Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thawing Frozen Hearts...and Ideas

Disclaimer: I am not a well-behaved Mormon woman. In fact, by most standards I'm not a well-behaved woman. I believe in radical things like human rights are women's rights, that a lot of the world's issues would be resolved if we focused on improving ourselves as individuals rather than using energy to tear down others, and that what we direct our energy toward grows (positivity breeds positivity). Oh, and I'm a Frozen fangirl. *squee*

Hope I don't let you down, sis.

A few days ago a friend posted a link to a personal blog of a woman, Ms. Kathryn Skaggs, who did an in-depth analysis of Frozen. Using literary theory terms, she did what is called a "queer reading" of the "text." Allow me to begin by saying, I believe people are entitled to opinions. Conferences the nation and world over are filled with academics putting works old and new through the lenses of theories to find new meaning in them. It is my opinion that this particular woman fell into a trap of persuasive fallacy. That trap is one of single-meaning reading in artistic creativity. In other words, that a creative piece can only be interpreted one way.

The beauty and joy of film and stage, when done well, is that it allows the audience to experience a catharsis. People are able to participate in a willing suspension of disbelief which allows them to accept that giant robots really can fight enormous aliens that come from under the ocean (did I mention I'm also a Pacific Rim fangirl? *double squee*), or that two sisters can discover that love is, in fact, the key. We crave being taken along on a journey, becoming part of relationships, crying when the main characters experience loss, laughing when they find joy, and applauding when they succeed. Very few things in the world can do that.

In general, people respond differently to the same things. For instance, my husband is enamored with all things Jim Henson, and really loves Labyrinth (yes, David Bowie in his wild hair and crazy cod-piece glory). I cannot stand the movie. Detest it. I encourage him to watch it whenever I'm not in town so I don't have to see it. I believe this is in part due to the fact that I was 28 years old upon first viewing a film meant for children in the 80s (I think the Barney Stinson theory of age applies to this like it did with Star Wars and the Ewoks). My point is, I firmly believe we are entitled to our different interpretations.

Here is where I differ.

People are entitled to different interpretations, but I do not believe that we--as people who are working on making the world a better place (for some, trying to be more Christlike)--ought to promulgate, support, share, or participate in hate-speech or any thing which debases, lowers, degrades, or others human beings in any way.

When I strip away all of the analysis of Frozen from the other blog, what I choose to see is a woman encouraging people to filter what content to which their children are exposed. I support that. She and I may have different standards regarding what is or is not appropriate, but I do believe it is the responsibility of parents to be proactive in ensuring children view age-appropriate content, and have meaningful conversations about things they may (and, let's be honest, will) be exposed to outside the home or parents purview (i.e., school, friends, public places, etc.).

Perhaps it is because of the explosion of popularity that Ms. Skaggs has chosen to single out Frozen for it's so-called "liberal agenda." My suggestion is that we put more of what our children consume under a microscope: Curious George is more than a cute monkey--have you ever noticed how he suffers no consequences for his, sometimes quite seriously damaging exploits? What kind of message does that send to children? Plenty has been said about other Disney films and how they teach our daughters that they must change everything about themselves to be worthy of a one-true-love (a concept I abhor, btw). But what about how the men in Disney films are portrayed as, well, idiot-heroes? And that if they complete a quest, even unintentionally, they are entitled to be given a beautiful (and talented and wealthy and usually royal) woman as reward for "being a good guy"? What is THAT teaching our children? I could go on, but that's a post (or two or three) for another day.

One more thing.

At one point Ms. Skaggs did a close readying of the lyrics of Frozen's, arguably, most popular song "Let it Go" (I mean, seriously, how many best cover EVERs can there be?). In it she highlighted what she felt were the lyrics supporting her "queer reading" of the film. Afterward she stated, "The words to "Let it Go" are clearly not Christian-values friendly, by any stretch of the imagination, when understood and heard. This is not an innocent song, with a catchy tune. It is rebellious. It mocks moral absolutes. It is careless. It is unaccountable. It is anti-obedience. It is regardless. It is selfish. And if you still disagree, then by all means, feel free to show me how I've misinterpreted the lyrics (underline and italics added for emphasis)

I feel this is perhaps the most egregious statement Ms. Skaggs makes in the post. As a student of English and Communications I have been taught to seek out multiple meanings. I learned from poet and professor, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, that artistic language is like a galaxy. Anyone can draw a grouping of stars (series of lines or phrases) together to create a whole sky full of constellations (meanings or interpretations). None are right and none are wrong so long as they are founded in the text. While I may not appreciate her interpretation, I deign not to state it was wrong anymore than I believe mine to be more-correct. What I do find fault in is her statement that any disagreement with her interpretation is incorrect. Ms. Skaggs, I must protest.

People seeing things differently does not mean either is right or wrong. Different is merely, beautifully, wonderfully different. Please don't white-wash the delightful colors that make this world such a glorious place out for the sake of needing to be right. In all honesty I am reminded of Flowers are Red by Harry Chapin (lyrics here). It hearkens to the teacher who insists, "Flowers are red, young man/Green leaves are green/There's no need to see flowers any other way/Than the way they always have been seen" when a little boy is seen painting with all colors of the palette. Another literary character this resonates with is Menolly from the Dragon Song series by Anne McCaffrey who is hidden away and punished by her parents because it is thought her singing will disgrace her community since she is a girl, and that is a man's occupation.

My final take on Frozen.

Ms. Skaggs, even if you are right--even if Frozen revolved around promoting what you code the "gay agenda" may I ask what is so bad with people wanting to be accepted for who they are? What is so wrong about showing parents that forcing their children to hide their differences, the things that make them unique, rather than exploring and developing their talents and gifts harms them and the rest of the family? Or that when we ostracize people for being different it hurts the individual, the family, and the community? Would it be so bad to teach our children to love people not in spite of but because of their differences? Love is, after-all, the key.

I may not be a very good woman or a well-behaved Mormon, but I do recall the Plan of Salvation and Atonement being very strongly associated with unconditional, eternal love. It is embraced in that love that all children flourish. May we show a little more love. OK, a lot more love. I said in the beginning, I believe positivity begets positivity. So it would follow that love also begets love. Perhaps we could interpret Frozen through that lens.


  1. Well said and I couldn't agree more. It is so true that we as a human race need to be more loving and kind to each other.

  2. Yay! A response! I love to read your writing. I think you are fabulous. Let me know what you think about "love" after you take a look at this.