If the post title wasn’t enough for you, I’m going to talk about Frozen 2 and will give away plot points, so go watch the movie & come back later if you don’t want it spoiled.
As an adult, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love cooking the meal, sharing it with my family. We haven’t gotten into a habit of talking about what we’re thankful for, though this year, Jessie started asking questions about our favorite Thanksgiving memories, and it was fun to reminisce and hear stories from our parents.
At the same time, as I dig further into Intersectionality, Thanksgiving has a very troubling history, whitewashed into a celebration that resembles nothing like what we now celebrate. It has become an American “holy day” and we bemoan the consumerism aftermath that has become the second American “holy day” of Black Friday. Social media both celebrates the deals and shames those to partake. [I have both worked on Thanksgiving & Black Friday in the past (and present) and when I was single I was happy to work the holidays and pick up shifts for friends who often gifted me with lunch, snacks or cash.] Many posts of shame feel we have “lost the meaning of Thanksgiving” but have we? I would suggest the day after Thanksgiving is likely more similar to the fighting, running over someone to get what you want …
Which brings me to Frozen 2. This is not your typical Disney princess movie. I did a little spoiler searching as we viewed it with our Girl Scout group and I wanted Maggie to go along to help. I had to give her something to get her to a “princess movie.” So I knew going in that it was going to be even further away from the typical princess movie than the original movie was. [Spoiler #1: the only real romance in the movie is an awesome 80s-like ballad sung by Kristoff].
Frozen 2 starts out with a story of Elsa and Anna’s family and an Enchanted Forest with a young King Agnarr following his father to what he thinks is a peaceful meeting with a local tribe, Northuldra — the characters are Inuit or Sami, indigenous Finno-Ugric people in northern Norway. The story of the grandfather and these people was reminiscent of most white man and indigenous people stories — the white man uses the natives/their land to benefit him and sells it to the natives as a way for them to “work together.” Elsa and Anna have to find this truth to save the Northuldra people, the Northuldra land and Arendelle. Anna does “the next right thing” to destroy the dam that is destroying the Northuldra land, even though it will flood Arendelle. The dam is destroyed, but Elsa saves Arendelle [Spoiler #2: Both Maggie and I really really wanted the castle to be destroyed in the flood, even if the rest of the town was saved. The castle was obviously built by the grandfather, so it would have been a fitting cleansing to destroy his “trophy.”]
Of course, as this is a Disney movie, we also have the white savior narrative here — only Elsa and Anna can find the truth. Disney introduced 4 people of color characters in the movie: 3 Northuldra and a black man, the king’s guard, Mattias. Mattias is the only character voiced by a person of color, while the 3 Northuldra characters are voiced by white people. After the casting Polynesians in Moana, I’m disappointed in the casting. I’m also disappointed the writers didn’t take advantage of these new characters and send them on the adventure to help. [Spoiler #3: outside of Ryder helping Kristoff with an idea of how to propose to Anna – though the reindeer were a lot of fun!] And it turns out, Elsa and Anna’s mother is originally Northuldra, though you couldn’t tell by looking at her. Their mother has none of the looks of her fellow tribe members, which allows her to leave the forest and later explain who she really is to the king (in flashbacks because water has memory, thanks to Olaf for the foreshadowing!) Another missed opportunity by Disney to show a mixed marriage, though to be fair, I think we can assume this part of the story didn’t come up during the writing of the original movie.
I feel like Disney is starting to move in the right direction and while I really enjoyed Frozen 2 (the soundtrack is wonderful & Maggie and I feel that “Into the Unknown” is a great song for Girl Scouts), there are still parts that are troubling. There was no cost to Elsa or Anna as Arendelle and the castle were saved. We discover that Elsa (white savior) is the 5th element, bringing balance back to the land.
And here’s my struggle. How do I take responsibility for where Thanksgiving comes from while still being able to enjoy the food and family that it has come to mean for me? I know part of it is educating myself and my children on the atrocities of the past. I also realize that there is a lot of privilege in wanting to still be able to celebrate the holiday, to not give it up. Our parents are getting older and these days are special, meaningful to them as well. But as part of taking responsibility, there should also be “payment” (see Spoiler number 2 in wanting the castle to be destroyed).
I don’t have any answers here. But I know this is part of the journey and I’m glad that Disney is helping make that conversation a little bit easier.