So we went to see Frozen last weekend, because I'd heard it was great and passed Bechdel all over the place. And I seriously loved it, laughed and cried, and enjoyed (pretty much) every minute of it. (Husband also got several big laughs in, which is pretty rare with him.)
So! This is a thread about Frozen and passing Bechdel and being generally awesome and unusually un-Disney-like. Spoilers herein!
So! Things I loved!
I loved that Frozen is a movie about two sisters saving each other. Elsa is born with ice powers, which feel like a curse to her because she's terrified of hurting her younger sister Anna. Anna, who has been kept in the dark for her own protection, doesn't understand why her sister won't play with her anymore after an accident. The two girls grow up under all this stress; with Elsa feeling emotionally repressed (emotions bring out her magic) and Anna feeling isolated and alone. A huge part of the movie -- really, the entire arc of the film -- is about Anna learning to deal with her isolation in a healthy way and about Elsa learning to reject emotional repression in a healthy way.
And I love that the movie shows us unhealthy ways to approach these problems and, in doing so, plays with the usual Disney tropes. Anna falls head-over-heels into Love At First Sight at the beginning of the movie with the first handsome prince she meets and I'm all really, movie?!? but everything deepens from there. We actually get a long conversation about how Anna doesn't actually know this guy very well and while he may be perfectly nice, that doesn't mean he's The One. And there's also a lot of intimation underneath all this that Anna isn't dealing with her isolation very well and that reaching out to the first guy you meet who promises to save you from loneliness is maybe not the best way to deal with that. Deep stuff, and a major subversion of usual Disney themes where Rescue and Love are intertwined.
Elsa, on the other hand, deals with her repression by giving up and going all Bad Girl, but not in that stereotypical mwuhahahahah-I'm-the-villain-now. It's totally clear that she's more acting out what she thinks a bad girl would do, but she's still just as worried and scared for her sister and her kingdom as she's always been. The movie really brings home (especially through the song lyrics, which are just PERFECT) that this Good Girl / Bad Girl dichotomy is damaging to Elsa, and the only way she can really be free is to reject them both. She doesn't need to be (and fundamentally can't be) a perfect good girl, but she won't find freedom by moving over to the bad girl stereotype offered to her by a restrictive society. She's only free when she throws both of them in the trash.
Also amazing, and very rare: a cursed girl saves herself. The movie sets us up for a True Love Kiss to be an act of true love to save the day and then says NOPE! the act of true love is more complicated than that. I, ahem, may have indicated in the past that I have strong feels about that, so I thought that was really just wonderful and lovely.
Other random things to like: Elsa is voiced by Idina Menzel of Wicked fame. YES.
Things I cared less for: The animated snowman, who creeped me out a little but made all the children laugh and laugh and did foreshadow Elsa's life-creating powers, so. And a certain person being secretly evil, because my first thought was that that was unnecessary, but it did play a major part in the ending so again I give it a pass.
I did have mostly negative feels about the Troll Love Song "Fixer Upper". There was a lot of extolling of marriage (which I don't really think is necessary in a kids' movie), a lot of insisting on pushing the Reluctant Couple together (which I pretty much always hate in movies because social pressure in relationships is mega-harmful), and there was that really bullshit "I don't see a ring on her finger" when the previous engagement came up and that can fuck right off to a particularly warm hell. I did like that the song pointed out that you can't really change a person with love, but it was a super mixed message and the whole movie would have been better, I think, without that song. It cut up the action and achieved nothing and felt like Disney Marriage Propaganda. Use that song to visit the restroom or whatever, I say.
And one thing I fiery aw-hell-no hated was the Mickey Mouse short at the beginning of the film which was 100% misogyny, rape culture, sexual assault references, ableism, fat hatred, and classism all rolled into one. And it was boring and repetitive and had gratuitous violence for no reason other than for Disney to wank off for ten minutes about Mickey still being their intellectual property. It was terrible, and I nearly walked out over it, except that I really did want to see Frozen. But it felt like Disney didn't want us to have too much feminism in our day. Yuck.
Other thoughts that didn't fit in anywhere else:
-- I think this is Disney's first Swedish princess? So that's cool.
-- I think this is Disney's first protagonist queen? That's cool, too.
-- The movie opens with working men singing, which is how The Little Mermaid opens and is pretty much the best way for a Disney movie to open, I think. I'm also pleased that Disney continues to show (bits and pieces, but still) working class men being worthwhile and not keeping strictly to the royal classes.
-- I also noticed more fat people in the crowd being fat and not comic reliefy about it. Again, that's sorta nice. Still waiting for a fat protagonist, Disney. (*sigh*)
-- The opening song, Vuelie, was really lovely, but it has a distinct indigenous feel and the rest of the movie doesn't, at least not to my American eyes. So that felt a little appropriative, maybe, but I don't know enough about the cultures involved to say one way or another? I can say that it left me super disappointed that we didn't have indigenous protagonists after an opening like that.