,” I burst into tears right there in the theater. I first heard the song almost nine months ago, and I still listen to it nearly every day, and it still often makes me tear up. Why? Why does that song, that character, have such a profound emotional impact on me? Because Frozen sends the message that it’s okay to be like Elsa. The film portrays her as a sympathetic character who is WORTHY of life, of love, of being who she is, no matter what. And for someone who identifies with her as closely as I do, you have no idea what an incredibly powerful cathartic experience that was. All my life, I’ve been told–whether implicitly or to my face–that I’m not okay. I’m abnormal. I should change who I am to better fit the mold society has laid out for me. In one fell swoop, Frozen demolished that. (And for the record, I’m 29 years old; I’m no impressionable teenager.)

      Because of Elsa, because of Frozen, I’ve started re-examining things about myself that I always thought–had always been told–were flaws. I’ve started learning to accept myself instead of hate myself. I’ve even renewed my previously-sidelined dream of becoming a writer, because someday I want to create a character who can be for someone else what Elsa is for me.

      To be honest, I’m envious of you and others like you, who don’t understand Frozen’s popularity and think the film is forgettable and overrated, because it implies that you *didn’t* find the characters and themes relatable. You *don’t* know what it’s like to be judged by society and found wanting. Enjoy that privilege, please. I mean that sincerely. (Oh, and before anyone sneers at me for being too emotionally invested in an animated kids’ film, I’ll just remind everyone that the owner of this blog recently said [he] want[ed] to die” after watching the Korra season finale.)

      All that to say: if you don’t like Frozen, you’re entitled to your opinion. If you want to criticize the film, go ahead. (Much as I love the film, I agree there are things worthy of criticism–the rushed ending springs to mind.) But to ignore and to downplay the very real, very lasting positive impact the film has had on other people’s lives, just because it didn’t have that impact on yours, is sadly ignorant and shortsighted.

      August 30, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      • Kelsey, I’ve posted my response to your comments on the latest blog post. Since the post you commented on was so old, I figured making it it’s own post would give it the attention it deserves. Perhaps we can even continue the discussion once you’ve read what I had to say.

        September 1, 2014 at 11:07 pm

  4. Dman

    Have you seen the new Korra Book Three trailer? And while I know you’re not very interested in the show anymore, the new season will take us to new places that I am very excited about. Besides, even if you don’t care about the story, you should watch the trailer for the animation alone!

    June 15, 2014 at 9:03 am

    • Maybe I’ll watch it with the sound off this time.

      June 17, 2014 at 5:01 pm

  5. rosemon

    The first half of Book 3 has actually been leaked by accident on Mundo Nick, so many fans have already viewed it with subtitles. Without necessarily spoiling anything, the new book still seems to have many of the same problems that people may have had with book 2 and even the recent ATLA comics: ret-conning and fast-paced, plot-heavy exposition squeezed into each episode with more twists rather than actual character development for anyone, particularly its lead character. Also, more sibling/parent issues. The initial premise also completely undermines the whole point of “The LAST Airbender.”

    June 15, 2014 at 11:03 am

    • Nautilus11

      Good point. In defense of Book 3 though, I’ll say that Korra, Mako and Bolin seem to be a bit more fleshed out and likeable, and we even got some Korra/Asami bonding, which was pretty much non-existent in previous seasons (though, to be fair, most of their interactions in Books 1 and 2 was basically Korra treating Asami as a doormat with no feelings of her own, and Asami silently taking it and still being nice to Korra – girl has the patience of a saint, I tell you. If she were to go off at Korra in future episodes, she’d be completely justified in doing so).

      Unfortunately, in order for this to happen, they basically had to pretend that none of the character “development” and inter-play of the previous books occurred, and that everyone is totally cool with one another.

      June 15, 2014 at 11:37 pm

      • This disregard for the character “development” is essentially why, even with the news that Studio Mir is animating the bulk of the season again, Book Three of Korra is not very high on my priorities (and no, a podcast invitation will coax me this time).

        June 17, 2014 at 5:09 pm

  6. Dan

    I haven’t seen Frozen, but I have heard the song “Let It Go,” which instantly reminded me of the MST3K song “The Greatest Frank of All” when I first heard it. Both songs feature inane lyrics (“Let It Go” rhymes “know” with “know” at one point), but at least in the case of “The Greatest Frank of All”, the sappy lyrics were part of the joke (the song itself is set to a montage of humorous death/torture scenes). (The Greatest Frank of All)

    Aside from that, I have no desire to watch Frozen. The Disney formula that gained prominence in the early 90’s with films such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin has become so tiresome that nothing they’ve released in recent years has caught my interest.

    June 17, 2014 at 2:50 am

    • They do sound pretty similar, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Robert Lopez (co-writing of Frozen’s songs and co-creator of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon) was a MST3K fan.

      Perhaps this generation was so desperate for its own “Part of Your World” that they settled on “Let It Go” (a song that is starting to grow on me as bland pop songs tend to do with enough exposure, even if I’m still stomped as to how it fits into the emotional context of the movie).

      I agree that the Disney formula since the 90s has grown stale (although I did enjoy Tangled), and the success of Frozen coupled with our generation’s obsession for nostalgia has only assured that it will be around even longer. (I’d wager that John Lasseter, bless his heart, is also to blame for this.) Maybe Phil Lord and Chris Miller will get to write and direct a Disney movie to shake things up?

      June 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm

  7. While I enjoyed frozen, I never really understood the hype behind it. Even compared to other Disney films it was kind of weak, and I question some of the choices they made when creating an adaptation of the Snow Queen. From my view, the Snow Queen was ultimately about friendship, but in Frozen its about sisterly love and romance….?

    July 3, 2014 at 6:26 am

    • To be quite honest, I actually liked the sisterly love angle. The problem was that it consumed the entire rest of the movie like vines on the walls of a house: let them grow too much, and eventually the walls and foundation begin to crumble until there’s barely a house at all.

      July 3, 2014 at 10:06 am

  8. Kelsey

    You want to write a Frozen review, but you don’t even know the name of the keynote song? (It’s “Let It Go,” not “Let It Be.”) That throws all your credibility out the window right there.

    Frankly, between your thumbing your nose at Frozen (a film written by a woman, directed by a woman, and focused on female characters and relationships), and your insistence that Korra isn’t worthy of being seen as a “real person” because she’s a brash “honorary boy”** instead of more traditionally feminine, I suspect you have some deep-seated internalized misogyny issues you should think long and hard about.

    **I know you stole the “honorary boy” quote from Ebert, but seriously, just stop for a second and think about how offensive and insulting that is. It implies that a woman who doesn’t fit into society’s narrow definition of femininity isn’t even a woman at all, and that the best she can hope for is to be sneeringly labeled as an honorary man. That’s just…more gross than I can even say.

    August 30, 2014 at 12:14 pm

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