Hugh Riminton: 'Frozen 2' Might Be Smashing Box Office Records But It Fails Where it Matters
[Warning: Spoilers ahead...] It being my daughter’s birthday party at the weekend, I was kidnapped by half a dozen eight-year-old girls and taken to watch 'Frozen 2'.
It was educational. Here’s what I learned.
White men are hopeless or bad.
Bad men build dams.
Indigenous people are noble and dull.
So here is the spoiler alert.
The ice-wielding Princess Elsa has grown up and become Queen. But a magic mist has descended on the forest upstream from Arendelle. No-one can enter and none have emerged since a mysterious battle in which Elsa’s grandfather, King Runeard was killed.
This seems sad. All Runeard had wanted to do was to make peace with the people of the forest, the Northuldra tribe, by gifting them a massive dam. Yup. A dam.
Things, it turns out, were not quite what they seemed.
Through a series of magical flashbacks, Elsa and little sister Anna discover Runeard in fact plotted to destroy the Native Americans -- sorry, the peaceful people of the forest.
Both cowardly and treacherous, Runeard hacked down the Northuldra king as he knelt, unarmed, with his back turned serenely drinking from a bowl. Runeard had gained the natives’ trust through the gift of the dam, that he knew would have the effect of killing the trees because, um, something to do with water.
It turns out Elsa’s father, Agnarr, had survived the forest spirits’ fury, rescued by a Northuldra princess. He comes to the throne, kindly but inept -- too witless to save himself or his wife.
The only other significant white male role (if you discount Olaf the snowman), is the reindeer herder Kristoff. In the first Frozen, he was brave and resourceful, a counterpoint to the evil Prince Hans.
This time he is written stupid. For most of the movie he meanders in the forest, alone and lost with his reindeer. His one aim is to propose to Anna but he is too thick-witted to manage it. (Until the final scenes, when -- inexplicably -- she accepts).
The Frozen franchise is about female empowerment. And I salute it.
The first film saw my daughters passionately squawking “Let It Go” around the house, drawn to a character who is sick of being “the good girl you always have to be". Find your powers, own them and release them on the world. What’s not to like?
There is great fun in overturning the misogynistic tropes of the old fairy tales. But as Shrek -- and others -- have shown, cartoon characters don’t have to be, well… cartoon characters.
Apart from the dutiful black soldier Mattias, every adult male in Frozen 2 is evil or incompetent.
Most insulting is the depiction of the Northuldra people. Inevitably, they are led by a wise matriarch. But these survivors of Runeard’s genocidal treachery project nothing but well-mannered annoyance.
Memo to screenwriters: Indigenous people do not have to be suffocatingly noble, passive and boring.
If ever there was a group that deserves better than to be mere human scenery, it is the Indigenous people of Europe, the US or Australia.