Category Archives: frozen

Tackling Depression in Inside Out

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Inside Out is one of those films where you will hear adults sobbing in the audience. Job well done, Pixar. Numerous articles have already come out about the psychology behind the film and why the best character is the one left out of marketing, so I’m not going to talk about those. Instead I want to focus on how the film dealt with mental illness.

We champion Frozen as some pillar of achievement, especially because Elsa is often seen as a symbol of depression and anxiety. Inside Out took this exploration into mental illness a step further. When Riley loses Joy, Sadness, and her core memories, she exhibits symptoms of depression and doesn’t know what to do.

I’m going to start with a quick explanation of Core Memories, something the film makes up for the sake of storytelling. In Inside Out, Riley has about five very strong, powerful memories that supposedly make her who she is. One moment where she’s goofing off with her mom and dad is singled out as the genesis of the ‘goofball’ facet of her personality. Her scoring a goal makes up her love of hockey, another of her walking hand in hand with her best friend to symbolize her love of friendship. You get the point. These memories are stored in their own area and are very, very important.

inside out the accident oops

When Joy and Sadness have an argument and are ejected from Headquarters, it so happens all of Riley’s core memories go with them, hence destroying the facets of her personality. Joy and Sadness are in a race against the clock to restore the memories before Riley loses herself completely.

inside out how are we supposed to be happy

Now, the bulk of the film is spent following Joy (and mostly Joy), as she attempts to get back. But we do see snippets of how Riley is functioning without Joy, Sadness, and her core memories. Spoiler alert: It’s not good. Riley exhibits symptoms of depression, which we’re going to discuss now.

Loss of Interest in Hobbies and Irritability

This is biggest and most obvious one. Riley loves hockey, but when her family moves to San Francisco, she has to leave her team and friends behind. Her mom quickly finds her a new league in their new town, but Riley isn’t excited. She tries out anyway, but it goes poorly and she storms away. Riley ends up turning aggressive when she gets frustrated, and her mom is surprised; clearly this isn’t something that has ever happened before.

Riley’s irritability also comes through when her parents are talking to her and want to know about school in the famous dinner scene that’s been used to promote the film. Riley doesn’t want to talk about it and can’t keep her tone from verging on disrespectful. It ends in a yelling match that has Riley stomping to her room.

Loss of Appetite

Let’s stay on that same scene a bit longer. It’s dinner and both her parents are eating, but Riley just swirls her fork around the take-out carton, never actually eating anything.

inside out riley not eating

Earlier in the film we see her reject pizza in San Francisco, but that’s because she resents the idea of putting broccoli on pizza.

inside out broccoli pizza

inside out anger pizza ruined

In fact, Riley was the one that suggested to her mom they get food in order to lift the mood. But during dinner, after the fiasco with Joy and Sadness has happened, she’s not eating.

Difficulty Concentrating/Remembering

On Riley’s first day of school in the new town, she has to introduce herself. At this point, Joy and Sadness are still in Headquarters, so she hasn’t gone into a spiral yet.

However, Sadness keeps touching all the memories, turning them from happy to sad, almost as if she can’t help it.

inside out sadness touching core memories

This confused me for a bit, but now I’m going to explain it this way: Riley was already in a negative state of mind because of the move. Riley was already letting Sadness govern her (instead of Joy). She didn’t just fall into a depression because she lost her core memories. She was already struggling emotionally before Joy and Sadness went missing—which is really great since for awhile I was worried Riley’s depression would be magically fixed with Joy and Sadness returning while people actually struggling with depression don’t have such an easy healing process. Riley already struggling to function before the mishap shows that depression sometimes creeps up on a person.

When Riley needs to introduce herself to the class, she can’t focus (partly because Joy and Sadness are squabbling up in Headquarters and her memories keep changing) and ends up crying because she misses her home so much.

inside out core memory turning sad Sadness turning a happy memory being recalled to a sad one.

Feelings of Worthlessness

This one was done subtly, but I saw it in the scene where Riley video chats with her best friend from home. When Riley finds out that her friend has already made a new friend, she angrily ends the call (another sign of irritability) and presumably feels not too great about herself. How come her friend was able to move on so quickly? Doesn’t she miss her?

woe is me reaction

Difficulty Sleeping

This one is more due to Joy and Sadness messing around with Riley’s Dream Production for various reasons, but Riley has a nightmare and wakes up.

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

Riley is obviously sad about the move to San Francisco. She left her home, friends, and familiar surroundings all for a rundown house, a new school, and a city that puts broccoli on pizza.

There’s a lot of anxiety around the move. Besides fitting in and trying to make new friends, Riley can also sense her parents’ tension. They moved for her dad and his job and Riley overhears her parents talking about money problems. Worse, the moving van with all their stuff goes missing and no one knows when their stuff will arrive. Having your things to make your new home homey and familiar can help moving go smoother and cause less stress, but they don’t have that luxury.

However, after her initial breakdown in school, she doesn’t cry again, until the end of the film, when equilibrium is finally restored. Riley tried to suppress her feelings of sadness and anxiety because her mom asked her to put on a smile. As a result, Riley seems to numb herself and since she doesn’t have Joy and Sadness, she’s not functioning properly. This made me think of Frozen and the “good girl” Elsa strives to be. Because Riley and Elsa are putting on a face, they’re not processing their emotions. They aren’t allowed to go through a spectrum of emotion and that numbs them, making them feel empty.

frozen strugglebus reactioninside out riley sad

The hardest part of watching Inside Out for me was seeing Riley become more and more numb to everything. She seemed like a shell of her herself.

Riley is for all intents and purposes empty. Her core memories are gone. The glass case that stored them is literally empty. And she embodies that, like I just mentioned.

Does Love Fix Everything?

Long time followers of AM know Mel and I have major beef with Frozen for how they closed Elsa’s story. Love is not the answer to every problem, especially mental illness. Inside Out, thankfully, knows that and did something different.

Riley appears depressed because Joy, Sadness, and her Core Memories are gone. So Fear, Anger, and Disgust have been left in charge of helping her function (spoiler alert: They suck at it).

inside out fear disgust anger fightinginside out fear disgust anger punch

Riley is not clinically depressed since not once are neurotransmitters mentioned—the chemicals in the brain that can get out of whack and cause mental illness or other neurological problems like Parkinson’s Disease. Naturally, Joy and Sadness returning to HQ and restoring her memories should be solution enough.

It’s not.

Now I cried a lot during Inside Out. I cried the most here.

the floor is my friend reaction

This is where the story cycles back to Riley feeling like she has to put on a brave face because her mom asked her. It also ties us back to Joy and Sadness and their own arcs. I mentioned Sadness had been touching memories, thus making them sad instead of happy. This freaked Joy out because of course you’d rather have happy memories, right? No one wants to be sad. But Joy, who has been trying so hard to be happy all the time, finally sees that being sad is a part of life. Nothing can be wholly happy.

inside out SADNESS SAVES THE DAY WOOOTTTT Sadness saves the day!

Joy gives Sadness control of Riley, finally letting her cry. Letting her feel the pain she was numbing herself to—just like Elsa, unable to experience a full range of emotions. Riley also opens up to her parents, who are there for her.

inside out sad end family hug

Because the good thing about being sad is that usually, happiness will follow. Joy and Sadness are able to join forces and new memories form that are happy and sad, not solely one or the other. It also means a lot to me that Riley’s core memories do become “sad” in the end since they will now carry a tinge of nostalgia and longing for her old home. But they also still make her happy.

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Riley overcomes her depression not just by Joy and Sadness restoring order in her brain, but by Riley talking with her parents, the people who love her, and feeling the sadness she needs to in order to move forward.

If you are suffering from symptoms of depression and don’t know what to do please, please, talk to someone you trust because you and your life matter. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Take care and love yourselves. 

hug copy reaction

Cheers,

M&M

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Let It Go: Empowering or Villainous?

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Let It Go is one of the more interesting Frozen songs, because while it was originally conceived as a villain song, it ended up with an empowering edge and became a power anthem to a lot of its audience. So which is it: villain song or empowerment anthem? I say both. Why? Let’s dig into the lyrics and find out.

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight,

Not a footprint to be seen

A kingdom of isolation

And it looks like I’m the queen

As Mic once said, one of Frozen’s themes is about isolation, but I’m going to go deeper and say that it’s more than that: it’s isolation and fear vs. community and love. In my Children’s Lit class, my professor went into literary themes and talked about how adolescent boy leads often deal with isolation and standing alone as themes, while adolescent girl leads often deal with community, and their bonds with friends/family. For example, Hatchet has a male main character stranded in the wilderness who needs to learn how to survive on his own (isolation/standing alone). Meanwhile, Walk Two Moons has a female main character who goes on a road trip with her grandparents in search of her mother (community/family-oriented). Looking at it that way actually makes Frozen intriguing, because they deal with both isolation and community. Anna is the one seeking community; she wants a closer relationship with Elsa. Elsa goes against the literary norm and is the one seeking isolation. At the start of this song, she finds her “kingdom of isolation” far from the rest of Arendelle.

The imagery at the start of “Let It Go” really plays into the feeling of isolation: we pan in on a lonely cliff, with no one for miles around it, and Elsa trudging through the snow by her lonesome. The melody is soft, almost mournful. Being isolated is not a fun thing, guys.

The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside

Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried

frozen elsa fretting

Here we get to delve into Elsa’s true issue: her powers, and how she’s been holding them back for so long. At this point in the movie, we’ve seen Elsa struggling to keep her powers in check in different way: wearing her gloves to center herself, staying away from Anna so she doesn’t hurt her again, staying up in the palace so she can avoid any triggers. That hasn’t really worked out, but here, Elsa has found somewhere that her powers can roam free, and the outside terrain reflects how she feels inside.

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see

Be the good girl you always have to be

Conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know

frozen elsa is a deer in headlights

Well now they know

Society is really weird about emotions, so I feel like this is a verse that a lot of people can relate to. Women are often criticized for being overemotional or too clinical and “icy” while guys are told to be stoic and hold their emotions in. Elsa has done both of these things: her icy reputation comes from her holding her emotions in deep in order to keep her powers in check. “Be the good girl you always have to be” is really interesting, because it speaks to the high standards Elsa is held to: she needs to be good, to maintain her reputation as a queen, and because women are held to high standards in society, especially women in places of power.

However, everything she’s been holding back is already known, so all of her concealing is kind of moot at this point. Thus, we get to the chorus (aka that part that gets stuck in everyone’s heads):

Let it go, let it go; can’t hold it back anymore

frozen let it go

frozen let it go 2

Let it go, let it go; turn away and slam the door

I don’t care what they’re going to say

Let the storm rage on;

The cold never bothered me anyway

Let’s talk about what “let it go” means, because that can be a good thing, and a bad thing. On the positive end, “let it go” can mean letting go of negative influences in your life, like people who don’t have your best interests at heart, or things that don’t make you happy. It means you can “turn away and slam the door” on the people who talk crap about you and move on from them. Example: if Gaston had let go of his vendetta against the Beast, he might have survived the battle at the end of Beauty and the Beast. Instead, he literally lost his grip.

beauty gaston falls

On the more negative end: Let it go” can tie back to isolation, though. Someone can let go of positive elements in their life as well, like family. Here, Elsa is letting go of the people in her life by isolating herself up on the mountaintop, and leaving her sister behind. Isolation is a solution for Elsa in the moment, but it’s a Band-Aid fix; it’s only temporarily going to work out. (We see that later on, when Anna comes looking for Elsa.)

The last two lines are interesting, because while the chorus initially feels like a power anthem, it takes a darker town at the end.

“Let the storm rage on” means that Elsa doesn’t care about stopping the chaos she’s caused; she’ll let it keep going for as long as she wants. And “the cold never bothered me anyway”…

There’s a very selfish feeling to the phrase, because Elsa is putting herself above other people’s needs. It’s good that she’s expressing herself, and not letting people hold her back from that, but it’s bad that she doesn’t care about the welfare of all of the people freezing in Arendelle. It’s also weirdly out of place, because Anna’s appearance later on implies that Elsa had no idea this was even happening. Still, her lines suggest that even if it did, she wouldn’t care, which is pretty callous.

It’s lines like these that call into question the morality involved in “Let It Go,” because while it did become a power anthem, elements of when it was a villain song remain. It has the dramatic flair of one, and certain lines and phrases (like “let the storm rage on”) set up Elsa as an antagonistic figure. This is why I classify it as both: it has villainous origins, but is empowering anyway.

(Side note: Mic suggested that “the cold never bothered me anyway” could relate to Elsa’s perception of her powers, and how they never bothered her until she was taught to fear them, which I thought was an interesting take. Who’s right here, guys? Are we both right?)

Moving on:

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small

And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all

Away from Arendelle, Elsa has some perspective. Here, where she can express herself freely, her fears aren’t there to bother her, and she can truly dig into her powers without worrying that she’ll harm someone.

It’s time to see what I can do,

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

“I’m free” = being free from society’s expectations, as well as her fears and worries. There’s more gray mortality on display (“no right, no wrong, no rules for me”), but there’s also a giddy sense of adventure as she crafts ice bridges and climbs them, lets snowflakes swirl form her fingertips, forms snowmen.

Elsa hasn’t really been a child, not in the sense that most kids were. The second she hurt her sister and the trolls/her parents made her nervous about her powers, her innocence faded and she’s been locked in a constant struggle to keep everything together.

frozen elsa's innocence ends

Out here, none of that matters, and she can embrace her childish side again with no consequences. I mean, look at the glee on her face!

frozen lil elsa

frozen wheeeee

I am one with the wind and sky

I love this line, because it brings me back to Pocahontas and Colors of the Wind. It gives the song a more spiritual side, letting Elsa be in touch with the world around her and the power inside of her. Elsa has never felt secure in who she is, but for a brief moment, she feels at peace. She is one with her power.

You’ll never see me cry

Great line, because it shows that Elsa has made progress, but she’s still bottling herself up in a way, and that’s something it takes the rest of the movie for her to deal with.

Here I stand, and here I’ll stay

Let the storm rage on

And more isolation! This song is a goldmine for isolation and angst. Even with the empowering melody, there are a lot of lines that are really painful and harsh, like this one. Elsa is at peace with herself and her power, yes, but she’s also alone. She’s still holding herself back from the world and her sister.

My power flurries through the air into the ground

My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around

And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast

First, there are a lot of ice puns (“flurries”, “frozen fractals”, “icy blast”). Second: this is the first time we see Elsa use her power to construct something without fear or anguish. She’s crafting a structure with her power, pushing ice up and out of the earth, letting it spiral into a fortress. She’s creating herself a new home.

I’m never going back; the past is in the past

When Mic did her villain songs meta, she made this really interesting point about how a lot of Disney villains have a point of no return, where they feel they cannot go back, and solidify themselves as an antagonistic force. Here, “I’m never going back” serves to do exactly that. If this were still a villain song, this would be the moment that Elsa sets herself against her sister and cannot be saved. However, because this is a movie built on sisterly love, it doesn’t quite work out that way.

And I’ll rise like the break of dawn

frozen  copy

Let it go, let it go

That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand, in the light of day

This is such a weird stanza for me, because parts of this feel very heroic. There’s a lot of imagery with light, with rising and being triumphant. But it can be read in a darker way. “That perfect girl is gone” sounds like Elsa shedding her label and making something new of herself, which could be a bad thing or a good thing, really. This song is so confused about what it wants to be.

frozen strugglebus reaction

The ending (“let the storm rage on / the cold never bothered me anyway”) doesn’t help clear things up much better either.

frozen cold never bothered me anyway

In the end, I think “Let it Go” has strong lyrics, a very catchy melody, and a lot of conflicting elements buried within it. While it might’ve been nice to see the creators ease out some of the villainous edges to make this more of a triumphant hero taking a stand, it’s also nice to see a character steeped in a darker morality, with the potential to be good or evil. Elsa can either give into fear or embrace love, and in the end, she does the latter and allows her power to truly flourish.

frozen hug

What do you guys think of Let It Go? Would you have liked to see Elsa as more of an antagonistic force? Let us know in the comments.

Animated Meta can be followed on both our Twitter and our Tumblr. Have a nice Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M

Princesses Need Friends Too: The Problematic Lack of Positive Female Interactions (and Friends) in Disney Princess Movies

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Disney only has two sets of female friendship in the Disney princess movies. I repeat: only two sets of female friends. That’s really, really bad. Come to think of it, Disney Princess movies in general are lacking in positive female interactions. Either we get a lack of women present, or their relationships are antagonistic in nature. There are a few proud exceptions, but not many.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a quick trip through the halls of Disney Princess history and explore the nature of female relationships.

 

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

The only two women in this movie are Snow White and her stepmother, the Evil Queen. And Snow White’s stepmother spends the majority of the movie trying to kill her because of her beauty, which doesn’t make for a healthy relationship. It’s interesting that the only two women we have in this film have an antagonistic relationship relating to beauty and power; it says a lot about women in society, who are often set up as competitors rather than coworkers. It’s a no for Snow.

mary margaret says no

Cinderella

Good news: Cinderella has a stepmother and stepsisters, which is a step up from Snow White. Bad news: her stepmother is the worst, and her stepsisters aren’t much better.

cinderella and stepmother

Instead of being treated like family, Cinderella is made into a servant by her stepfamily and constantly put down/ridiculed by them. There’s another antagonistic set-up here, with Cinderella’s stepsisters seeking marriage to the prince, and Cinderella inadvertedly coming into competition with them when she meets Prince Charming and falls for him.

There are also a few female mice, but Cinderella doesn’t seem particularly close to them. 😦 So no.

Sleeping Beauty

Our first sign of positive interaction: Sleeping Beauty gives us Briar Rose (aka Aurora) and the three fairies that raise her in seclusion to protect her from Maleficent. While the fairies tend to be a little oblivious, they mean well, and they take good care of Briar Rose. From the few interactions we see of theirs, it’s evident they care a lot about her, and want her to be happy. The surprise party for her birthday is a great example. Despite their no magic rule, they’re willing to go around it to make her present and her cake the absolute best. Nothing but the best for their Briar Rose!

sleeping beautiy cake candles life copy

They also play a key role in getting Prince Phillip free and giving him the tools he needs to defeat Maleficent, so that they can save Aurora. And then there’s that sweet scene when they tuck Aurora in under the sleeping curse, much like a parent tucking their child in.

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While Aurora doesn’t have female friends, since she’s secluded in the woods, the fairies are maternal figures to her, so I’m going to fill this one under “sort of.” It could be better, but it’s progress.

The Little Mermaid

Ariel falls into the start of the “daughters with missing mothers and great relationships with their fathers” trend. Guys, I think Ariel’s relationship with Triton is awesome. And I think it’s important that Disney conveys so many great father-daughter relationships in their films. However, the lack of mother figures is really depressing, and I think it’s sad that like in most of the Disney princess movies, Ariel has a mother who isn’t around. It’s also sad that Ariel is one of seven sisters, and barely even interacts with her sisters throughout the movie. A woman she does interact with a lot is Ursula, the female antagonist, who spends the movie plotting against Ariel, steals her voice, and attempts to sabotage her relationship with Eric. No for Ariel.

little mermaid crying

Beauty and the Beast

B&TB doesn’t have a lot of women. The three most prominent ladies in Belle’s village are a set of blonde triplets who aren’t displayed in the best light. They fawn over Gaston and basically exist to be his fangirls.

beauty anf the beast fangirling  copy

In the castle, we have Belle’s wardrobe, who is nice, and we have Mrs. Potts, who is awesome, but she doesn’t interact with either of them a lot. So no.

Aladdin

Jasmine is our only prominent female character, which is really sad, because I would’ve loved if Jasmine had a friend. Poor girl is lonely in that castle with only her tiger to keep her company. Nope.

aladdin done w your shit

Pocahontas

YES. Pocahontas is one of our few Disney princesses with a female best friend, who happens to be awesome. Nakoma and Pocahontas’ friendship is fantastic. They squabble like sisters, gossip about everything (including cute boys), and just hang out like most girls do.

pocahontas nakoma cheeringpocahontas and nakoma assessing men

pocahontas and nakoma 3

Out of the two, Nakoma is the more level-headed and reasonable one, who tries to keep Pocahontas from doing anything too insane. But she’s also loyal, and tries to trust her friend’s judgment, even when she’s a bit unsure of Pocahontas sneaking around with John Smith.

pocahontas and nakoma 2pocahontas and nakoma 1

And while Pocahontas’ mother isn’t around, she does have a grandmother figure around in Grandmother Willow. She’s the one that Pocahontas goes to when she’s in need of guidance, a good listening ear, or just for comfort in times of strife. While Grandmother Willow never tells her what she should doing, she instead teaches Pocahontas to trust her intuition and follow her heart, allowing her to become a stronger leader and have more faith in herself and her decisions.

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Mulan

Mulan has won the parental lottery, guys, because she not only has a father and a mother, but she also has a grandmother! Sadly, like a lot of the princesses, Mulan’s bond with her father gets more focus than her bonds with her mother and grandmother. Mulan also doesn’t have any female friends, although in her case, it’s slightly more forgivable considering she’s posing as a man in the army and ends up surrounded by dudes. So no, but one that’s slightly more forgivable than other films due to the circumstances involved.

mulan horse

The Princess and the Frog

Heck yes. This movie is the jackpot of female relationships in my opinion. There is this really awesome close-knit relationship between Tiana and her mother. There’s a years-long friendship between Charlotte and Tiana. There’s even a powerful woman named Mama Odie who assists our heroine on her adventure. But since Mama Odie is more supernatural assistance than friend, I’m going to focus on Tiana and her mom, and Charlotte and Tiana.

Tiana and her mom are awesome and close. We don’t get to see a lot of their interactions, but we get a nice glimpse of them when we see little Tiana, and we get a great scene where Tiana shows her mom the restaurant she wants to lease, which leads into “Almost There.” Unfortunately, after that, we don’t get much interaction from them, since Tiana is a frog for a majority of the movie.

Tiana/Charlotte we do get a lot of. We get a glimpse of little Tiana and little Lottie at the beginning of the movie, showing how long they’ve been friends, and they’re still close when we see them again.

princess and the frog ickle besties

princess and frog lottie and tiana

Despite differing social class and race, Tiana and Lottie have a really strong friendship. Lottie knows Tiana well enough to know she can’t give her bestie any handouts, so she does things like hiring Tiana’s catering services so she can pay her and give her the remaining funds she needs to achieve her dream. She also lends Tiana a new outfit when hers gets ruined at the party, which is total best friend behavior.

princess and the frog

Lottie also cares a lot about Tiana and her happiness. Like Tiana has her restaurant dream, Lottie’s dream is to be a princess. (Which I’m pretty sure a lot of us dreamed of, once upon a time.) When Naveen and Tiana fall in love while they’re stuck as frogs, Lottie offers to kiss him and forgo her dream of marrying into royalty, because she can see how much the two of them care for each other and there’s no way she’s getting in the way of that.

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These two are fantastic. The whole movie could’ve just been about them being awesome and I would’ve been content.

princess and frog lottie catches the bouquet

Tangled

Tangled has Rapunzel, Mother Gothel, and Rapunzel’s mother. Rapunzel doesn’t get a ton of time with her mother, but we see her with baby Rapunzel at the start, we see her and her husband’s grief after losing their daughter, and we see her at the end when she reunites with Rapunzel. It’s sad we don’t get a ton to go on, but the end of the movie establishes what should be the start of a prosperous mother-daughter relationship, so at least that’s something.

tangled hug

Mother Gothel and Rapunzel have a painfully abusive relationship. Mother Gothel berates and terrifies Rapunzel into submission to break her spirit and keep her in the tower. She wants Rapunzel to be dependent on her, so that she can harass the power of her hair and stay alive. Not exactly a healthy relationship.

tangled gothel bitch 2tangled gothel bitch

She may have a budding relationship forming with her mother, but sadly, Rapunzel doesn’t really have any female friends. Boo.

tangled maximus horse

Brave

I haven’t seen all of Brave, but I do know one thing: Merida, like Tiana, has a close relationship with her mother, and their bond is a big part of the movie’s plot.

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Merida’s mother and Merida don’t always see eye to eye: they have different goals and outlooks, and Merida doesn’t always live up to her mother’s expectations, thus, they butt heads a lot. But Merida cares deeply for her mother, and vice versa. Merida’s accidental wish – and her attempt to undo it – bring mother and daughter closer together as the movie goes on.

brave bear mombrave that's my mother

I think this is probably the biggest mother-daughter focus we get out of any of the Disney Princess movies, which is pretty awesome because the bulk of Disney Princess relationships tend to be between fathers/daughters, or a princess and their significant other.

brave merida and mom

While we do get a mother-daughter relationship, Merida doesn’t have any female friends though, which is sad. Maybe we can get one in a sequel? 😉

Frozen

And finally, we have Frozen. Frozen is kind of a weird one, because the only two prominent women in the movie are the leads, Anna and Elsa. Anna and Elsa sisters, who used to share a close bond that Anna is hoping to rekindle, despite Elsa’s avoidance of her. However, Frozen doesn’t do a great job of displaying their relationship.

frozen strugglebus reaction

Elsa and Anna are separated for a majority of the movie, and while they connect a little at the palace after Elsa’s coronation, they’re quickly separated afterwards, and only interact for a short time before Elsa’s powers freeze Anna’s heart and Anna and Kristoff are forced to flee. Next interaction: Anna steps in just in time to stop Hans from cutting down Elsa. Her act of true love both saves Elsa and defrosts her own heart, which is a nice twist.

frozen hug

I think Frozen is a draw for me. Elsa and Anna are close, and I enjoy the bond between them. It would’ve been nice though to see their bond better fleshed out, and see more women in the movie in general.

 

Conclusion (Aka, Why Is This So Important, Mel?)

feminist rant reaction

Much like the Bechdel test, checklisting whether a movie contain female friendships or not doesn’t mean that it is a failure. However, it’s telling that there are only two prominent female friendships, and three strong mother-daughter bonds, within 12 Disney princess movies. Why are father-daughter bonds and romantic bonds prioritized over female friendships and mother/daughter bonds? Why are so many of the female interactions in Disney films negative and antagonistic in nature? In a society where women are torn down, pitted against each other, and strive to be “one of the boys”, positive female interactions in Disney movies, especially Disney princess movies, might promote stronger female relationships in everyday life for young girls and women. (It would also be good for boys as well, and it’d be nice to see more parents take an initiative to be more gender-neutral, but that’s another post in itself.)

Do you think Disney movies need more positive female interactions? What are your favorite Disney bonds? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. Have a happy Saturday!

Cheers,

M&M

Animation’s Feminist Anthems: A List

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Hi, I’m Michella and I AM A FEMINIST! Pleased to meet you. Below, find a list of animated songs and reasons why I think they are badass feminist anthems that celebrate women and their agency, challenge gender roles, and are inspirational. And please don’t be scared off by the term “feminist.” We don’t bite and we’re all about accepting everyone and not judging and just living in groovy harmony and respect. Doesn’t that sound fun?

Like Other Girls—Mulan 2

This song is all about Mei, Su, and Ting-Ting feeling trapped in their roles and responsibilities and wanting just a little bit of freedom, like other girls have. It was the first song that popped into my head when I thought of this list because of how much these ladies admire other women. They’re not jealous or bitter, they just long. And what are they longing for? To play and climb trees, slouch, eat cake, be free to make choices, dance, no tight shoes! Yes, they want love, and that gets a line, but the repeated mantra is “no hands folded perfectly,” “no pinchy shoes,” “just to be free like other girls get to be.” It’s such a sweet, beautiful song that also challenges gender roles.

Who usually gets to play outside, get dirty, “be crazy?” Well… boys. Boys are expected to play sports and be physically active (though the song equates it to being a girl’s activity, which is great!). Girls are usually delicate and taught manners. Mei, Su, and Ting-Ting have to be elegant, use their fans, and are escorted everywhere, like they aren’t strong enough to walk on their own. In my Victorian Lit class we talked about how writers like Dickens and Thackery never have female characters that “walk.” They “trip” or “glide/float.” Breaking that down, trip: immature, young, clumsy, incapable, needing protection. Glide/float: angelic, not real, unearthly, perfect, elegant. Women can never just be normal people that “walk.”

One other point about this song, I love how “Like Other Girls” is a GOOD thing. “You don’t want to be that girl,” is oftentimes an insult. Being compared to other women isn’t a good thing in our society. To stay on the subject of literature, many times we see dialogue that says, “You’re not like other women.” Meaning, you’re not clingy or needy or “insert stereotype here.” Women are pitted against each other! But no. This song takes that and spins it in a positive light.

Belle (reprise)—Beauty and the Beast

We all know this song. I love the fury in Belle’s voice when she begins the song and then it turns to a desire. So this song made my list for a couple reasons.

The first might be the simplest: Belle rejects marriage in favor of adventure. Now, marriage is definitely its own adventure. But Belle is, what? 18? Belle wants to live. We know she loves to read and her favorite book (the one she reads in the opening song) has “far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells” and a sweeping love story (“Here’s where she meets Prince Charming, but she won’t discover that it’s him till chapter three”). Belle is not against love. Her song explicitly states it would be nice “to have someone understand.” Whether that’s in the form of romance or friendship, who knows, but she wants it in the context of an adventure. Not Gaston, who prizes her for her looks and is shallow. They have nothing in common. They would never be happy together, especially living in that small-minded town.

The second is that Belle also rejects the expectations of her society. The song ends with, “I want so much more than they’ve got planned.” They is not just Gaston. They is everyone. They is the pressure, the expectation, the town. They is anyone that tells Belle she is supposed to be this kind of person. And sadly, the entire opening song established there are a lot of people that have their own ideas about who Belle should be. This is a great song because Belle sometimes internalizes. She’s always kind, she said hello to everyone while they gossiped about her, but here is really the first time we see her stand up for who she wants to be, even if it is just to herself. It is hard to admit what you want. It is scary when there are a lot of people that are going to try to talk you out of it. And I think Belle is a great amazing feminist for that.

For a Moment—The Little Mermaid 2

I was hesitant to include this song even though it jumped out at me. As I thought about it, I realized I wanted to include it because it’s basically the only mother/daughter song Disney has ever produced. I also just love Ariel, Eric, and Melody to bits and we’ve talked about Part of Your World so much.

Even though this is a mother/daughter duet, our babies are apart from each other. Sad face. It’s very angsty. Ariel is so desperate to make amends and Melody is finally so happy, but also sad she can’t share that with her mom. Their relationship is really the heart of the movie since Ariel keeps this secret about Melody’s heritage and this song is where we get to dig into all those complicated emotions. A lot of times mom/daughter relationships are portrayed by the media as super close or the opposite. There is no middle ground, and like what I brought up with Dickens and Thackery, women aren’t allowed to be human. They don’t get to go through a full range of emotions compared to their male characters. And frequently, they don’t have complex stories and conflicts with other women. Many times their plot revolves around a man. For a Moment is a song about how two women are feeling.

Here Ariel is remorseful for her mistake, but determined to find her daughter, and make things right. Right before the song, she makes the choice to leave Eric, to do this on her own (or, separate, since Eric is still looking, too). Melody is just Ms. Happiness with her new fins. She stumbles a bit, getting situated, but for the most part, she’s a natural (which makes sense since she’s half mermaid!). The only disappointing part is that she can’t share this with her mom. She doesn’t think her mom will understand (“wish my mother could hear it” meaning she doesn’t and never will). But to juxtapose that, Ariel and Melody both use “song of the sea”/”sea is my song” which shows you just how in synch they are. They’re mother and daughter, after all! They both love the sea. Ariel may have chosen land, but that scene where she dips her feet in the water and her face is filled with an ache to return just tells you all you need to know.

On a totally non-girl power point: The visuals also kill me because Melody is just exploring and Ariel is retracing all her steps, hitting all those nostalgia buttons as we see the grotto and the rock bench from Under the Sea with grownup Ariel.

I Won’t Say I’m in Love—Hercules

So, like the Belle (reprise) I’m not picking this song because Meg rejects marriage. Feminism is not about rejecting marriage or looking down on housewives. I chose this song because Meg is so hurt. Meg is guarded because of her past, Meg is wary, Meg is so so so scared. I love that Disney gave us Meg because she’s someone trapped in a bad situation because of her choices and past trauma from a relationship. Sadly, most of us are scarred. We’re damaged. We don’t come with bows on us, unharmed. Meg represents that.

Furthermore, Meg is given the opportunity to be affected by her trauma. A lot of times women are discouraged from talking about their pasts—such as coming forward with sexual abuse claims years later. Or women are “overemotional.” If you’re not “better” within someone else’s expected timeframe, then you’re making too big a deal out of it.

Not Meg. Meg is not okay from her past relationship. She’s given the chance to argue with herself, to want something, but be afraid she wants it. She’s not one dimensional precisely for this reason. There are layers to Meg. At first she appears like a flirt, but that’s just a mask. This song is where Meg tries to lie to herself, to keep the mask on, but in the end Meg realizes that’s not possible. Like Belle, she admits what she wants to herself, which is the first step to going after it in reality.

And who is encouraging her to take a chance? The muses! Coincidentally, all women. More women cheering women on and supporting each other. What is more feminist than that? (Hint: The answer is nothing.)

Almost There—Princess and the Frog

Ah, this song! Such a great anthem. Tiana is filled with such a drive. She has this amazing goal and isn’t going to let anything get in her way. Tiana definitely had some things to learn, like being single-minded isn’t the way to go about being happy. But, taking this song out of the context of the movie, it’s a song about achieving your dream, something that is self-fulfilling. It has nothing to do with another person. It’s something Tiana is doing for herself. This is what I love most about Almost There.

It might be the first animated song where women are encouraged to be savvy business ladies. It’s okay to want a career. It’s a self-esteem booster, it just makes you feel good when you’re doing something you love and you do it well. Many times women are expected to be “humble” and “modest” and confidence can be misconstrued as cockiness or arrogance. But why shouldn’t we take pleasure from doing a good job?

Like some of the other songs, Almost There mentions expectations (“people down here think I’m crazy, but I don’t care”), because those pesky buggers are everywhere, sadly.

Let it Go—Frozen

Okay, everyone has heralded Let it Go as an anthem since it came out. It’s Elsa finally being true to herself, being brave, and loving that person. Let’s zero in on a very specific lyric: Don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be, conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know. Wow, that’s a lot!

First, women are supposed to put on a mask in public. Like Meg hides from her trauma with a flirty persona, women should put on a good face. Smile. Be cordial. Be demure.  This goes right into “be the good girl” while boys will be boys. This is every gender role the previous songs have battled with. Su, Mei, and Ting-Ting want to climb trees and scrape their knees, but that’s for boys (even though the song presents it as something women can do, which is great!). Belle is expected to marry Gaston. Elsa shouldn’t be overemotional, she should keep her mouth shut and smile. Whereas boys can be hyperactive and do whatever they want because they’re boys and boys just have all these impulses that can’t be controlled. This way of thinking continues into adolescent and adulthood and is what makes rape culture so rife.

Next, we have “conceal, don’t feel,” which is actually really interesting and twisty. So we have this stereotype that girls want to talk about their feelings all the time, that girls cry, and so on. But, women are ridiculed when they do just that. “Cry like a girl” is an insult. I hate to keep using the “overemotional” card or the “needy, clingy” label, but that’s just the way it is. Women are expected to do these things, but if they do, they are scorned for it (because: good!). And maybe they don’t even do it in excess, but there’s such a low tolerance for women expressing themselves at all.

On the flip side, to keep talking about gender roles, boys are definitely taught the same thing. Boys aren’t supposed to have a soft side. They’re masculine! Strong! Testosterone! And boys are also made fun of if they don’t conform to this expectation. Many times, men also aren’t allowed to go through the full spectrum of emotions. This is wrong. This is just as wrong as the insane stereotypes surrounding women, even though we do not talk about this as much.

Let it Go has an important message and for obvious reasons, definitely is a feminist anthem.

I Whistle A Happy Tune–The King and I

I think this one is a lesser-known animated movie and I actually had forgotten about it till recently myself. I want to end on this note because this song is all about overcoming fear and that’s a great message to end on.

I think it also, sadly, feeds on the “conceal don’t feel” aspect of Let it Go and gender roles because some of the lyrics are: I strike a careless pose and whistle a happy tune and no one ever knows I’m afraid. At first glance it’s all about putting on that mask, of women not being able to express their feelings. But, as the song goes on, the meaning is that if you trick yourself into feeling brave, you may be as brave as you make believe you are.

So: things are scary. People get scared. But we are in control of how that fear affects us. Anna’s method, as she teaches her son in this song, is to whistle a happy tune “and the happiness in the tune convinces [him] that [he’s] not afraid.” Maybe she should teach him that it’s okay to be afraid and talk about his feelings, but it’s also important that we don’t let fear paralyze us. But, Anna doesn’t tell her son NOT to be afraid. She doesn’t tell him men are brave, that men don’t get scared. Instead of pushing that fear aside or pretending it doesn’t exist, she encourages him to feel it, and then essentially, fake it till he makes it.

Anna puts us in control of our fear. And isn’t that what fear is? We’re not in control in fearful situations. So whistling is a way of taking back the power.

I also wanted to end with this song since it puts a woman in a position of authority. She’s the leader, people are listening to what she has to say. And I can’t think of many animated songs where a woman is the head of a group. Women frequently have solos, but many times a male leads a group number. Look at: I’ll Make a Man Out of You (Shang), Be Our Guest (Lumiere), Kiss the Girl (Sebastian), and Topsy Turvy (Clopin). I do think He’s a Tramp from Lady and the Tramp and Dig a Little Deeper from Princess and the Frog are good examples of female led group numbers in addition to this, though even He’s a Tramp isn’t very groupish, but I’ll count it.

Conclusion

I just wanted to make a list of songs that celebrated girl power and wax poetically about them. Ta!

What’s your feminist anthem? How do you feel about these songs? GIVE ME ALL YOUR OPINIONS.

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Cheers,

M&M

Examining Fixer-Upper’s Flaws

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Frozen has always been a mixed bag for me. There are some parts of the movie that I really love and others that are problematic and needed some work. The one that bothers me the most is the trolls, and their song, “Fixer-Upper.”

“Fixer-Upper” is a song that tries to come off as being about love and acceptance, but instead introduces some really uncomfortable messages that didn’t jive with me: 1) the way that the song ignores the agency of both Anna and Kristoff, and 2) the message that love can fix people.

Ignoring Anna and Kristoff’s Agency

The problem with the trolls is the way that they ignore the agency of characters, and this is clearest in “Fixer-Upper” when we see the way they entirely dismiss Anna’s feelings. I mean, look at the opening lines of the song:

What’s the issue, dear?

Why are you holding back from such a man?

The language here is just…ugh. First of all, the dear comes off as patronizing in this context. Second, there’s this very uncomfortable sense of shaming. “Why are you” is combative; it suggests that fault lies with Anna, and that she’s wrong for not being with Kristoff. The way that the trolls shame her for that is so rude and disrespectful that I can’t even deal.

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(I’m Misty in this gif basically.)

The trend of ignoring Anna’s agency continues when Kristoff tells the trolls that Anna is engaged.

So she’s a bit of a fixer-upper

That’s a minor thing

Her quote ‘engagement’ is a flex arrangement

And by the way, I don’t see no ring

The term “fixer-upper” used for Anna suggests that her engagement with Hans is something that can easily be fixed. They disregard the validity of the relationship with excuses (“her quote ‘engagement’ is a flex arrangement” and “I don’t see no ring”) and in doing so, completely disregard Anna’s choices and agency. They’re basically saying: Anna’s decision holds no merit, because we say it doesn’t. They’re taking away from the merit of her decision and writing it off. We live in a society where women and their choices are written off so often that seeing this happen in context of the movie was super uncomfortable in a bad way.

And then this happens:

So she’s a bit of a fixer-upper,

Her brain’s a bit betwixt

Get the fiancé out of the way

And the whole thing will be fixed!

frozen wait what

Side note for those of you who went “huh” at the word betwixt, like I did: betwixt means “between” so the trolls are likely referencing the love triangle between Hans, Anna and Kristoff (and Anna’s feelings for both guys) here.

This is a lot like the above stanza, where the trolls are disregarding the feelings of all three members of the love triangle. They’re dismissing Anna’s feelings. Calling her “betwixt” is like calling her “confused” which is super insulting in my opinion, because they’re saying she can’t trust her own feelings, so they should make a decision for her. Again, that disregard for Anna’s agency.

They’re disregarding Hans entirely: they’re willing to kill him or at the very least, get him “out of the way” in order to make Kristoff/Anna happen. Now keep in mind, the viewer doesn’t know that Hans is evil at this point. Neither do the trolls. For all we know, the trolls are going to take out some innocent guy just to make their shipping dreams a reality. That’s totally messed up.

And they’re also disregarding Kristoff’s feelings as well. Kristoff is clearly uncomfortable during the song, and the trolls repeatedly ignore that.

frozen kristoff side-eyeing the trollsfrozen kristoff is like whattt

When the trolls first try and set Kristoff and Anna up, Kristoff interrupts and says:

“Can we please just stop talking about this? We’ve got a real, actual problem here.”

Kristoff is worried about Anna’s condition, obviously, but I think he’s also uncomfortable with his family trying to set him up with Anna when Anna is engaged to someone else. Kristoff’s regard for Anna’s feelings is in direct contrast to the trolls. While they don’t care what Anna wants, Kristoff cares greatly about what Anna wants and how Anna feels. He may have scoffed at Anna’s engagement at first, but it’s clear as the movie goes on that he cares greatly about how Anna feels and respects her feelings. Does he like her? Yes. But Kristoff is a great representation of how someone should handle a person they like having feelings for someone else: instead of whining or trying to get Anna to pick him, Kristoff respects Anna’s feelings and her relationship with Hans. He stands firm when the trolls keep pushing:

“Enough! She’s engaged to someone else, okay?”

Even with his feelings for Anna, he respects her relationship enough to defend it to his family when they keep pushing and harassing them. And later, he takes Anna back to the castle to Hans when she needs her act of true love, because he wants her to be happy. He respects her. I know I’ve said this word a lot, guys, but respect is really important. And the trolls completely disrespect Kristoff as well as Anna by ignoring their feelings about the matter.

frozen ropes

There’s also the fact that they keep headlining Kristoff’s flaws, which while I understood they were trying to be upfront about him and mortifying in the way that family sometimes is, rubbed me the wrong way, because they treat his flaws as something to be fixed.

And that’s the ultimate problem with this song. “Fixer-Upper” promotes an incredibly unhealthy message: fixing people’s flaws with love.

Love Can Fix People? False.

Repeatedly, the trolls tell us that love can be used to fix a person. They reference it in terms of Kristoff’s flaws (“you can fix this fix-upper up with a little bit of love”) and they reference it again in terms of love in general (“the only fixer-upper that can fix a fixer-upper is true love”). This aggravates me.

Sending a message that love can fix people is horribly irresponsible. Think of how many people stay in bad relationships because they think that they can fix the other person. How often does that logic fail? A lot. Not everyone can be fixed with love, and it shouldn’t be someone’s responsibility to stay with someone else in order to fix them. Saying that love = fixing is putting the responsibility of fixing a person on someone else, when the only person who can fix you is you.

I’ve seen it suggested that the stanza about how “people make bad choices if they’re mad or stressed or scared” is about Elsa, and relates to Anna’s solution to helping Elsa, but this bothers me as well. It’s not Anna’s responsibility to “fix” Elsa. Only Elsa can control her powers and overcome her anxiety, and that weight shouldn’t be put on Anna. Neither should Anna “fix” Kristoff. 1) Kristoff doesn’t really need to be fixed (because he’s awesome). 2) Even if he did, that’s not Anna’s responsibility. Anna is with Hans at this point of the movie, and she loves him. She isn’t going to ditch him just because the trolls want her to date Kristoff and fix his flaws.

“But what about when the trolls say that people don’t really change, Mel? Doesn’t that mean that they don’t want Anna to change Kristoff in any way?”

Not exactly. Let’s take a look at the stanza, shall we?

We’re not saying you can change him,

‘Cause people don’t really change

We’re only saying that love’s a force

That’s powerful and strange

People make bad choices

If they’re mad or scared or stressed

This might be a good message if the trolls hadn’t spent the entirety of the song before this entirely contradicting it. The fact that the trolls spend stanzas before this criticizing Kristoff’s flaws and telling Anna that she can fix him up negates all of this. And yes, people make bad choices. That’s a good point, and points to Elsa and how a lot of her bad choices came from a place of fear. However, the two lines after this are entirely unforgivable.

Throw a little love their way

And you’ll bring out their best

frozen throw a little love their wayfrozen and you'll bring out their best

I can see what the movie’s trying to do here. The story is trying to tie in that “love > fear” theme. But instead, the movie sends the message that love will fix people, because it will bring out their best. Now, if this was true, do we really think that we would have had Hans leave Anna for dead? If love supposedly brings out the best in people, wouldn’t Anna loving Hans have been enough to overcome whatever evil tendencies he had?

Now, as a counter-argument, you could say that Anna and Hans weren’t in love (since they’d just met like a day ago so it’s probably a crush more than anything else), but what about Anna and Kristoff? They’ve only known each other for about the same time as Anna and Hans, so that doesn’t exactly make them in love either. And what about familial love? Elsa and Anna have known each other their whole lives, and Anna’s love for Elsa hasn’t really fixed Elsa at this point. Neither did the love Elsa’s parents had for her. So how does this love force work? Do two people have to be in love to fix each other? Does it have to be romantic in nature? Does it need to involve sacrifice, like Anna’s act of true love at the end of the movie?

The trolls say that “love’s a force that’s powerful and strange” but how is love supposed to fix someone? They repeatedly insist that Anna can use love to fix Kristoff’s flaws (and hint to the viewer that Anna’s love can fix Elsa) but never back this up with any concrete evidence, making it an unsubstantiated claim.

frozen strugglebus

Love doesn’t always change people, and love is not a fix-all. Throwing love someone’s way to bring out their best, or staying with someone to fix them, isn’t always going to do that. It’s irresponsible for Disney to suggest otherwise.

While “Fixer-Upper” had a positive motive, its underlying messages undermine it by being uncomfortable and unhealthy. It also leaves us with a question: is love really a fix-all? The reality is that no, it’s not.

What do you guys think of “Fixer-Upper” and its messages? Let us know in the comments!

Follow Animated Meta on Tumblr and Twitter. Have a happy Tuesday!

Cheers,

M&M

 

A Wish List for Frozen 2 Based on the Shortcomings of Frozen

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The news we were all expecting was just released a few days ago: Frozen 2 is go. We don’t know anything about the plot, but it’s been confirmed the creative team would be coming back together. In lieu of this, we decided to put together a list of things we hope to see in Frozen 2 based on what happened in the first film.

Can the trolls have a point?

It has been said numerous times that the trolls caused this whole thing and it has also been said it was her parents’ fault for doing the exact opposite of what the trolls warned them about. I don’t really care about that. What I care about is baby Kristoff and Sven having seen what happened between Anna, Elsa, their parents and the trolls. I was waiting for Kristoff to connect the dots the whole movie, to realize he had seen Anna before and bring the whole thing full circle, but that never happened.

frozen lil kristoff and svevn

I feel like Anna needed to learn what had happened to her, that her memory had been wiped, in order to finally understand why Elsa had locked herself away for all those years. Learning your sister has magic is one thing, but learning your sister’s magic almost killed you and she was so afraid of hurting you again that she isolated herself is just so much more emotional. It wouldn’t erase the pain Anna felt not knowing why she was suddenly shut out, but it could help her make sense of it now as a grown woman and move forward.

And that takes me to…

Anna and Elsa: A Stronger Bond

Everyone touts Frozen for having such an amazing sister bond (HELLO: Lilo and Stitch!!!), but really, their relationship is never addressed. Once Anna finds out Elsa has magic, all her hurt is erased and she’s all, “I NEED TO BRING ELSA BACK!” While that’s a great message to show that Anna accepts Elsa for who she is because she’s her sister, just moments ago she didn’t even know how to stand next to Elsa. There needed to be a reconciliation between them, an emotional payoff.

Anna and Elsa spend the majority of the movie apart, with Elsa angst-ing in her ice castle and Anna determined and ignorant of everything going on. In The First Time in Forever reprise she even says, “You don’t have to be afraid anymore” like it’s that simple. Elsa is heralded as a figure of anxiety and depression and Anna says to her one of the most unhelpful things someone can while one is in the midst of an attack, basically: “Smile,” “Don’t worry about it,” “Relax.” Anna has no idea what Elsa is feeling, what she has been feeling for so long. It is not something that can be switched off. Elsa’s self-loathing is something never really addressed once Anna sacrifices herself for her. And self-loathing can only be overcome from within. People can make the grandest gestures in the world, but it means nothing if the person struggling isn’t in the right state of mind. As a result, Elsa’s arc feels cheapened because it is erased once Anna saves both herself and Elsa with an act of true love.

I really want to see Anna understand Elsa’s emotional state and what Elsa gave up in the hope of keeping her sister safe. I want to see Anna reassure Elsa she’ll be there to help her along the way and Elsa actually find healthy coping mechanisms.

Romance

frozen IT'S TRUE LOVE

I find Anna and Kristoff adorable, but I don’t want to see anymore putting down of the “love at first sight,” “you’re gonna marry a man you just met” bashing aimed at past Disney films. The majority of previous Disney couples actually connected on a real level and did not just blindly fall head over heels with each other despite the short timeframes. Because guess what, Anna and Kristoff both fall in love over the course of about a day and the trolls try to throw a wedding for them. No other couple was TOLD to get married after a day. If they did, they did because they wanted to.

Villains

frozen hans

Hans was such a weak villain. Hans was underdeveloped and unneeded in this film. I understand that Anna was naïve and sheltered and lonely, so she went charging into the first relationship she found, but she does the same thing with Kristoff in getting him to take her up the mountain. She’s as nervous with him as she was with Hans during their first interaction. It’s not like her relationship with Hans solved all her problems. Anna would have approached the ice man with or without having met Hans. So if he doesn’t serve anything in helping open Anna out, he doesn’t do anything as a villain either. The real villain of this film was supposed to be the result of lack of communication (between Elsa and Anna, and also the parents) and Elsa’s anxiety. Hans and his MUAHAHA reveal at the end ends up being very one-dimensional, especially after the movie misled us about Hans’ feelings for Anna. (Ex: that scene when he’s on his own after he first meets Anna and gets that goofy smile on his face. That is not the face of an evil plotter.) Then we also have the Duke and his lackies. There’s just a lot of people in this film competing for time so nothing is fully fleshed out.

Anna and Blind Worship

Speaking of fleshing out, Anna is a character that is supposed to have the best intentions. She wants to help Elsa. She wants to bring her back. She believes wholeheartedly in Elsa so much that it isn’t realistic. It’s a great message to show you accept and love family for who they are, but family is hard and messy and people get angry. Anna should be angry for being shut out with seemingly no precursor. She should resent Elsa shutting her out. But she’s not. We all cried at Do You Want to Build a Snowman because Anna was brilliant. She wanted her sister back, she didn’t understand, she wanted answers. Later she wanted a playmate. Later she wanted someone to grieve with. And then she gave up. And then all of a sudden she’s just ready to believe again, which goes back to the aspect of the Anna/Elsa relationship I wanted to see be more nuanced and developed. People are allowed to be angry. Being angry at someone does not mean you cease to love them. Anna is stripped of her own emotional arc that began in Do You Want to Build a Snowman because of this. And speaking of arcs…

Stronger Character Arcs

Neither Anna nor Elsa has a fully fleshed out character arc in Frozen. Do You Want To Build a Snowman starts out Anna’s arc, but then it kind of falls apart when the story disregards Anna’s struggle with her sister later on. Anna finding out about Elsa’s magic should be a major catalyst that leads to something more, but instead ends up being anti-climactic when Anna barely reacts to the revelation. Any anger, hurt, resentment, etc. goes out the window entirely. A similar thing happens with Elsa. Elsa has this great conflict in dealing with her powers and the fallout of bottling up her emotions. But instead of Elsa fulfilling her arc by learning to control her powers, Anna’s true act of love makes her realize love is the answer and everything is fixed.

frozen wait what

This makes absolutely no sense. The movie gives us this fear = bad, love = good message, but the problem with that is that it’s inconstant. Elsa has a lot of fear, yes, but that fear comes from a place of love: she’s afraid of hurting her sister, who she loves. So shouldn’t that have helped her control her power in some kind of reverse psychology manner?

In Frozen 2, we hope to see the plot arcs of both sisters come full circle and be better resolved than the easy Band-Aid fix the first movie gave us. Those are some of our feelings about Frozen and some hopes we have for the second movie.

What do you hope to see in Frozen 2? Do you even want a sequel? Do you agree with our points? Disagree? Who was your favorite character in Frozen? What would you change about the film?

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Animated Love Songs (Part 2)

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Happy Valentine’s Day!! Whether you’re single or in a relationship or unsure where you stand with someone, today is a made up holiday where the greeting card business gets a well needed boost. Or it’s, like, a day to tell everyone you know how much you love them. Okay! Let’s continue with our Animated Love Songs meta.

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Love is an Open Door – Frozen (Mel)

Ooh, I’ve been excited to talk about this one.

I’ll admit it: I have a lot of gripes with Frozen. But I can’t deny that “Love is an Open Door” is handled brilliantly, mainly because it’s a song where you can go back and find subtle foreshadowing. There were a lot of complaints about Hans’ villainy coming out of left field, but if you reexamine, you can see the small seeds planted for his antagonistic role.

“Love is an Open Door” is mainly about Anna and Hans, who have always been shut out and ignored by their siblings, and how their love for one another is an open door that gives them new possibilities. But what they want out of their relationship is completely different.

So let’s take a look at motivations.

Anna: All my life has been a series of doors in my face,

And then suddenly I bump into you

Hans: Yeah! It’s like,

I’ve been searching my whole life to find my own place

frozen series of doors1frozen series of doors2

Anna has always felt like she was alone in life. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” really cements her loneliness and her desire to have someone to talk to. When Hans waltzes into her life, she’s found someone who she feels confident enough to talk to. Hans doesn’t shut her out the way Elsa does: instead, he listens sympathetically, and understands her struggles perfectly.

frozen find my own place

For a way, it’s similar for Hans, but let’s hone in on his word choice. He specifically mentions that he wants to find his own place – and he glances at Arendelle when he says this. He isn’t referencing Anna – he’s referencing her kingdom. That’s really important, considering that we find out later that he wanted to marry her so he could rule Arendelle. To Anna, he is referencing her, and that’s where the double meaning comes in.

Anna (and the audience, on first viewing) assumes that Hans is on the same page as her. But Hans has a completely different agenda, which makes “Love is an Open Door” a very unique love song. Does it follow the love song formula? Yes. But this is the first love song where one half of the party is being duplicitous and outright manipulating the other party.

Anna: But with you

Hans: But with you, I’ve found my place

Anna: I see your face

Both: And it’s nothing like I’ve ever known before

Love is an open door

Notice the way that Hans’ lyrics are focused on Arendelle, while Anna’s lyrics are focused on Hans? I bet you didn’t pick up on that on your first watch. Neither did I, until I watched Frozen again and little alarm bells went off in my head.

Our mental synchronization can have but one explanation:

You – and I –were just meant to be

frozen mental synch

Here’s where some irony slips in, because they’re not really as synchronized as they think. Or rather, Anna thinks they’re on the same page, but Hans knows they’re not.

Say goodbye (say goodbye)

To the pain of the past

We don’t have to feel it anymore

frozen love is an open door

Anna and Hans have obviously both had some turbulent/lonely childhoods. I mean, your brothers pretending you don’t exist? It could be a lie, considering Hans has lied about a lot, but if it’s the truth, it explains a lot about Hans’ motivations. Hans has never had a place to call his own. With twelve older brothers, being brother thirteen means you’re virtually destined for nothingness, and the second that he met Anna, he saw an opportunity to marry into something that could be his. Why didn’t he hone in on Elsa, the future queen? Well, he might’ve thought she was more unapproachable, and there was the fact that he met Anna first, and more importantly, genuinely seemed to like her.

Frozen is oddly conflicting about Hans and Anna’s relationship. They show us instances that indicate that Hans really does have feelings for Anna (like the scene when she runs off and he’s staring after her with that silly smile on his face), but then they refute it at the end. The creators didn’t really make up their minds on whether Hans actually had some shred of feelings for Anna, or whether she was just an easy target. I like to think it was a mix of both. Therefore, I think there is a bit of truth in Hans’ song: he does like Anna, but the chilling part of Hans is that he likes power more. And when he’s given the opportunity to take Arendelle for himself, he’s willing to let Anna die to make it happen.

frozen punch hans

One last thing I want to talk about before we move on is the end of the song, and the repetition of a certain lyric:

Love is an open door, love is an open door

Life can be so much more

With you (with you) with you

Love is an open door

The title of the song is dropped a lot during the song. So what does “love is an open door” really mean? Well, it was multiple meanings. For Anna, her love for Hans is an open door in opposition to all of the doors that have been shut on her in the past. It’s a chance to be with someone and have someone who trusts her and will stick by her no matter what.

For Hans, he sees Anna’s love for him as an open door to find his own place on the throne of Arendelle. Whether he has genuine feelings for her or not, being with her gives him a shot at being king, and finally having something that is solely his.

So is this a love song?

frozen IT'S TRUE LOVE

In a way, yes. But it’s so much more than that. And that’s why it remains my favorite song from Frozen.

 

Looking Through Your Eyes (Quest for Camelot)—Mic

Ugh, this song is so sweet. It’s basically all about how beautiful and perfect the world is when you’re in love.

Look at the sky tell me what do you see

Just close your eyes and describe it to me

The heavens are sparkling with starlight tonight

That’s what I see through your eyes

Firstly, Garrett is blind. So part of him is actually asking Kayley to describe it to him. But, Garrett is also a cynic and a loner, so he would never say the ‘heavens are sparkling with starlight.’

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Love has changed him, opened him up and it wasn’t something he was looking for. Kayley wasn’t looking for love either, since she was on a hero’s quest to save Camelot (and hopefully become a knight).

It’s out of our hands, we can’t stop what we have begun

And love just took me by surprise, looking through your eyes

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To continue the same thread:

I see a world we’re meant to see together

And it is so much more than I remember

More than I remember

More than I have known 

Love has changed the way they see their surroundings and even what they want out of life. Nothing matters unless they’re together (And suddenly I know why life is worthwhile).

Visually, the sequence is also important. Garrett is trusting Kayley to be his eyes, but it’s not all on his side. He also brings her into his world and shows her how he uses his walking stick as a weapon.There’s newfound trust between them.

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Here in the night, I see the sun

Here in the dark, our two hearts are one 

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I’m reading Wuthering Heights right now (if you read my Oliver Twist & Company meta, you know I’m taking an Early Victorian Novels class) and Cathy and Heathcliff share a similar sentiment. They consider themselves one being and when Cathy dies, Heathcliff says something to the effect of, how can I live without my soul? That’s kind of the same sentiment here, though Kayley and Garrett are way healthier than Cathy and Heathcliff.

 

Bella Notte (Lady and the Tramp)—Mic

Bella Notte is Italian for “beautiful night.” This song basically backdrops the perfect first date and one of Disney’s most iconic scenes: the spaghetti kiss. It’s sung with a heavy Italian accent, at first, and plays up this very romantic vibe.

lady and the tramp kiss

Visually, the sequence is very simple. They have dinner together in an alley and don’t eat anything special: tomato sauce and meatballs is a straightforward dish. Anyone can make it. They don’t do anything particularly special. They walk around town, they go to the park, they’re just together. And it’s a beautiful night because they are together and they are in love.

lady and the tramp eye sex hehe

Side by side with your loved one,

You’ll find enchantment here.

The night will weave its magic spell,

When the one you love is near

lady and tramp pawprints

It’s not a beautiful night because it’s not raining or because it’s not too cold. It’s a beautiful night because Lady and Tramp are together.

Look at the skies, they have stars in their eyes

Skies don’t have eyes. It’s not about the sky.

lady and tramp stars in their eyes

It’s about Lady and Tramp and how totally mystified they are by other person (dog). It’s about how they feel about each other. It’s an allegory or something like that.

It’s not about the material things like a big fancy or dinner or a shiny car (doghouse). It’s about being with that other person (dog). That is what makes una bella notte.

Buongiorno! (Doggies did the deed.)

lady and the tramp day after

 

Kiss the Girl – The Little Mermaid (Mel)

“Kiss the Girl” is probably one of the most straightforward love songs Disney has: Sebastian wants Eric to go on and kiss the girl already.

little mermaid sebastian ear

“Kiss the Girl” is sung by Sebastian, and the first verse is basically Sebastian summing up Eric’s thoughts on Ariel:

There, you see her, sitting there across the way

She don’t got a lot to say, but there’s something about her

And you don’t know why, but you’re dying to try

You wanna kiss the girl

It’s pretty obvious at this point in the movie that Eric is interested in Ariel. Her fascination with the world around her and her lively nature draws him in. Even without her voice, Ariel’s body language and expressions convey her feelings and thoughts quite well. And while it’s clear Eric doesn’t know everything about her, he knows enough to like her – and possibly want to kiss her.

Yes, you want her;

Look at her, you know you do

Possible she wants you too;

There is one way to ask her

Here’s where Sebastian nudges Eric, trying to get him to notice Ariel’s obvious interest in him – or rather, the way she plays with her hair and tries to avoid his gaze until she realizes he’s looking at her the way she’s been looking at him.

little mermaid kiss the girl

Eric, of course, drives us crazy by being uncertain and not ready to kiss Ariel, because he’s still hung up on the chick that saved him. Of course, if he knew that was Ariel, this would make things smoother, but then we wouldn’t have much of a plot, would we? So we have Sebastian to goad him into kissing Ariel, because of what he might lose out on if he doesn’t.

Ain’t it sad, ain’t it a shame?

Too bad; he gonna miss the girl

Boy you better do it soon; no time will be better

She don’t say a word, and she won’t say a word

Until you kiss the girl

Eric doesn’t realize it, but the nag for Ariel to get her kiss is so that she can stay on land permanently, thus why there’s such a rush for Eric to kiss her in the lyrics. Of course, Eric doesn’t pick up on this.

little mermaid kiss the girl paddling

The nagging aspect of the song actually kind of bothered me, because while I understood the purpose of the time limit in story, the pressure put on Eric to “kiss the girl” was a bit annoying.

While Eric and Ariel don’t get that kiss by the end of the song, thanks to Ursula’s interference, they do at the end of the movie. Sometimes it takes a bit of time for someone to get up the nerve to kiss the girl, as evidenced by Eric’s long wait, and that’s perfectly alright. It’s also okay for a woman to take the lead, but I digress. Eventually, he got to kiss the girl, and it was worth the wait that both of them endured.

 

Something There (Beauty and the Beast)—Mic

Something There is a really sweet song about discovering those first inklings of a crush. It’s the first time Belle and Beast really start to see each other for who they are and begin to like that person.

The music actually begins sometime before the first lyric is sung and it’s when Belle and Beast are finally eating together. They both make concessions and compromise. Beast eats with his mouth, but attempts to use a spoon. He’s really bad at it after so many years, but Belle sees his effort and proposes a new way.

beauty something there dishes

When they go outside to feed the birds and she sings:

There’s something sweet and almost kind

But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined

And now he’s dear and so unsure

beauty something there birds

She’s not just referring to him trying to feed the birds. She’s talking about what happened at dinner and what happened when he risked his life to save hers. It’s a combination of everything that has happened between them, building up to this awakening.

I wonder why I didn’t see it there before

Belle, dude, that’s because it was NOT there before. The beast had to learn. He was cursed because he was a vain brat. It’s not like he was kind before he was punished. So Beast has never actually known how to be “sweet” and “kind” or “dear.” His schemas are totally being rewritten by Belle.

And when we touched she didn’t shudder at my paw

No it can’t be, I’ll just ignore

But then she’s never looked at me that way before 

The beast was a jerk as a kid, but he also had it rough as a beast. He was feared, loathed. He also may not have been very friendly—we saw how he treated Maurice. We don’t how much was the beast assuming or how much was what he had learned. It certainly seems like he had negative experiences with people since he says to Belle’s father, “You’ve come to stare at the beast!” So when Belle comes, he’s not open to considering she may be different. He also doesn’t know how to break the curse. He has no real concept of love.

Belle touching his paw is important to him. It represents her not fearing his exterior, but let’s be real. She never did. Besides their first meeting, which, can you blame her? No one expects to see a walking, talking (yelling), horned animal thing. He had locked her father in a cell. He didn’t make a good first impression. The only time Belle feared him was when he yelled at her in the west wing. And he didn’t just yell. He popped out of the darkness and prowled around and then started breaking and throwing stuff.

Whatever the beast’s path is, it all plays into this now. He can’t even think that she may like him or feel the same way he does. Love is conditional for him. Love has to be beautiful. And he is not.

New and a bit alarming

Who’d have ever thought that this could be?

True that he’s no Prince Charming

But there’s something in him that I simply didn’t see

beauty something there reading

Belle kinda feels the same way he does. Well, they both feel exactly the same. They’re crushing and terrified. While Belle admits he’s not the typical romantic hero, Beast has no mention of Belle being the opposite of a princess. It contrasts with the way the town sees her as this outsider. She’s “peculiar” to them, but not to the Beast. Finally someone sees Belle the way she’s meant to be seen and he’s totally smitten by her.

The song then cuts to the observers:

And who’d have guessed they’d come together on their own?

It’s so peculiar.

Ah, there is that word again. Peculiar. Everything is peculiar if you don’t understand it.

Belle is peculiar because she does not fit into her society and the town shuns her for it. But one can never truly know someone, at least not by judging them and making assumptions. The town does that.

And if people are hard to understand, then love is even harder. Mrs. Potts and Lumiere and Cogsworth certainly can’t understand it. But they don’t have to. Only Belle and Beast do and it’s not peculiar to them. They never use that word.

 

Beauty and the Beast–Beauty and the Beast (Mel)

“Beauty and the Beast” (the song) touches on one of the oldest fictional clichés ever: the couple that starts out as adversaries, and then becomes something more. Mrs. Potts even spells out the trope for us at the start of the song:

Tale as old as time; true as it can be

Barely even friends, then somebody bends unexpectedly

beauty dancing

It sums up Belle and the Beast pretty well, doesn’t it? They started out as two people who could barely stand one another, and then somebody (in this case, the Beast) bends unexpectedly and surprises Belle.

Just a little change

Small, to say the least

Both a little scared

Neither one prepared

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast has gotten flack by critics for the Beast’s attitude, and that Belle ending up with him could be a result of Stockholm Syndrome (since she starts out as his prisoner). But what a lot of its contenders forget is that Belle doesn’t even like the Beast as a person. In fact, she detests him and calls him out on his bad attitude. And when she does that, guess what? He realizes she was right, and then promptly changes his ways and treats her with respect and dignity, something she never got from her last suitor, Gaston.

The change aspect is something that was originally touched on in “Something There” and then reappears again. It’s the Beast’s change in attitude that makes Belle reevaluate him as a person, and later as a romantic prospect. I also like the “both a little scared, neither one prepared” sentiment, because both the Beast and Belle aren’t quite sure of what to make of their feelings for one another, and like most people in love, they’re uncertain of whether they should make the first move, or how to even handle their feelings.

Ever just the same; ever a surprise

Ever as before, and ever just as sure

As the sun will rise

This was a weird verse for me at first until I broke it down and realized that it was Mrs. Potts touching on the cliché again. We’ve seen this story a lot of times (“ever just the same”; “ever as before”) but we’re still surprised that these couples make it at times (“ever a surprise”). Still, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise when we realize that the couple is set up in such a way that it’s so obvious that they should be together.

It also relates to how the characters view the relationship. That last line – “ever just as sure as the sun will rise” – relates to the inevitability of Belle and the Beast’s relationship to the Beast’s staff. However, to Belle and the Beast, it’s a surprise to them, because they never expected to feel this way about one another.

Tale as old as time,

Tune as old as song,

Bittersweet and strange,

Finding you can change,

Learning you were wrong

beauty dancing2

Those last three lines right there sum up the relationship flawlessly. “Finding you can change” clearly relates to the Beast, who hadn’t realized his capacity for change until he finally attempted it. “Learning you were wrong” relates to both sides of the couple; they carried a lot of assumptions about one another, and it was only by coming together and learning about each other that they grew past the assumptions and saw the person beneath them. Their relationship at this point has been bittersweet and strange, but now they’re at a point where they finally understand one another. They’re on the same page, and they’re even on the same pace, as evidenced by their flawless dancing.

Last week, I mentioned how important it was that Anya let Dimitri lead during the Waltz Reprise, and how their dancing in sync related to them as a couple. Here, a similar occurrence happens with Belle and the Beast. Dancing takes a lot of trust. Much like how stubborn Anya lets Dimitri take the reins, the stubborn Beast lets Belle take control during their dance.  This represents the way their relationship has balanced out. Both sides trust one another, and both aren’t afraid to let the other take control. How’s that for an epic romance?

 

Can You Feel The Love Tonight (The Lion King)—Mic

Can You Feel The Love Tonight might make history for having the most number of narrators in a single love song: four! We start with Timon, who is so mad Simba and Nala have found each other. To him, this union will destroy his boys club.

But then we switch to Nala and she is happy. She’s probably happy for the first time in a long time considering she’s been under Scar’s dictatorship and thought her best friend died. Her line about the world being in perfect harmony is so great since she is finally at peace after experiencing the instability in the Pride Lands.

Another narrator change occurs and we get Simba’s perspective. He’s happy to see her too, but also scared she won’t understand what happened. He, himself, doesn’t understand what happened, which is why he’s been hiding with Timon and Pumba. Nala knows right away something is up with him—

He’s holding back, he’s hiding

But what, I can’t decide

She doesn’t know exactly, but she knows something is off. “I can’t decide” implies she has some theories since he is her best friend. They really are in perfect harmony.

Once again, we swap narrators and this time it’s this overarching third person POV. Simba and Nala were physically apart during the start of the song, on different sides of the water.

lion king apart drinking

Then they’re playing together and running around. They are together, falling into their old rhythm.

lion king like old times

This POV is like a narration.

Can you feel the love tonight?

You needn’t look too far

Stealing through the night’s uncertainties

Love is where they are

Timon saw clearly (I can see what’s happening), but Nala and Simba were both kinda stumbling around (and they don’t have a clue), their past stopping them from moving forward. But once they do admit their feelings (Nala licking Simba), the third person narrator lets us know that, yeah, they’re in love, and nothing, not even their pasts or the troubles ahead, can stop them.

lion king nala licks simba

Then we have one last change, back to the beginning, bookending with Timon and Pumba. It’s kind of symbolic, since Simba fled and became complacent with Timon and Pumba and then had to find the courage to leave and go back. They mark the shift in Simba’s story. Timon and Pumba open and close this song and by the end, Timon has convinced his friend that Simba having a lady friend will tear them apart.

And if he falls in love tonight

It can be assumed

His carefree days with us are history

In short, our pal is doomed

lion king our pall is doomed

lion king our pall is doomed

Nala coming back does represent a change for Simba. But it doesn’t really have anything to do with love. Simba chooses to go back because Nala reminded him of who he’d left behind and also told him what had happened in his absence. His carefree days are over because he goes back to be king, not because Nala has come to crash the party. And their pal is not doomed, since Timon and Pumba go with him and end up living in the Pride Lands. Everyone ends up in perfect harmony.

 

Let Me Be Your Wings (Thumbelina)—Mic

Let me tell you how much I loved this song when I was a kid: too much. I think it was because I had a giant crush on Cornelius, but whatever.

Let me be your wings

Let me be your only love

Let me take you far beyond the stars

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Thumbelina is a story about fairies, so of course wings feature very heavily. Thumbelina is the size of a fairy, but she is not one. She has no wings. And she falls in love with the fairy prince.

Everyday I’ll take you higher

and I’ll never let you fall

Wings are safety, security. They are a means of travel and protection and all that stuff. Cornelius, le fairy prince, wants to be that for her. He is also literally talking about being her wings since he carries her everywhere during this sequence, or takes her for a joyride on his bumblebee.

thumbelina let me be your wings 3

But his words are deeper than that.

Leave behind the world you know

for another world of wondrous things

We’ll see the universe and dance on Saturns’s rings

Fly with me and I will be your wings

Leave behind being on your own, be with me. Come into the world of love, cheesy as that sounds. But all these love songs are about how love changes you or how love binds two people into one, or love is scary and thrilling. Cornelius is asking Thumbelina and promising to be everything for her. He will protect her and he will build her up and they will go on adventures together.

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Heaven isn’t too far.

Heaven is where you are,

Stay with me and let me be your wings 

Like Through Your Eyes, Bella Notte, Love, Can You Feel The Love Tonight, and many others, happiness and completeness only comes with the other person. Love is overpowering and encompassing and the music of animation takes that all and wraps into pretty music that we know every lyric to.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

What is your favorite love song? Who is your OTP? What is your favorite romantic moment in Disney/non-Disney movies? SWOON BELOW!

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Cheers,

M&M