Participants of my Saving Cinderella class had the option to a write guest post on the topic of the session they attended. This post is in response to Session 6, The Prince is a Psychopath: Elsa, Anna, and the Death of Prince Charming.
To watch past sessions of the class, click here.
The following was written by Eric M. Blake.
I suppose it’s too late to issue a trigger warning. Perhaps a SPOILER ALERT? Yeah, that’ll do.
The first time I saw (much of) Frozen, I was quite impressed. It reminded me of The Princess Bride, with its knowing, self-reflective take on the many tropes of the Disney Princess mythos.
Mind you, said initial sampling ended before the Big Twist of the charming, friendly, and caring (for the desperate citizens of the kingdom, no less) Prince Hans…turning out to be the villain. With no setup whatsoever. It’s as though the screenwriters didn’t study The Sixth Sense, or Fight Club, or Unbreakable, or The Empire Strikes Back, or the original Planet Of The Apes, or any classic Twilight Zone episode—and what made those twists actually work. When you watch the movie/episode again—knowing the twist—things still have to make sense. And even knowing Hans is evil…Frozen, well, doesn’t.
But I digress. The point is how fresh, and innovative, the film promoted itself to be—especially in the discussions over love at first sight, for example.
The D.P. story deconstructing itself—holding the tropes under a microscope. And whatever the faults of the twist (as I found out)…the film at least had that.
And then I saw Enchanted.
Let me state for the record: everything Frozen pats itself on the back for doing, Enchanted already did, five years before—and frankly did it better, precisely because it never insults the viewer’s intelligence.
Love At First Sight’s deconstructed—without the shoehorned, melodramatic “Women’s Thriller” twist that Prince Charming is eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevil…! While Edward’s not Giselle’s One True Love…he doesn’t need to become The True Arch-Villain to convey that.
It even has Frozen beat in the little things. Consider the Frozen song “Love Is An Open Door,” specifically where Anna and Hans, well…
Hans: I mean, it’s crazy!
Hans: We finish each other’s…
Hans: That’s what I was gonna say!
Okay. I appreciate the joke—finishing each other’s lines while they’re singing about finishing each other’s lines. Still…the lyrics are kinda on the nose. Blatant. Bland.
Perhaps if a couple songwriters were to convey the exact same lyrical joke, but in a way that’s far more clever—far more artful—far more poetic, and eloquent, and fresh, it would go something like:
Edward: You’re the fairest maid I’ve ever met!
You were made—
Giselle: —To finish your duet!
(Side note: Notice, too, the wordplay of “maid” vs “made”? All that creative cleverness in the span of a couple lines—just a sampling of the underrated masterpiece that is “(I’ve Been Dreaming Of A) True Love’s Kiss.” It’s the masterful talent of Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz, as opposed to modern Broadway.)
But it isn’t just Enchanted offering such fresh and clever takes on the traditional D.P. tropes. It goes as far back as the Disney Renaissance: The rough/rude initial-antihero turning out to truly deserve the heart of the princess? The Beast and Aladdin. And even, far more recently, Flynn Rider, and Naveen, and Robert (yes, Enchanted again).
The D.P. “letting it go,” and discovering independence? Jasmine, Belle, Ariel…and even Cinderella.
I could go on, but, in my professional opinion as a film critic and analyst, Frozen’s status as the Grand Deconstruction of the D.P. mythos is shaky at best—resting on the pillars of:
1) Deconstruction that’s already been done better (and mind you, Enchanted also had time to reconstruct, too);
2) Forced, shoehorned violations of the basic symbolism that makes the D.P. mythos work in the first place; and
3) Twisting of said mythos to support the demands of pseudo-feminism.
Methinks the last two (as Faith Moore’s covered) are related.
ERIC M. BLAKE is the chief Culture & Entertainment writer at Western Free Press. A graduate of the University of South Florida, with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and a Master’s in Film Studies, he is very passionate about political theory and filmmaking–and the connections between the two. Inspired by Andrew Breitbart’s axiom that “Politics is downstream from culture,” he is deeply fascinated by the great influence that popular culture has on public opinion, and is a firm believer in the power of storytelling.
You can also.find him on Twitter, @HardBoiledFilms, and on YouTube, at Hard Boiled Entertainment. Yes, that implies certain cinematic aspirations.
9 thoughts on “GUEST POST: Melting The Mantle: Why Frozen Ain’t So Fresh By Eric M. Blake”
Very interesting analysis! I actually believe that Hans being evil was very well written and done … I love a good plot twist. And when I watch it the second time there are little things that make me go, “Yeah, this makes sense knowing what’s to come.” But I say this from a writer’s/ reader’s perspective, appreciating the art of a good, fun plot twist. As for the feminism backing Hans being evil … well, I’m not for that, but I personally didn’t see it. I think it’s fine and realistic to make some men evil, just as it is to have some women be witches in fairy tales. All that being said, I do like Enchanted better than Frozen … I’ve heard “Let it Go” way too much ;D
I’m curious. What do you think sets up the twist well, exactly?
As a writer, myself, I did approach it from a writer’s perspective, and I see no such “little things”.
So, then, what signs did I miss?
Elsa saying, “You can’t marry someone you just met.”
Anna insisting that it was love at first sight, and that she knew this guy. That other guy acting equally enthusiastic.
Him mentioning he had a ton of older brothers and no place as he was at the end of the line.
The fact he let Anna go away so easily … a guy with good intentions would have gone with Anna. On the first watch, I was like, “Why doesn’t he go? Leave the city to come adviser.” On the second watch it made sense why he stayed behind.
Those are just some things from the top of my head.
YES. I so heartily agree with this. “Prince Hans…turning out to be the villain. With no setup whatsoever. It’s as though the screenwriters didn’t study The Sixth Sense, or Fight Club, or Unbreakable, or The Empire Strikes Back, or the original Planet Of The Apes, or any classic Twilight Zone episode—and what made those twists actually work.” Thank you! So glad I’m not the only one who thought this was badly done.
You are right also in stating that Enchanted did it better. Waaayy better. (Can’t stress that enough, really.)
No kidding. I swear, there was far more of an actual setup to Clayton and Rourke’s reveals as villains than with Hans. Not to mention, to be honest, I found the Frozen twist to be more comparable to one of Hideo Kojima’s plot twists from the Metal Gear franchise, and I don’t mean that in a good way. Quite the opposite, really, as Metal Gear’s plot twists generally have absolutely NO lead-in due to Kojima thinking that no one seeing it coming makes it a good twist, even when it makes absolutely no logical sense.
And quite frankly, Hans was treated even MORE like dirt than Prince Charming from Shrek was. At least with Prince Charming, we knew from the get-go that he was not good.
THIS. Atlantis The Lost Empire is one of my favorite Disney films (HIGHLY) underrated, and Rourke is VERY likeable, AND YET there’s some GREAT setup that makes a LOT of sense in hindsight.
“This changes NOTHING.”
No kidding, there, and it’s treatment of free markets was pretty neutral in the grand scheme of things (Whitmore wasn’t demonized at all. Last I checked, he was a capitalist), and even had a promotion of the American dream among its cast.
Probably the only film that’s even WORSE than Frozen in that regard is the Maleficent movie. As bad as Frozen was, at least Frozen didn’t have an established good guy from the film it retold being transformed into a monstrous rapist and doing a complete 180 on his character just to make the protagonist, the epitome of evil, look good by comparison (and to make matters worse, they didn’t even bother to change her name when she actually WAS good in the backstory. If you’re going to have her turn to evil, at least have “Maleficent” be the result of a name change, like how Anakin became Vader, for example.). Heck, at least Elsa actually COULD lay claim to it being an accident regarding what she did to Anna. Even when bonding with Aurora, Maleficent made absolutely NO effort to alleviate the curse she inflicted on her just to get back at Stefan.
Thank YOU for your thoughts!
I also found the suddenly evil Prince Hans to be jarring and posted about it a while back.
So, just for devilment I propose a question: Was Hans actually “evil” here? Elsa’s out of control magic freezes the kingdom and both her and the single living bubble brained heir to the crown both run away from a kingdom in extreme crisis. Hans steps in to try and save lives and sort things out. Clearly this is the guy who should be ruling the kingdom. He captures Elsa who is responsible and being a Prince well trained in the principles of realpolitik figures the most likely way to end the curse and save the kingdom and it’s people is to kill the ice witch. He can’t very well marry Anna after executing her sister so that’s off as well and having another heir to the throne around will only invite unnecessary and destructive future revolutions. Meanwhile, Kristoff, who has saved Anna’s life is rewarded – not with a Dukedom, or being made a Baron or an Earl. Instead, he gets a new slay probably worth far less than the least jewel in the royal treasury. Which just shows how unworthy either sister is of ruling an actual kingdom.