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disney's frozenIt seems that the whole world is celebrating the movie called Frozen. Disney in recent years is increasingly pushing the envelope of moral norms. Disney labors to turn morality on its head. Disney’s latest effort, the movie Frozen, grossing over a billion at the box office, is a fine example of moral inversion delivered with kitschy finesse. We ought to expect to hear good Christian voices eschewing the ideological and deviant seeds being sown in the hearts and minds of our children by such alluring cinematic means. But alas, as baffling as it is, most of what is said a bout this movie has been glowing praise, such as claiming that it is a moral victory, or a new direction for Disney “bringing the fairytale back to life,” or that it is “morally serious and culturally edifying storytelling.” It is as perplexing as it is disturbing because none of those things are accurate.

Contrary to what supporters of Frozen say, Disney’s latest blockbuster is not a departure from their agenda to normalize a false anthropology and deviant behavior; it is their best effort to date. We would be wise here to remember that Christ exhorts us to “judge not by appearances, but judge righteous judgment.” And we must recall what Plato teaches us in the Allegory of the cave about seeing shadows on the cave wall and confusing those shadows for real things. We can easily admit that by appearances, Frozen is a cute, adorable, and cuddly movie appealing to ear and eye alike. But underneath the surface lurks degeneracy and disorder on a scale that renders it propaganda for “Modern Family1” values, not a “culturally satisfying, morally edifying fairytale.”

Disney claims the movie Frozen was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Snow Queen. It would be more accurate to say that Disney used The Snow Queen as a counter template. Andersen’s story is a truly delightful masterpiece of a fairytale. Frozen is not a fairytale at all. It is a modern didactic morality tale of the sort you might find in a public school textbook. The setting is certainly not in the land of Faerie. Any artifacts of the fairytale, such as magic and trolls are demythologized and treated as accidents cut off from their formal and final causes and most other elements taken from the true fairytale are inverted for modern appeal.

Andersen’s The Snow Queen is a tale told in seven stories. It concerns a demon troll and his spectacularly malevolent contrivance of a mirror that reflected a foul distortion of reality, diminishing the good and exaggerating the bad. A beautiful landscape would appear as “boiled spinach.” Good souls would appear hideous. The demon troll and his minions took the malevolent mirror to every people and to every land until the whole world had gazed into the foul apparatus. After that, the demon troll commanded his minions to fly with him and the mirror up to the heavens to mock the angels. At a great height the mirror slipped from their grip and fell to the ground. On impact the mirror exploded into billions of pieces and a cloud of shards covered the earth. Each splinter and fragment contained the power of the entire mirror and the shards would enter people’s eyes and cause them see a distorted reality, and the shards would also enter human hearts and turn them to ice.

In the second story we meet Kay and Gerda, two children who live next door to each other. They develop a wonderful friendship and grow to love each other like brother and sister. One day Gerda’s grandma introduces them to the legend of the Snow Queen. A few months later the malevolent frozen sprite makes an appearance outside Kay’s frozen window. Not long after, one of shards from the distorted mirror gets into Kay’s eye and another gets into his heart and it begins to turn into a lump of ice. Kay’s personality transforms and he is henceforth prone to biting reproach and witty criticality.

One day Kay gets whisked away by the Snow Queen to her Ice Castle in the land of Faerie. Heart broken and worried for her dear friend, Gerda goes on a quest to rescue him and thus begins an odyssey of unforgettable and delightful account. She begins the journey with a boat ride down an enchanted river whose current takes her into the land of Faerie as well.

In the next five stories, Gerda encounters kindly witches, storytelling flowers, talking crows, a prince and princess, a flying reindeer, a robber hag and her incorrigible daughter and many other dangerous delights commonly found in the uncommon land of Faerie. Finally, Gerda tracks Kay down in the frozen northern lands of the Finmark and finds him in the Snow Queen’s Ice Castle. To learn about the superb ending I suggest you read the entire fairytale of The Snow Queen for yourself.

The Snow Queen by Andersen is the real article—Frozen is a mockery. The reality is that Disney simply uses Andersen’s good name and fairytale to promote their agenda. Disney has only used symbols and signs from The Snow Queen and in almost every case inverted them to propagate ideology. Disney doesn’t hold to a single ideal from the original fairytale. Andersen makes frequent reference to Christ and the true nature of love while Frozen makes no reference to the Creator and offers only an ape of real love. Andersen shows that it is the power of true love that washes away the shards of the troll’s mirror and true love is ushered in by the angels in reward for the innocence of a child’s prayers and selfless commitment. Frozen is about self-actualization, self-acceptance and ultimately self-love. In the end Frozen is a feminist diatribe and The Snow Queen is an authentic and beautiful fairytale. Any similarities are purely superficial.

A look past the colorful sentimentality of nearly every aspect of Frozen will reveal that the womb of this ideological masterwork is feminism. This is missed by nearly every commentary, but the evidence is undeniable. There are no families to speak of, no normal healthy couples and not a single good man. Women have to rely on themselves and power is the root issue, not real love.

The only intact family in Frozen is the royal family with the basically absent King and Queen who are shortly lost at sea. They committed their only act of parental care by taking their unfortunate daughters to trolls for medical treatment and psychological advice. Trolls have always been and will always be demons and Disney tries to invert that truth by making them the love experts, healers and wisdom bearers.

Every man in the movie is a villain except Kristoff. He is the only half-way decent guy—and if you pay close attention you will hear what they really think of him in the song Fixer Upper. We learn that Kristoff was raised by trolls and in the song we get the rest of his qualifications. His walk is clumpy, his talk is grumpy and he has funny shaped feet. And though he washes, he ends up smelly. On the positive side “you’ll never meet a fella who’s as sensitive and sweet.” (these are not exactly manly virtues) They go on to explain that he is a fixer upper—he has flaws. He is likely to run scared, he is socially impaired and he “tinkles in the woods.”

If this isn’t insulting enough, they add this final insinuation that he is afflicted with the proclivity for bestiality. Perhaps the worst words in the whole movie are that he has a “peculiar brain, dear” and that he has a “thing for the reindeer that’s outside a few of nature’s laws.” And again, Kristoff is the best man in the movie, but notice the cognitive dissonance Disney projects towards its young audience. They make Kristoff appealing in appearance and in speech and only reveal these horrible things about him delivered by the trolls in an adorable sounding song: thus the attempt to make perversion look “normal.”

Another feminist theme is illustrated by Ana’s sacrificial act to save her sister the snow queen Elsa. On the surface and at face value, it is a noble act. But about fifty paces aback from the tree of feminism, we see the forest of ideology illustrating not the nobility of woman, but the shame of Adam and one of the tragedies of this anti-chivalrous age. Ana is “forced” to act as a man because there is no man to do it. It is the man that is supposed to love his bride the way Christ loves the Church and to sacrifice his life for her. And who is Ana saving her sister from? From royalty, a greedy and evil nobleman. A prince among men—a bad man. If aliens watched Frozen they could only conclude that all men are bad, even the pervert Kristoff, who by projection of appearances holds some virtues, but by the trolls’ account and in stated fact holds no manly virtues and many vices, some beyond the pale.

The best commentary on Frozen I have heard to date came from my daughter Kaia. She very much enjoys the movie, especially the songs and Olaf, but she told me, “dad, I like the movie but in the end it leaves me feeling empty.” By appearances, the movie is full of spectacular visual and aural displays of extravagance, but structurally and morally it is a production devoid of virtue. It may satisfy the appetites of the masses but it feeds no souls.

We are wholly unprepared in this day and age for Andersen’s The Snow Queen. The modern soul soaking in the slowly heating spirit of this age is ill-equipped to appreciate Andersen and numbly predisposed to enjoy the moral vacuity we see in Frozen. Christian parents; let’s not let our children be led by the wisdom of the trolls. Disney has been guided by darkened minds for too long to be trusted anymore. At the core of Disney’s movie Frozen lurks the frozen heart. We must rediscover the true nature of sacrificial love, the only kind of love that can return proper sight to the jaded eye, thaw a frozen heart and return our families to the paths of virtue. As for Disney’s frozen heart, with box office numbers in the billions, we can’t expect a thaw anytime soon.

Books on the topic of this essay may be found at The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

Note: Disney owns ABC and many other media networks that promote moral disorder like Modern Family.

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Published: May 12, 2014
Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg
Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg holds a degree in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara. A school teacher, he is also a writer and speaker on matters of faith, culture, and education. Mr. Rummelsburg is a member of the Teacher Advisory Board and writer of curriculum at the Sophia Institute for Teachers, a contributor to the Integrated Catholic Life, Crisis Magazine, The Civilized Reader, The Standard Bearers, Catholic Exchange, and a founding member of the Brinklings Literary Club.
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11 replies to this post
  1. Well, I learned a great way to deal with movies like these from my wife: don’t watch them. There are far better ways to spend time. I can’t stand Disney and fear what they will do to Star Wars… And yes, that last paragraph is a winner.

  2. Stephen, thanks for this. I must admit, though, I disagree with almost every aspect your review (though, it is very, very well written). I’ve never been anti-Disney, but I have become a serious fan since John Lassiter moved over from Pixar. I especially like TANGLED and BRAVE, more than I like FROZEN. I also think the story of FROZEN, at its deepest level, is really about patience and abstinence. But, more later. Thank you for your views.

    • It is a great honor to hear from you. I have been a fan of yours since I read your awesome book Sanctifying Tolkien- a book instrumental to my conversion into a maniacal Tolkien fanatic!!!

      My favorite children’s movie is the Incredibles, so I can certainly sympathize with your nod to John Lassiter. But even the amazing Incredibles wouldn’t exonerate him from the moral aberrations promoted in the Disney movies of recent years. I do find the movies technically brilliant and generally pleasant. However, I am certain that at their very deepest roots they represent “values clarification” agendas. The story telling is suffocated because the movies are driven by secular dogma, and that leaves no room for the true stories (there is really only one!). I have similar problems with Tangled and Brave, though they’re not as prominently displayed there as in Frozen, which is the next degree hotter in the pot of slowly heating water.

      Patience and abstinence are wildly curious themes to deduce from Frozen I would be very interested in learning about your thinking on that. Nonetheless, I would be happy to learn that I am wrong about all this, perhaps I am the one with the frozen heart? Please do convince me.

      • Steven, my apologies. I should’ve taken the time to explain–especially after your excellent article. And, thanks for the good words. I definitely had a great time writing on JRRT. Unfortunately, I don’t have a free moment to go into detail in my response (I need to get the kids to bed)–but I will! Regardless, I’m really glad to have a discussion. With Bruce, it’s great to have some varied voices. One of the best things about Winston’s editorial instincts is to allow lots of viewpoints. Let me just state that 1) I think FROZEN takes a lot from the Icelandic and Norse sagas; 2) that the queen has to realize her gifts must be used for the common good in a very Thomistic sense. The “let it go” is not the answer, but a momentary relief that covers the kingdom in ice (no grace); 3) that the princess has to learn restraint and to avoid falling for the first thing that comes her way. She has to chose among loves–from essential impatient lust to proper love (Bruce says this so much better than I just did). Anyway, some thoughts. I’ll give this more time at a later date. IN the meantime–so very, very glad to keep reading your excellent posts and know you’re a TIC brother in arms!!!

        • Dr. Birzer,

          Thank you for the clarification, your position is much clearer and all the more valuable because I know the busyness that occupies your life, family, work and writing pursuits. I am very grateful to Winston for the variety of viewpoints and the intelligence behind them. I am honored beyond my own reckoning to be a brother in arms with all the TIC authors!

          Like I said to Dr. Frohnen, we will have to wrap the rest of this up over a couple of pints!

          “The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began.”

  3. Having written a post on this blog giving effusive praise to Frozen, I thought I might say a word or two in response to Stephen’s post.

    My first response is, of course, “great! An argument!” Too often traditional conservatives are seen as walking in lockstep on all issues, and cultural issues in particular. There is a real difference, here, that is important, though I’m not certain how deep the disagreement goes. Disney, if it ever was a force for good, has long since become just another corporate purveyor of cultural sludge. That said, corporations have real people working for them, and sometimes those real people do good things. Frozen is, I submit, one of those good things. In an age obsessed with romantic love, I found the focus on loyalty and self-sacrifice a welcome change, well done. As for the trolls, it is a mistake, I think, to lump in every contemporary cartoon label with medieval archetypes. Frozen’s “trolls” clearly are not demons, any more than the little troll dolls girls played with back in the 70’s. We lose out on the chance to do good, and to keep ourselves abreast of what little good is being produced, if we expect contemporary secularists to know much about their history. What’s next? No magic? I know people who refuse to let their kids see the Harry Potter movies (or read the books) because of the supposed satanic connections. J.K. Rowling is morally obtuse and a mediocre writer, but such broad strokes are themselves ideological–an attempt force the world into the exciting mold of being always engaged in the same cataclysmic battles. Sadly, the world is not so dramatic, and evil tends to be more banal than that, these days. What’s more, last time I checked, Gandalf was a wizard.

    A few brief points:

    The peasants clearly have real family lives; that royal lives are sterile is no immoral point.

    There is, in fact, the springing of true love between a good girl and a nice guy–once the girl gets over her over-romanticized infatuation.

    The Trolls’ song, terming BOTH the young lovers “fixer uppers” clearly is meant to show love and to show how REAL romantic love works–it’s imperfect, like people and requires the virtue of acceptance.

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.


    • As my dad would always say “it is better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt!” Well I think that was Twain, but what fool would heed that advice?

      Before I begin, what a wonderful coincidence it is that Dr. Birzer and you are two of a handful of men who pulled me out of the secular humanist sludge back when I was a liberal seeker of truth (an oxymoron using the modern definition of ‘liberal’ no?), particularly your book on Virtue and the Promise of Conservatism and a few ISI lectures.

      So Dr. Frohnan, if you are effusive to the secular humanists about cultural sludge- I do not condemn that. I am writing to Christian parents and conservatives as a proponent of a restoration of culture.

      I submit that Frozen is not a good thing, though much giddy excitement has it ushered into countless children’s lives- It reminds me of that horrid pie the servant made for her odious white patron in the dreadful movie I find the charge of anachronism a little troubling- I am reminded of The Two Towers where the rider of the mark asked Aragorn “How shall a man judge what to do in such times?” And Aragorn answered: “As he ever has judged. Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves, and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”

      I believe that for Christian parents it is a little disconcerting to call dragons good, trolls “love experts” ogres Kings and claim that vampires have rights too. It is the culture of death- medieval archetypes? I mean to go back to the Garden. We live in an age of semantic distortion and calling things what they are not has not been helpful to confused children, or confused adults for that matter. And though evil is surely banal in many of its present manifestations, for those with the eyes to see, the spiritual battle against ogres, trolls and the Dragon rages on in Technicolor and furious sound that Pixar can only envy.

      On the emphasis on romantic love I would have been inclined to agree with you, and I did at first glance of your article- but the exchange was of something natural (romantic love) cheapened by tawdry misuse I’ll grant you, for a set of unnatural affections, clear only to the slightly more perspicacious than the seething masses. The possible lesbian proclivity of the good snow queen Elsa, the gay Oaken couple in the sauna, and Kristoff who has a relationship with his reindeer that breaks a few natural laws. And there are several other instances of inverted morality as well. It is a poor trade, a misuse of a natural love to acceptance of unnatural acts. Our children need neither. Parents need it less.

      I agree that many of the points on the surface look good, but a little closer examination renders them bad philosophy and bad morality. For an example, it is one thing to clearly understand that we are all fixer uppers, it is quite another saying we must tolerate all the things the trolls say about Kristoff, so the line between “acceptance” and the perverted use of “tolerance” is very troubling for young children who are being told every day on tv and in the public schools to “tolerate” all manner of evil and vice and to be intolerant of virtue and even those that hold to moral standards. It is surprising to me that you would let Disney off the hook here.

      My family and I cut cable, both air and hardwire, from our house over 3 years ago- we have not been poisoned by the commercialism of the last few years and we have again become sensitized. It is shocking now when I catch a glimpse of the Disney owned Modern Family and ABC family, or even the Disney channel shows and commercials these days. Perhaps this accounts for part of the distance that lies between us.

      Other than a twinge of sorrow that two men I greatly admire disagree with my thesis on Frozen, I am heartened by the truth that amongst imaginative conservatives, gentlemen can disagree and discuss these things without acrimony, name calling or police intervention. You have me curious as to how deep our actual disagreement does go, I have a few theories as to how deep and why, but those would be better deliberated over a few pints in a tavern. I am grateful that you and Dr. Birzer responded, let’s all meet for a few pints soon!

  4. Great discussion here. Again, one of TiC’s greatest assets, probably its superlative one. Diametrically opposed positions meting it out the friendly and fair way.

    While I am so in alignment with Steve regarding Disney that I was surprised to find disagreement from Drs. Birzer and Frohnen, this would be precisely the fusty yet amicable throng I’d love to join in more than a few pints (though I happily admit I’d be the one steering the conversation to more pressing matters than Disney!). I have assumed it common knowledge that Disney has been one of the foremost engineers of social change: I.e. the “new family.” From the subliminal subversive messages in Aladdin and Little Mermaid (which were originally at least, absolutely there), to the takeover of the agendas at subsidiaries ABC an ESPN, to the crypto-pop-bubblegum introductions of America’s toddlers to homosexuality and beastiality, Disney is guilty of the crime Socrates was executed for…and given the furtive, honor less nature of the crime (trickin unsuspecting parents into setting these movies before their kids), it is all the more egregious.

    Drs. Birzer and Frohnen: what of all the secret messaging in these films? While I told Steve myself what Dr. Frohnen said about the elevation of the trolls–that taken alone it sounds rather alarmist–the constellation of facts beside it certainly are enough the vindicate EXTREME caution with Disney. And while in that limited context I understand the reference to “medieval” archetypes, it is certainly no bad thing in general to re-medievalize the American approach to archetypogy.

  5. I feel sick after reading this. This movie spoke so much truth into my life including my walk with Christ. It hurts that Catholics and Christians are so judgmental towards others and other things. That hurts my trust in God more than innocent, life-affirming movies like Frozen.

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