Making the Case for Frozen
Last summer, Dan and I saw Gracie Gold skate in the Sun Valley Ice Show. During one of her solos, she floated out onto the ice, dressed in a glittery, robin egg blue leotard. A hush fell over the audience, and the music began.
All of a sudden, the parents in the audience collectively groaned, "Oh . . ." while the little girls beside them squealed and started to sing along.
Gracie Gold was skating to "Let it Go," the smash hit from the phenomenon known as Frozen.
I finally watched Frozen last weekend. I know. I'm about a year behind everyone else in the world.
I am not a mom, but I try to stay hip to kids' stuff because of my job. Even Dan watched it with me.
"I'm curious," he said.
I think it was mostly because he wanted to see what Robert Lopez, who composed the songs with his lyricist wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, would do with a kids' movie. Robert Lopez composed the music for Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon. (If you're not sure why this is significant, just Google it. You'll find out quickly.)
And the Lopez team did have some fun with the lyrics. Case in point: "Why have a ballroom with no balls?"
This year, I bought a Frozen songbook for my music classes. My choir students (even some of the boys) make me lead a Frozen sing along before rehearsal most mornings. I try to avoid the ballroom-with-no-balls song.
I have heard from parents that siblings fight over who gets to like Elsa and who gets to like Anna. One parent I talked to was relieved that one of her little girls was on Team Anna and the other was on Team Elsa.
The other day, I was trying to appear cool to a three-year-old, and I mistakenly pronounced "Anna" with a short vowel (rhyming it with Hannah). I was immediately corrected.
"It's Anna," the three-year-old said with a royal air, pronouncing the "a" vowels "ah" (like in father).
I decided I had better watch the movie so that I didn't lose all credibility with the six hundred kids that darken my classroom door everyday.
I thought it was a great story, surprisingly focused on the strength of the female characters, although their waists are still too small.
One of my Frozen fanatic students said with a knowing grin, "I bet you loved the 'Let it Go' scene."
I did and not just because of the awesome animation sequence where she flips her hands around and creates the best ice palace ever.
I had heard a lot of my music friends complain about "Let it Go" being poorly written and overplayed and badly sung by amateurs. But the song is about a woman's coming of age, and she doesn't even have to get married at the end, like in most Disney princess movies.
In fact, Anna, who takes the typical Disney princess route and falls in love at first sight instead of getting to know the guy first, actually finds out Prince Charming is not so charming.
Elsa, however, is going to do things the way she wants, not the way her society wants. She is not going to hide the feminine power that makes her unique and a little dangerous. The song's message is one of women's liberation, except her waist is still too small.
My students know Idina Menzel now. They think they discovered her. Never mind her almost-twenty-year theater career. But Frozen has made this Broadway veteran a household name for my kiddos. I love it.
I have deep conversations with my kindergartners now on the science of Olaf and how he loves the warm summer, but if he gets too warm he will melt, so Elsa gives him his own cloud, and that is so exciting. And then we get up and pretend to melt like snowmen to music. I am teaching high and low, and the kindergartners don't even know what hit them.
The kids at school keep telling me about a Frozen sequel. I'm not sure how that will work out because . . . you know . . . origin stories.