Movie shares positive lesson

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A few weeks ago, I stayed with my daughter's three kids so she and her husband could spend a weekend by themselves to celebrate their anniversary. With such young kids (seven, three, and two), I really had to resist the temptation to drop a movie into the DVD player. I kept them busy most of the day, in hopes of an early and uneventful bedtime.

Despite my general resistance to electronic babysitters, once we got through dinner and baths, we still had an hour and a half until bedtime, and they asked about a movie.

"Well, maybe. What do y'all want to watch?"

Because I can't tolerate one of those sappy Barbie movies, or Tinker Bell meets the Frost Fairies.

Three-year-old Zoe had a suggestion. "Ummm, can we watch Fwozen?"

Yes, we can.

With five grandchildren below the age of 8, I've become quite an authority on animated movies. Sometimes I forget that others in my age group (old) may not have seen some of the more recent animated movies. I made a reference to Frozen while talking to someone last week, and she gave me a puzzled look that said, "Why would I watch a kids' movie?"

You could watch this movie just for its entertainment value. A fresh and original story showcases songs that resonate with kids and grownups alike. On top of that, Frozen has an empowering message for girls that counters some fairy-tale stereotypes.

Don't get me wrong, I'll still watch Sleeping Beauty or Snow White with the kids. You can't go wrong with the classics. But Sleeping Beauty barely has a name, and certainly doesn't have any role in her fate. The dwarves love Snow White, named for her fair skin; she cooks and cleans for them. Sleeping Beauty and Snow White both fall prey to the schemes of jealous older women, but handsome strangers save each of them with a kiss.

The prince only needed one glance to fall in love with Cinderella. He didn't even have to ask her name, or her astrological sign. Apparently, things like shared interests and compatibility just get in the way of true love.

Anna, the younger of two sisters in Frozen, meets a prince who comes to her sister Elsa's coronation. Anna and Prince Hans have an instant connection, and he proposes on the spot. Elsa forbids it, because "you can't get engaged to someone you just met." This becomes a running joke throughout the movie, and every time Anna tries to explain her fairy tale romance, she gets the same response: "Who does that?"

Elsa, with a kingdom and an irresponsible little sister to manage, doesn't have a boyfriend, even though she comes close to Jessica Rabbit in animated hotness. And she doesn't need a handsome prince to save her, just the strength of her sister's love. Even if you haven't seen the movie, you've probably heard Elsa's song "Let it Go," which won an Oscar. Listen to the lyrics, and the liberation from some of the roles normally reserved for females (helpless victim, love object, or both).

We've seen other movies in recent years which depicted girls as agents of their own destiny. In Tangled, Rapunzel has to bonk an outlaw with a skillet, and then she makes a deal with him to take her to investigate the lights in the sky that she sees from her tower on her birthdays. In Brave, the headstrong Scottish girl Merida takes charge of her own affairs, leading to problems, then solutions. She outshoots the suitors who compete for her hand in an archery contest. My granddaughter Eva, now 4, began shooting a little bow and arrow a year ago because of Merida.

My grandsons may learn a healthier expectation of the roles of men and women, too. The first of three Toy Story movies, set in a boy's bedroom, had just some sketchy roles for girl toys, naturally. During the sequels, however, they found a way to incorporate a strong female character, Jessie the cowgirl, and even Barbie surpassed her stereotype and showed some real substance.

Frozen has become the fourth-highest-grossing movie of all time, and I don't begrudge them a penny of their profits. I especially admired the marketing of this movie, when they simply gave away the best part of the movie for free. They let us watch the "Let it Go" segment in its entirety, without even a commercial. I guess they knew their business. This anthem instantly struck a chord with little girls, and with a broader audience, as well. For example, google "Marines watching Frozen" for a truly memorable experience, especially at the 2:20 mark, when Elsa lets her hair down and ends her song with a slinky strut.

Regardless of our lofty aspirations, we have a great deal of trouble surpassing our own myths. Girls growing up today can learn some important lessons from self-sufficient women --even imaginary ones.