Quickly, a few disclaimers: I have no new categories of criticism for Frozen for which examples cannot be easily culled from many other movies. Yet even though the fruit is easy to pick from most popular art, this latest offering from Disney studios moves further down the road than its predecessors. Also, I love fiction and fairy tales as long as they are good, true, and beautiful. Positively, of course, the animation is world class.
However, Frozen is flippant, crude, contemporary, immature, pointless, hopeless, inconsistent, unbelievable, perverse, sensational, antinomian, narcissistic, and subtle.
Anna is trite and ditzy throughout even when in life and death situations. She and Kristoff exchange one-liners while they are in mortal combat with the wolves and the huge snow monster. When romancing Hans at the beginning she babbles along like a foolish girl who has not been trained by a loving father and mother. Whether thinking about choosing a mate or fighting for her life, lines rolls off her lips like nothing really matters that much. Maybe the writer actually thinks that deep down?
How can a society ever hear the gospel in piercing calls like Whitefield and Baxter used to give in England, if they are subconsciously immersed in flippancy at all times? C. S. Lewis warned us through Screwtape’s letters that this is the most dangerous aspect of humor. When the greatest realities should have been occupying their minds, they—like all modern heroes—are funny.
Jane Austen knew that morals are communicated to generations through manners. She wrote classic novels where the characters demonstrated dignity and respect to each other as a society. There is no bathroom humor because her society hadn’t crossed those lines (or dipped that low). Doesn’t the image of God in each man deserve social dignity?
If so, then why did the writer of Frozen spread at least four (that I caught) crude jokes throughout? Anna sings about passing gas, the Trolls talk about Kristoff relieving himself, and Kristoff and Olaf also join in. Importantly, Kristoff brings up picking your nose to a member of the opposite sex only a few minutes after having met her because apparently there is no need to have any fear or decorum anymore.
How bad are these jokes? They stand as one more indicator of the mindset of the producers: “Manners are bad; being raw, open, uncut, and real are the great virtues.” How did such vices get to be included in the dialogue of a story supposedly set in ancient times? The script could only have been written by a post-modern.
By contemporary I mean carrying all the non-spoken, non-propositional sentiments of the 21st century. The movie’s dominant musical style must be pop rock; the ladies have to be portrayed as equally valiant as the men; the exciting scenes must push the edge of sensationalism. Anna wields the knife in a flash to cut the rope when the snow monster will presumably kill them both. They fall “200 hundred feet” into a foot of snow and yet are not hurt. The first words after their fall are a joke. Death, sobriety, and danger have no words or character in this film—just like modern life. Nearly any sensibility that built Facebook is found in this movie.
The poetry is agonizingly youthful and current. Poetry by definition is supposed to be exalted language, but in the songs the writers offer numerous phrases like, “It’s funny that…” or “’Cause like / I’ve been searching my whole life…” and again, “And it’s nothing like I’ve ever known before!”
The songs can be enjoyed immediately without reflection, meditation, maturity or growth saving a slight exception in “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” where some values from folk music snuck in. There is no reaching upward. Olaf’s character in general and song in particular are childishly stupid.
Anna is boy crazy who gives her heart away as if she never saw a human exercise self-restraint. Maybe that’s because the writers and prospective viewers haven’t chosen that as their “word of the year” recently. When we all see Anna sacrifice herself for her sister, they have to spell it out for the not-quite-bright audience with an explicit line from Elsa.
What is the conflict? Elsa wants to run away and live by herself. The kingdom has a lot of snow. There’s nothing else on the line. Sure, once Anna starts out, she gets herself in danger, but there’s little tension and no stable enemy. Are they supposed to defeat Elsa? Nature? The snow monster? Hans? The skinny guy from Wiselton? Maybe the big problem at the beginning is Elsa’s powers. But she conquers those by wearing gloves. Maybe the big problem is global cooling. But plenty of people live and thrive in the snow.
But is there a constant enemy in the 21st century? Islam? Homosexuality? This movie mimics the producers’ mindset that there is no absolute evil like there is no absolute good.
Ultimately, this movie is hopeless. Elsa does not know how to cure the weather, nor does she know how to restore the relationship with her sister. The fact that we end up happily celebrating ice sculptures in Arrendelle does not satisfy at all when we consider that it was a stab in the dark or a helpless existential dash from Anna that somehow made everything right again. Superficial reviewers may rejoice in the “Christian” implications of Anna’s sacrifice, but the metaphor has been gutted of most Christological affections. The heroine before and after the sacrifice is a silly youth motivated by love for her sister with no hope that her sacrifice will do anything other than express her desires—like she’s been doing through the whole story. The movie might have ended happily, but there was nothing about the world they created that made a happy ending necessary.
The snow queen who supposedly loves her sister creates a snow monster who forcibly ejects Anna and Kristoff. Through the legs of the threatening monster, we see Elsa callously close the palace doors on her sister’s fate. At a whim, she creates a monster that attempts to kill two innocent people. Thankfully, they can joke their way through these sister-sponsored attempts at culpable homicide. This plot twist is vital to prolonging the length of the story which is the only reason I can think why Elsa does not immediately create another snow monster when the goons with cross bows try to take her. Elsa remains the queen and co-heroine of the tale.
In the same category, are the physical laws of this imaginary world. It would seem that we are in a world that generally operates the way the real world does with the slight exception of Elsa’s ability to create ice. Then she has power to change the entire atmosphere and change it back. The movie assumes that moral laws and scientific laws are consistent with the real world, but Elsa can be an accessory to attempted murder and then change the atmosphere without any explanation of the previous assumptions.
Anna is a normal girl, right? But yet she rides through the snow without a coat or covered shoulders, runs through icy water without serious consequences, and punches a 200 lb. man hard enough to send him over the side of the boat. At a key point in the movie, Olaf unlocks a door with a carrot. Hans calls Elsa a “monster” for defending herself against murderous intent. One of the duke’s men still tries to shoot a crossbow at Elsa even while he is about to be speared to death. His single, misfired arrow severs the ice strand holding up a chandelier. The following chandelier does not hit Elsa, but she suddenly blacks out for a number of hours. This is like the story teller who can’t figure out how to solve the problem, so he slips “magic” into his story to save his imagination. How different is Elsa anyway? She walks many miles through deep snow without any need to eat, sleep, or get warm. The snow melts out from under them, and they’re not afraid. Then a ship comes up out of nowhere.
And for the champion jump-the-shark moment, there is no good reason why the parents and Elsa did not simply explain the terrible situation to Anna. The entire plot is made up of a false dilemma since no parent would cloister their children from each other rather than simply explain the problem. Again, it may fit the messy family scenarios of today who have lots of complicated tensions, but its bad writing.
Something can be unbelievable because we did not expect it (like Sidney Carton’s heroism in A Tale of Two Cities) or because the laws of the universe in which the story takes place wouldn’t support those events (everything cited above). Great fiction writers copy the real world to a degree and follow meticulously the metaphors that God has placed behind all reality. Post moderns write like Frozen.
In the song with the trolls they sing about Kristoff’s relationship with the reindeer that is “against the laws of nature.” Arguably the most dominant moral message of the film is that Elsa was “born with it.” She is told by society to “conceal, don’t feel.” She finally and fearlessly belts out “Let it go!” and “slam the door” of the closet from which she is emerging. She is unjustly segregated, denounced, and condemned, yet at the end of the film, who is left without a spouse? Show me that value meal of ideas in Dickens, or Melville, or Bunyan’s allegories. Writers from the halls of time don’t make their characters like Elsa because they don’t feel like producers in Hollywood.
The two heroes leapt across a 6-8 meter gorge while running up hill in the snow being chased by wolves. The thin young lady paused while retreating to attack the enormous snow monster. Even the love scene between Hans and Anna played off the most thrilling, captivating stimuli such as flashing skirts, quick romance, and witty repartee. The modern man wants thrills, and modern writers will move Arrendelle to create them. In the school room of the movie theater we have all dutifully learned our lesson to love the adrenaline rush, and Frozen is a typical example of extreme adventures. I wonder why Johnny can’t focus at his lessons like his great-great grandfather?
“No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!” Thus, the battle cry of the post moderns has finally been crystallized into an explicit ballad where both music and words blend like yin and yang. The musical style was already telling us to trash rules and live by passion, but for those of us blinded by the ubiquity of pop music, they helpfully put it in words this time around.
When movies cost $150 million and have the potential of grossing well over a billion dollars, every comment, tone, and color is intentional. Stately and classic is Elsa’s wardrobe at the beginning of the song, but as she finishes “Let It Go!” she slits her skirt—twice, reveals her shoulders, swaggers her hips, and personifies glamour. No one could mistake her for a Victorian princess though that is the most likely historical setting of the story. She walks like an anorexic model on the runway.
The “rules” learned through God’s law in the heart and the Bible have been solidified over centuries in Western society, and the Hollywood elite have spoken loudly via their cheeky blonde spokeschic that, “We’re done with Law!” Psalm 2 comes to life even as the King looks down and mocks their puny insurrection.
Ah, but what about that great moment where Elsa tells Anna, “You can’t marry someone you just met today.”? That’s really conservative, isn’t it? Nope, because that was the old, stodgy Elsa who doesn’t “feel.” She repents of all such wisdom as she walks up the mountain belting out her new anthem of lawlessness. The Elsa at the end of the movie would not have offered such advice, she would rather tell Anna to marry Kristoff whom she has also only known for about 24 hours. The writers are giving us the mature Elsa as the picture of virtue who doesn’t care how long Anna knows the man as long as she is really following her heart. Laws are out, and heart is in. What could be more modern than that?
Sinful hearts are selfish hearts so narcissism is a classic problem seen through all human history. But in the 21st century mushrooming wealth has helped turn the pursuit of pleasure into either a viable goal or a celebrated virtue. Since Frozen’s producers are thoroughly committed to the values of Now, it is no surprise to see Anna sing, not about the dignity of a prince marrying a princess, but the existential personal pleasures that a girl experiences when desired by a boy. The shift is away from the goodness of marriage (which then can easily move on to something ultimate), and rather to the titillation girls and boys feel when Anna’s bare shoulder flirtatiously rotates during “For the First Time in Forever.” The same sensibilities are in play when Anna’s dialogue sounds like Facebook status updates rather than dialogue from Emma.
Hans and Anna experience a brief romance which is notable, not for its being rebuked by Elsa, but for the glamour and pleasure that the girls will feel as they consume “Love Is an Open Door.” Even the title preaches the existentialist leap of faith toward your desires.
If there is a plot, it centers around Elsa running away from her duties because she doesn’t like them, but when Caspian tries to do the same thing he is rebuked by the Great Lion. In Narnia, letting it go was not allowed, but Frozen was apparently set in a world with no Aslan. Why would anyone want to write fiction against Him? Deeper still, why would Christians enjoy visiting a world where He and His laws are assumed out of existence?
The previous observations should stand to demonstrate the convictions of the writers and underwriters of not merely the film in question, but any works of “art” that share similar characteristics. This movie was made by die-hard post-moderns whose only hope is a spiritual lobotomy affected by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. The stench of contemporary values wafts incontrovertibly and repeatedly from beginning to end of this movie.
But the final category is almost a paradox. There is a kind of subtlety to this movie and many others. Reviewers will look for superficial redemptive values like Anna sacrificing for Elsa and then rejoice in the unwitting Christian message even while the real creators may hate God implicitly or even explicitly.
Reviewers who look for worldviews are on the right track, but even those who talk about worldview miss the point if they have already committed themselves to the sensibilities of modernity. Friends to whom I’ve spoken have answered that children won’t pick up the categories listed above. “I didn’t even pick up on those things,” they’ll sometimes say. Neither do fish know they’re wet.
Visual media work on us like the sun works on a sunrise—usually without observation. Because our affections are tuned more by environment than propositions, constant exposure to grand houses of worship teaches us that our Father is infinite and transcendent. Sober worship music teaches us (quite apart from propositions) that the Subject is as terrible as an army with banners.
The chill of Frozen seeps into the mind a few drops at a time like all other visual forms so that even though watching it once can be shrugged off, the industry is fatal. Who wants to eat a French fry dripping with grease just because one won’t kill you? If you love grease, you can expect to be testing Obamacare pretty soon.
A Christian can justly watch this movie as long as he doesn’t enjoy it because taking entertainment pleasure from worldly sensibilities is the subtle toxin in modern media. There may be good reasons to go through the trash, but there’s a loose wire somewhere if we imagine dirty bins are clean. If worldliness is following the world’s values, Anna and Elsa’s 15 seconds of fame have given us crystal clear examples of what that looks like in a movie.