Your Fave is Autistic Part 1: Elsa

Or: Yet ANOTHER Interpretation of Frozen

WARNING: I don’t like Frozen. At all. This article is going to contain some criticism of it. If you absolutely, positively LOVE Frozen and can’t bear to hear anything negative said about it, please don’t read. Feedback is appreciated, but hateful/ableist comments will not be approved. 

For one reason or another, Frozen became a worldwide phenomenon, both in the very best and very worst sense of the word. So even though I wasn’t really excited for it, I decided to see it while it was still out in theaters to get my own opinion of it after reading all sorts of positive and negative opinions.

My thoughts?

Not empowering or feminist. Olaf is cringe-worthy. Hans makes no sense as a villain. The story is not that spectacular. Most of the songs are kind of boring. BUT Elsa really struck a personal cord with me. Throughout the whole thing, I couldn’t help  but think to myself, “holy shit, this is me. I totally relate to this woman”.

Ultimately I’m not alone. Lots of people, especially mentally ill, LGBT+, and disabled people identify with her a lot. They can easily see themselves in her place. At the same time, though, a lot of people were wondering who EXACTLY Elsa was supposed to represent.

Jennifer Lee, the film’s writer and co-director, said that her body language was ‘definitely intentional to show anxiety and depression’.  John Lasseter, the film’s executive producer, said that Elsa was changed from a villain to a hero in part because of his diabetic son.

This is a little confusing. Is Elsa supposed to be a person with diabetes, anxiety, AND depression? Was she originally just meant to be a metaphor for diabetes and Jennifer Lee added in the anxiety and depression? Or is she meant to be none of the above, and was merely INSPIRED by people with these disorders?

I guess, ultimately, Elsa is meant to inspire people of all sorts of disabilities, which can be both a good thing and a bad thing. So I suppose it’s fair that I have my own interpretation of the film. While I’m not going to confirm or dispute the anxiety and depression part (I have anxiety and have had bouts of depression), I will say this: as I watched the movie (and whenever I watch snippets of the movie with Elsa), I read Elsa as being autistic.

For starters, Elsa’s ice powers can very easily be read as a metaphor for stimming and other behaviours common for autistic people. And when Elsa is shown to be locked away and forced to suppress her powers and be told that she’s ‘dangerous’ and not ‘normal’ can easily be seen as a form of the very abusive anti-autistic Applied Behaviour Analsyis. Fast forward and now Elsa is still reeling from not getting any support for her autism and getting no proper social skills and being told she’s not allowed to express herself. You have a woman who is told ‘conceal, don’t feel, don’t let it show’ and repeats it to herself, wears gloves, and acts very stiff around her sister and pushes her away, not knowing how to properly interact with her.

Then, her powers are revealed and she becomes overwhelmed, and retreats from the situation/shuts out. She hides away to a quiet place where nobody else is around. And suddenly, she is able to revel in her powers. In other words…she is finally able to stim.

Look at this screenshot:

only good scene in Frozen

This is the best scene in the movie. It shows how truly happy she is to just fully express herself without fear of judgement and discipline.

Unfortunately, Elsa’s character after this point isn’t very consistent. She fluctuates between wanting to be free and on her own, wanting to protect her kingdom/thinking she’s too dangerous, having good control of her powers to not knowing how to use them, and from being only mildly concerned to overly concerned for her sister’s wellbeing (she accidentally freezes Anna’s heart, looks shocked but doesn’t try to help, chases her out with an ice monster…and then in the third act is devastated when she thinks she’s killed her. Huh?). I think the BEST interpretation is that she’s just so broken from all those years of isolation and abuse that her senses of right and wrong and how to react properly are moot. The worst interpretation is that, since she was indeed supposed to be the villain in the original draft and they changed the story late into production, remnants of her more evil side found its way back into the story.

What really upsets me most is the ending. At the end of the story, she’s pretty much dragged home against her will, is encouraged to stay home in the name of love, and while she is accepted by her citizens, she’s only really shown to be allowed to do the most benign, lackluster things with her ice powers. I really think she should have stayed in the ice palace, let a support team come visit her to help her get a better grip on her powers and her wellbeing, have friends and family visit, and let Anna be the queen. The movie demonstrates that while she certainly LOOKS the part of the queen, she doesn’t really ACT or is ready for the ROLE of the queen.

The reason why I don’t like this movie is because you have a character that I definitely see myself in and isn’t really written to her fullest potential. I would have LOVED to see Elsa as the hero of the story, gaining lots of friends and support, saving her kingdom and her sister, and going through a lot of character development. The most we get is when, at the climax, she’s like ‘love, that’s it!’ and unfreezes her kingdom.

That said, part of me will still like Elsa and I would love to see her explored more and allowed to develop and grow.

That was my first entry in the “Your Fave is Autistic” series! Hope you enjoyed! The other entries will be more positive and longer. 

Going to Start A Series

In honour of Autism Awareness Acceptance Month, I’m going to start a “Your Fave is Autistic” series. It’s where I’ll take different characters from different shows/movies and explain how I feel that they are autistic/heavily coded to be autistic. I will probably not be finished by this month (it will likely be an ongoing series that will last quite awhile, but hey, I get to spread autism love all year long!) but I want to at least START now.

Teen Titans and the Troublesome Movie

In addition to being a huge fan of Disney, I am also a huge fan of the TV series Teen Titans. In fact, it is my favourite show of all time. It has great, well-developed, lovable characters, exciting action, interesting stories, dynamic animation and is overall very well written and fun. It was also a huge hit during its prime in the early 2000s, with 2 million viewers and a devoted fanbase. So of course, a movie would be inevitable.

After five seasons of waiting, fans of the hit show Teen Titans were finally granted their own feature length film, Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. The reactions were…mixed, at best. As for how I personally felt, while I wouldn’t go as far as to call this film total crap, there are a lot of flaws in the movie that range from mildly annoying to seriously problematic.

Continue reading “Teen Titans and the Troublesome Movie”

Alice in Bluntland.

Walt Disney has lent his hand in the creation of many animated movies. But one of those creations that he absolutely hated was Alice in Wonderland. After a troubled production history, with many of the animators losing their productivity and spirits with it (they felt the story and characters had no heart and soul), Alice in Wonderland was a flop with both British and American moviegoers and lost a lot of money. Walt’s response? “I think Alice got what she deserved. I never wanted to make it in the first place, but everybody said I should. I tried to introduce a little sentiment by getting Alice involved with the White Knight, but they said we couldn’t tamper with a classic. So we just kept moving at a circus pace.” (From Disney’s Art and Animation by Bob Thomas, page 101)

And honestly? I can’t blame him. This film is unpleasant.

Now I can’t really comment on the book as I have never truly read it (just the abridged versions of it) so it might contain some nuances and commentary that I don’t know. If THIS is to be believed, apparently Lewis wrote it to point out how absurd and ridiculous math is, and how it’s basically nonsense. But I do know that all the subsequent adaptations and general theme of the Alice in Wonderland mythos is to not make sense, to be an adventure into childlike nonsense, look at things from a sillier point of view, all that jazz.

I find that stuff really ridiculous and boring. Just because it’s random and unconventional doesn’t mean it’s artsy or good. Even if it is supposed to be a satire, it doesn’t HAVE to be presented in a way that’s so off the wall to the point where most of it doesn’t make sense.

But I think most people like that. I think they like how it’s basically a high in the form of a children’s book. I think people kind of admire the idea of someone being so stoned out of their mind they created something so weird and imaginative, and the Disney product sort of retains that while looking good.

While the visuals are nice and the Queen of Hearts is a lot of fun, that’s not enough to draw me in. The film is a dense, inane story where literally NOTHING HAPPENS, other than that Alice gets antagonized by weird, random, and even creepy creatures until she essentially gets scared and irritated into realizing that her childlike sense of wonder is, well, inappropriate. There’s no real plot or character development, nor is there a reason why I’m supposed to like the world we’re in, since most of the characters are assholes.

What’s worse is that in the end, it all turns out to be what’s supposed to be a dream, and there’s no real moral at the end. If there is a moral, I don’t get it, nor do I care.

I know I’m probably going to get flack for this, but this is one of the few Disney movies that I genuinely don’t like. I get it. It looks pretty and is a nice little trip into nonsense. But I need substance with my style.

I also absolutely hate the live action remake of this movie too. Even though it has some substance to it, it’s a very generic form of substance (ho hum, a chosen one saving a promised land to restore the rightful ruler, yeah yeah), and the visuals overkill it with conspicuous CGI. And I STILL don’t like the world or characters.

If you like it, that’s entirely within your right. More power to you. But for me, it just feels like a really bad high, one that I never want to experience ever again.