An open letter to a Well-Behaved Woman: What “Frozen” is really teaching your kids

Posted by on February 20, 2014 in body image, chastity, feminism, Gender roles, humor, modesty, women | 19 comments

Sorry, Kathryn Skaggs.

My kids finally talked me into seeing “Frozen” (it’s school vacation week here, and we’re catching up on a lot of things that we haven’t found time for in the last few months). I had read your post about the homosexual agenda you saw so clearly in the movie, and I have to say that I looked and looked for that agenda. And I just couldn’t find it.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen the movie three times. I admit that I’ve only seen it once.

But I was really looking for it, because I happen to think that two people who are in love and who want to share a life together should have the opportunity to get married. And if Disney were espousing that message in a hit children’s movie, I wanted to celebrate it.

High hopes dashed, though. Disney isn’t about to make a movie that normalizes homosexuality. Sure, they placed a homosexual couple with kids in “Frozen,” but in typical Disney fashion the gay guy acts as both comic relief and as an obstacle to another character’s success. The studio has gotten some criticism for this in the past, but, you know, old habits die hard.

So, no. Based on my (admittedly decades-old) experience with literary criticism (I wrote a long paper once on common themes in T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, so I think that at some point I had a reasonably good handle on decadent symbolism in literature), there’s just not a credible shred of gays-should-get-married rhetoric in the movie. Which is too bad.

But don’t despair! I found something else in the movie that totally goes against the conservative Mormon agenda you support. In fact, I’m wondering how you missed it. Ready?

IMMODESTY.

Right? There is a huge immodesty-friendly, anti-body-shame, pro-female-sexuality message in “Frozen,” and I’m still waiting for you to post about it.

In fact, I’ll even help you out with some quotes from that epic fail of a talk that Elder Tad Callister gave at BYU-Idaho that was reprinted in the March Ensign.

Now, keep in mind, I’m a Mormon woman who saw the film with her children, two of whom are girls, so maybe I read some things into “Frozen” that weren’t intended by the studio. In fact, I’d be the first to agree that “what we find in this film is . . . largely a reflection of us,” as Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks so eloquently pointed out over at fMh. So maybe it’s just me.

Here’s the rundown: Elsa has this amazing power that she’s born with, just like all of us have an amazing power. Right? Can you guess what it is?

It’s sex! And sex, as powers go, is so cool that even Elder Callister finds it “almost unbelievable to think that God has given to His children the power that is most prized and sacred to Him—the power to create life.”

Bear with me here.

Before Elsa is old enough to be accountable, she plays with this power (which is totally what some of the Sunbeams do when they’re up in front of the congregation singing) and knows it’s something special and magical.

But when she accidentally hurts her sister and her parents find out about it, they get super strict with her. They tell her not to use her power at all and no way should she ever let anyone else know about it. No, she has to hide her power and be a “good girl.” Not only that, but she’s also taught to cover up her body and not to feel anything that might awaken her power. She sings, “Conceal / don’t feel / don’t let them see.”

Suddenly, though, her parents are gone, and she comes of age, and she’s going to be the queen. I won’t embarrass you with all the wedding overtones and sexual imagery that happen in this act, because there’s (cough) a lot (cough). But suffice it to say that from the call, “Open up the gates!” to Elsa having to hold a ball and scepter in her naked hands in front of everyone (which, as a good girl, she does as quickly as possible before putting on her gloves again), there’s plenty.

Remember, her parents haven’t told her anything about her power, and she has no idea how to use it responsibly. So instead of easing gracefully into being the queen–or, say, an adult–she goes completely out of control. And then after she’s labeled a monster and shunned by the community, she does the only thing she can think of. She runs away.

Here’s where the movie’s bad message starts. Because of course this would never happen to a good LDS girl who’d been taught to cover her body and not tempt young men with her awesome power! If she made a mistake with it, no way would anybody say she was evil and refuse to have anything to do with her. Disney lies.

The song “Let It Go” is about Elsa finally letting go of the shame and fear she’s been made to feel about her special power. Now, there’s a lot in this scene. She learns to use her power constructively, by herself (shocker!), and I know there’s a lot you could say about her sparkly, off-the-shoulder gown–she looks like a complete vamp at the end of her transformation! And that’s the movie’s sick and twisted point: she feels better about herself when she isn’t ashamed.

Which goes against everything that Elder Callister has wisely said, especially, “Women particularly can dress modestly and in the process contribute to their own self respect and to the moral purity of men.”

See, the lesson I found in “Frozen” is a celebration of female sexuality, and a clear warning that when young girls are taught to ignore those feelings and cover up their bodies in case they might hurt someone else, bad things happen.

And I’m waiting for your post that exposes this incorrect principle. You can even quote Elder Callister saying, “In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for.” Because he’s right. At the end of the movie Elsa doesn’t even get a man! She fails at the one thing good Mormon girls are supposed to do: get married. Even worse, she’s a career girl with the job of running a small country. (And she learns that love casts out fear, which might be in a book of scripture somewhere, but it’s probably best not to mention that part.)

Got it? Good. Next time we’ll put together a post about how the parents’ failure to teach Anna about love, sex, total strangers, and basic economic principles is such a good thing.

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19 Comments

  1. You know, Libby, it’s crazy, we finish each other’s … sandwiches

    • That’s what I was gonna say!

  2. Excellent and funny. (And every time you said special power, I couldn’t help but think of the “special purpose” in the movie “The Jerk” and giggle.)

  3. Love the post. I must add that, excited as I was about the idea of their being a gay-parented family in the film, after watching it again and paying close attention it is obvious that such is not the case.

    • I’ve seen quite a bit of debate over that. Here’s the clip if anyone wants to take a look: http://s3.amazonaws.com/inarticles/b9e9acf4d35b3193fdc7af9e4d40fe20.gif

      • The great thing about animation is that the ages of the man and the woman in the sauna are entirely ambiguous – could be that the guy is the large teenage son or that the woman is the teenage daughter – reader response wins again!

      • What is not ambiguous is when Oaken says “Hello family” the next shot is of a large young blond man framed by four small brunette figures.
        He could be a husband, brother, son, nephew, or random stranger, but what is obvious is that he is the focal point.

      • I thought it was a random visiting family with a dad, mom on the right, and three kids that look like her?

  4. You rock! Thanks Libby!

  5. Oh. My. I’m afraid I must confess that this post absolutely made my day! There is really no match for the combination of insight and humor. Thanks.

  6. Wow, oh wow. You made my day so much better. Please, please God, give my daughter a YW leader like Libby! Have a fantastic day. You deserve it!

  7. Havent seen the movie but I’ve read the nonsense – this was a great post!

  8. I’m pretty sure that my words in this forum will probably not affect how some of you may think about the above topic. But, trying to read through this letter with an open mind was impeded when you called the words of one of the Lord’s anointed “an epic fail”. I’m happy to know that your testimony still includes the desire to read the words of prophets, but saddened by the fact that you categorically dismiss the beliefs and doctrine that has been laid out by servants of the Lord for 2,000 years. I’m pretty sure that the Prophet reads the Ensign and its content…and that none of the material leaves for print until reviewed by him or his counselors. So in essence, you pick and choose what you want to believe is true. Does Elder Callister go against what Paul says in Romans 1?

    • “Friend,” answer me honestly: Do you believe that Jesus Christ holds women responsible for policing men’s sexual thoughts?

      • If you made your husband’s favorite dessert and placed it on the kitchen counter so that he could see it as he walked by, is it your fault that he had thoughts of eating it? Even if he were on a diet and he shouldn’t be eating those things?

        Using King David as an example, his thoughts were his own. His desire to see Bathsheba was of his own doing. Yet, did Batsheba have control of where she bathed…or who could she be seen by…perhaps. The point is most of our actions are not so isolated that it doesn’t affect others. It doesn’t clearly say if there were other women that King David saw bathing each and every night, but it clearly states that he saw Bathsheba. I would imagine that the laws of modesty were pretty strict back then as well.

        In the Gospel, men also have their requirement to dress modestly as well. Should a man run outside with his shirt off? Sure, it’s his right. Will he attract attention…even if his intent were “pure” (highly unlikely), he will attract attention, especially if he is in great shape. The thoughts will likely cause will not be pure thoughts either…even if they’re momentary. Bottom line: Jesus holds both the beholder and the beholdee accountable.

        Lastly, Elder Callister’s talk was spot on in many other points, even if you disagreed with him on the modesty issue. Yet you dismissed it as an epic fail. I’m curious what other content of the talk with which you disagree.

      • It’s really funny that you make the comparison to desserts. My husband is very overweight, and his favorite dessert is ice cream. When it’s his turn to go to the grocery store, I expect him to exercise his own judgment. When I go, I buy ice cream if I feel like eating it, and again expect him to use his own judgment. He’s an adult. Whether he chooses to exercise to lose weight is,again, his own decision. Will God hold me accountable for his weight? Clearly not.

        My children pass two playgrounds on their walk home from school. I expect them to come straight home before going back out to play. If they don’t come straight home, I hold them responsible, not the twisty slide.

      • Libby – your twisty slide analogy is the best counter argument to the “girls need to dress modestly so they don’t cause boys to have impure thoughts” nonsense that I have ever seen! Thank you! I plan to use this analogy in the future!

    • “none of the material leaves for print until reviewed by [the prophet] or his counselors.”

      Really? I highly doubt it. We know that there have been instances where general conference talks have been edited due to objectionable content. While I think it’s possible that the content is reviewed by a PR person, it’s unlikely that the first presidency reviews all church magazines before publication.

  9. Warning: way too long. Sorry. Libby, first, I love you and wanted to see what the hubbub was all about. I have to admit, the first time my family went to see Frozen, while my 4 and 7 yr old daughters were becoming completely entranced by the movie (and possibly its evil messaging), I was busy sneaking a few games of Candy Crush under my jacket. My older boys went to see this movie with us as well as my husband and we all agreed it was the best Disney princess movie we’d ever seen (I went with the crowd). They liked best how the act of true love was between sisters instead of dependent on romantic love. They noted that was a very Christ centered message.

    We bought the cd and I and my kids have all the empowering songs memorized, but after reading all this craziness online, I was determined to see it again and see what I missed. The only thing that really stood out to me was I could see was the forbidden love of a man and his reindeer. No I’m just kidding. As I watched it with eyes peeled to the screen, I did not see much subtle messaging. I did not even think Elsa’s dress was that immodest when she comes into her own.

    I do agree that it is a story about a girl finding freedom. From what? I guess you may pick your poison, but the clear message and the one I believe was being laid out on a silver platter was from shame in being a powerful person. She most definitely grew up in a shame-based home, with abusive parents who were embarrassed by her and afraid her powerfulness was going to be taught (or maybe a better word is afflicted) onto her younger sister.

    And that scene where Anna “falls in love” in one evening – if there’s anything that can be derived from that, I think it’s a big fat apology to all the parents who have had to watch their daughters idealize marriage and love at first sight. When the ice carver starts explaining to Anna, what if you hate the way he eats, or if he picks his nose and eats his boogies, I think that is a great and long overdue conversation for these girls to hear. It is about time that Disney figures out that these children are going to watch these movies ad nauseum and these overt messages are the take away messages that I am happy with and why I will be giving my daughters the DVD when it comes out.

    And a note about subtlety: my children don’t really get my subtle cues when I leave their clothes on the stairs to take them up their rooms or put a dish towel over their shoulder after dinner when I’m doing the dishes. Do they really “get” the picture of the gay family? Who knows? Who cares? The normalization of all sorts of families isn’t necessarily a referendum by the progressive leftist media. It may actually help us be realizing that this is kindof life on earth right now. We can choose to close our eyes but that doesn’t make the 1950s come back.

    A note to “a friend”. If we allow our girls to assume the shame of the dirty thoughts boys have, my only question is, to what end? This same fear-rooted shame could follow girls, women throughout adulthood. Before marriage, if you’re too sexy and he masterbates, it’s your fault. Your example fits here: if you buy ice cream, it’s your fault he is gaining weight. After marriage if you’re not sexy enough and he masterbates, it’s still your fault. If he gets into porn, your fault. Ultimately, if he steps out on you, it’s your fault because you weren’t sexy enough. Boys will be boys and girls are damned if they do damned if they don’t. If that is the long game of Elder McAllister’s message, then I do have a problem with the church’s policy. I prefer to think I’m ok with the gospel because I believe in 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” I think Frozen exemplifies that well. LPB, love you, girl!

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