Monday, March 24, 2014

Thoughts on romantic relationships, inspired by Frozen.

Because I can't even write a completely unrelated post without Jane Austen quotes, here's a quote from Mansfield Park (watched recently) regarding illusions of character: 
"All of this leads me to believe that the person I've been so apt to dwell on for many months has been a figure of my own imagination, not you, Miss Crawford. I do not know you, and I'm sorry to say, I have no wish to." -Edmund Bertram. 

Warning: spoilers for Frozen below! Don't read if you haven't seen the movie yet! Go see it first, it's worth it, and then come back, read this post and share your thoughts!

We have two romantic relationships to contrast in this movie: Anna and Hans, vs. Anna and Kristoff.

“This is awkward. Not you’re awkward, but just ‘cause we’re–I’m awkward. You’re gorgeous. Wait, what?” – Anna
First, Anna and Hans meet in typical Disney-princess style, except the ridiculousness of their love-at-first sight is intentionally amplified. They're both dumb-struck at their first meeting (does dumb-struck mean suddenly hit with nearly with incomprehensible stupidity?) and when they meet again at the ball, sing one really cute duet before he proposes, and she accepts. WHAT?!?

When Anna goes off to search for Elsa, and first meets Kristoff, there are no immediate sparks. If anything, they get on each others nerves a little. He's a little gruff and rude, then she rather annoyingly demands and bribes him into taking her up the mountain, and clobbers him with the gear she purchased for him; he makes fun of her impulsive engagement after knowing Hans only ONE DAY. They start off with a bit of friction and some controversy, and he only continues helping her not because she'll die on her own, but because she promised to replace his sled for him - at least, that's the reason he claims.

"Carrots. Carrots!" - Kristoff  Yeah, is that how you say, "excuse me, please"??
Back at Arendell, Hans seems to be showing signs of kindness, maturity, clear thinking and calm leadership skills. Anna may not have known more about him than that he's a prince, gorgeous, likes sandwiches, has 12 older brothers and dreamy eyes, but he does seem to have character. Anyone can fake character, how long can faking last? Obviously, almost anyone could keep it up for the small amount of time that Hans did before Anna accepted him, but from what they showed us of his behavior while Anna was gone, I am impressed with his faking abilities. Perhaps there's a warning here about how good a fake can be? (I mean, think about poor Edmund in Mansfield Park!)

Meanwhile, Anna and Kristoff go through some character-revealing trials together, like running away from a monster snow man. Once Anna's heart is frozen and she starts to freeze, Kristoff does everything he can for her and takes her to his troll "family" in hopes that they can heal her. After a silly song where the trolls try to marry them almost as impulsively as Anna agreed to marry Hans, the grandfather troll finally tells Kristoff that only an act of true love can save Anna, so he takes her back to Hans, her "true love," as fast as possible.

Question: Why does Kristoff's sacrificially giving Anna up for what he believes to be her good NOT count as an act of true love?
Answer: That would not answer the feminist and anti-romance message this movie is slamming over our heads.

At this point, Hans has found Elsa, saved her from recklessly murdering two bad guys, and takes her safely back to Arendelle, where, albeit, he locks her in a dungeon and tries to contain her powers. That makes sense to me, however, and there's no evidence of him treating her badly otherwise. Through the entire movie up to this point, his character is solidly good, if a little bland. He's acts more mature that Kristoff, he's more considerate, and seems to have a better grasp of the importance and purpose of deodorant.

Then we discover that Hans is a fake after all, he refuses to kiss Anna (arguably not necessarily an act of true love anyway, as Anna seems merely desperate to save her own life) and leaves her to freeze while he goes to kill Elsa and take the kingdom for himself. This annoys me just because there were no hints that he might be a bad guy until it looks like he's going in to kiss Anna, and then pulls away. I guess that's how surprised and betrayed we feel when our fantasies are shattered by the real person that was hiding behind our wishful imaginations and the fronts they put up. But I just didn't want Hans to be that bad. Plus, with "hindsight is 20/20," a few little hints that he was going to turn out bad would have been nice. I have now seen Frozen three times, and each time I looked very carefully for hints, and there really wasn't a single one.

So, Kristoff finally snaps out of it and realizes he has to go back for Anna, and he comes racing across the fjord on Sven to give her that "true love's kiss" (we can only assume, anyway) but Anna decides to protect Elsa from Hans rather than saving herself, and her sacrificial act of love is what saves her AND Elsa. Finally, everything is put right, and Anna and Kristoff have a cute ending where she gives him a replacement sled (and guitar-thingy) and he asks her permission before kissing her. Respectful, sweet, endearing. But does she really know that much more about Kristoff? What makes him the right man for her?

Is the lack of love-at-first-sight? (Must immediate attraction never go along with a relationship that might develop into something real?)

Is it the rockiness of their beginning together? (Would comfortable interaction early in the relationship be a sign of doom?)

Is it the difficulties they weather together? (If so, how many trials must a couple go through together before they can be sure that the other isn't a fake?)

Is it his lack of perfection? Does the guy you marry have to get spit in your face because he cares about his sled (car) more than you, eat his boogers, and have many other flaws, like being a little smelly or socially impaired? 

Does he have to be willing to give you up and walk away at some point in the relationship before he comes back?

How many days did Anna know Kristoff anyway? And did they even get married, or did they just live together forever because you can never really be 100% positive and absolutely certain about another person? Or maybe they ended up breaking up. After all, they didn't sing a song together, you know!

Or maybe that's one of the requirements for finding your true love, you absolutely cannot sing adorable duets together. Because that would be too fun and romantic to be true love... 

I don't know if the makers of this movie ever really decided exactly what message they were trying to send. I'm confused, and the more I think about it, the more confused I get about what the whole point was anyway. I'm liking Frozen less and less the more I contemplate. I wish I could stop thinking about it, but for some reason my brain just can't Let It Go. (Yes, I'm reduced to cheesy puns.) I'm starting to feel like the message was: Don't ever trust nice guys, because if a guy really seems nice, he's just too good to be true. Be sure to settle for a guy with several flaws, but pick a guy with flaws that don't really bother you.

I do really like a lot of the soundtrack though, and before I end, can I just say, I don't care if Hans ends up a bad guy, I really think it'd be awesome to marry a guy who would do things like this with me one day:

Stinking cute song, adorable fun couple. 


  1. Why does Kristoff's sacrificially giving Anna up for what he believes to be her good NOT count as an act of true love?

    I've seen Frozen three times now, and my take on it is that it's actually an act of true love committed by ANNA that will save her. Kissing her true love might do it, but of course "greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friend." Her own heart has to experience true love to thaw.

    By the time Anna kisses Kristoff, they have traveled to the North Mountain and back, saved each other from wolves and snow monsters and freezing to death, honored promises they made each other... they're not getting engaged at the end, they're taking their relationship to the next level, you could say starting to date. No wedding bells, just them saying, I both like you and am attracted to you, let's see where this goes."

    I think it's a great example of getting to know a guy first and gradually finding him attractive. That's a lot how my relationship with my hubby went. When we first met, I found him annoying and know-it-all-ish. We were in two classes together at college, and he made me roll my eyes just about every class period. In the first journal entry that mentions him, I called him "an opinionated idiot." But after about 5 months, I realized he had some lovely broad shoulders and was actually very sweet, just socially awkward. A couple months after that, we started going out, and everything fell into place gradually. I see a lot of that in Anna and Kristoff, and I think that's the filmmakers' point: immediate physical attraction is nice, but it's not enough. You need to get to know a person before making a lifelong commitment. Unlike so many Disney princess movies where the couple dances for one night, sees a dead girl and kisses her because she's beautiful, kidnaps a girl and waits for her to stop being scared of her, or lie about their identity, Frozen provides a much more realistic example of falling in love.

    And when we watched this again the other night, I paid attention to Hans, and there's no clue that he's EVIL... because he's not a Jafar-like bad guy. He's the thirteenth son who's looking for a throne -- very like a younger son in a Jane Austen-esque book who needs to marry a woman with a fortune. Love is not important, just convincing a woman to marry him is.

    Look at his lines from "Love is an Open Door" and see what he's saying: "I've been searching all my life to find my own place, but with you I found my place." He's looking for a place in the world, and by marrying a princess (and then doing away with her older sister so his wife will be queen instead, so yeah, that part's pretty evil), he's found it. He never said he's looking for love, he said he's looking for a place in the world. Anna assumes everything else.

    Everything he does after Anna leaves is to get the Arrendell populace to look up to him, to convince them he's going to be a great leader. to get everyone on his side so they'll believe what he says. He's very calculated and clever and manipulative. Now, I must admit that before I saw this the first time, I already knew he was "the bad guy," so I can't judge really well if there were clues to a first-time viewer who didn't know, but I know that hindsight shows him to me to be manipulative from the first moment he learns Anna is a princess.

    Look at his face during their duet, when he says, "We finish each other's..." and Anna says, "Sandwiches!" He gets this look like, "What in the world?" Then smiles smoothly and says, "That's what I was gonna say!"

    Okay, lunch time, so I'll stop.

  2. Regarding the act of love needing to be BY Anna, one of my facebook friends mentioned that, and it makes a lot of sense, I agree. Especially in light of John 15:13. =)

    It's definitely a more realistic representation of falling in love, and I love your story with your husband! =) I just got the impression from the end of the movie that along with the silly, immature "love-at-first-sight" theme, they were trying to toss aside the old-fashioned idea of commitment. I mean, it's good that Anna and Kristoff didn't rush into anything, but I wasn't feeling certain that they would stay together. The overall message might have been "immediate physical attraction isn't enough" but the bitter undertone I got was also "don't trust anyone, better not to ever marry" or maybe, "sisters are better than men, anyway." I'm not sure, it just left me with an unsettled, unsatisfied feeling.

    I wouldn't be able to excuse Hans as well as an Austen-esque fortune hunter... one of those young men is simply looking for wealth to enjoy their minimal standard of living (admittedly, selfish) but not trying to steal power. Hans wouldn't have been destitute in his own country, princes are always provided for, and usually have some sort of position of authority in the kingdom. He wanted to be KING, which is kind of like wanting to be God, in a way, and he was willing to murder Elsa after he married Anna, and clearly, he was also perfectly fine with killing Anna. I think he's definitely evil.

    Hindsight can help you see anything, but his actions and behavior in Arendelle could be viewed as perfectly honorable. I was trying to see if there were any signs of him being a bad guy that couldn't be explained the other way, and I didn't see any. Even the "sandwiches" bit, it looked like he was just surprised that she had actually hit on the right word. (Weren't they actually eating a sandwich on the balcony at the beginning of the song?)

    Anyway, I'm probably putting way too much thought into this. If nothing else, Disney deserves kudos for making such a deep film that adults can spend so much time analyzing and discussing it! Hehehe!
    I really appreciate your thoughts!

    1. No, I don't feel like the ide of commitment was being thrown out -- their parents appear to have been married, and Elsa never says Anna can't get married, she says you can't marry a man you met that day. Kristoff likewise is aghast that Anna got engaged to a man she'd just met, not that she's contemplating a commitment. I think the writers' point was to show that the whole love-at-first-sight thing that's presented in so many Disney movies is not realistic, not that marriage is outdated.

      As for Hans, he's the thirteenth son, and historically spare heirs did not fare well. History is crammed with princes killing each other off to get to the throne, either younger sons killing their way to the throne or older sons preemptively doing away with younger brothers so they won't be assassinated themselves. Being a spare heir did mean you probably wouldn't be poor, but it did mean you weren't important, weren't going to be independent, might not even get to maintain the royal lifestyle you were raised to. None of which excuses Hans' willingness to kill to get a throne, but it does mean I wasn't shocked by him either, I guess.

      Sure, his actions in Arendelle can be seen as honorable... except locking the queen in a tower. That should be a huge clue that all is not as he wants it to seem. He can say he was keeping people safe, but... lock the queen up in handcuffs? Yeah, not so much.

    2. Yeah, I guess locking Elsa in a tower could be considered a clue, but considering what she was getting ready to do to those two (albeit bad) men in her ice castle, I could see how he could be justified as acting honorably by locking her up, too. It was safer for her to be away from everyone also, and trying to keep her from killing someone with those powers could be considered honorable, even though she's the queen and he didn't have a right to lock her up.

      For me personally, I think they just made his character seem too good, and then suddenly very bad. I prefer subtle hints leading up to things like that, but that's probably too detailed a request for a Disney movie. It makes me uncomfortable to think that someone could fake as well as he did and SO SUDDENLY switch to revealing his true, wicked nature with no remnants of the good guy fake. But I guess that's actually possible in real life... scary thought.

    3. You know, it might just come down to the fact that I have known a few two-faced people who seemed to be kind and helpful and sweet, and then turned out to be the opposite. It's very sad that there are people like that in the world, and even sadder when they profess to be Christians, but that has happened to me too.

      So anyway, I think it's supposed to be scary. Because you really can't ever truly know another person -- I've been married for 12 years and knew my hubby for almost 3 years before that, and I can still learn things about him that are startling. You just have to trust God and try for that "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" thing.