Since we are already on the topic of Disney’s Frozen, before the controversy about potential agendas in the film erupted I had already planned to write a brief post criticizing the film for a completely different reason. So I figure I should post it now while it’s still on my mind.
When I watched the opening scene of Frozen I was mesmerized. The song “Frozen Heart” sung by rugged Northern men as they worked to harvest the ice was gripping. It communicated a timeless, sober mood. It established a cultural context and feeling. It also represented a nice symbolic foreshadowing of what was to come.
The young boy attempting to work along side these grown men, who from his perspective might as well have been the jötnar (giants) of Norse mythology, provided a very classic levity, while still maintaining the mood. It was perfect. Wow! I thought to myself, “they’re going to do it! They’re going to tell the story straight!”
But I was wrong.
The lyrics to subsequent songs included all kinds of modern anachronistic phrases that pulled me right out of the mood set in the opening scene. Here is a quick sample of some of the anachronistic lyrics:
“We used to be best buddies”
“Or ride our bike around the hall”
“Hang in there Joan”
“It’ll be totally strange”
“Don’t know if I’m elated or gassy But I’m somewhere in that zone”
“Which is totally bizarre”
“And maybe it’s the party talking or the chocolate fondue”
“I mean it’s crazy We finish each other’s Sandwiches!”
“Our mental synchronization”
“My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around”
“Prob’ly getting gorgeously tanned” (sung by a snowman wearing sunglasses)
“Just imagine how much cooler I’ll be”
Look, I get it. It’s funny. It’s relevant. It’s postmodern and clever. It’s intertextual and self-aware. I understand. Because I do the same thing in the puppet shows I perform when we tell a fractured fairy tale or allude to a modern song in a retelling of a centuries old story.
Telling a fractured story is always easier than producing a serious telling. Good storytelling strives to melt into the background so that the audience is so caught up in the spell that they don’t notice the mechanics of how the spell is cast. Throwing in anachronisms and ironic postmodern references that break the fourth wall may be fun, but it can also be a cover for lazy writing by smart people. It communicates a kind of insecurity in which you preemptively draw attention to the fact you are telling a story so that if anyone notices that you break your own spell it seems like you have done it on purpose. Plus it gets easy laughs.
But I’m tired of it. It was fun at first, but now it’s cliché.
I long for a stories that carry me away to another time and place where modern reality is distant and unimportant. I had sincerely hoped that Frozen would be that kind of film. That it would dare to be different by choosing to be timeless.
But it failed.
It wouldn’t be so disappointing if the opening hadn’t taunted with so much promise.