Amanda Barber

Stories, songs, and thoughts on life.

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When Good and Bad Get Confused: The Importance of Crystal Clear Scriptwriting

27 February 2014

It was a cold December night when my brother dragged me to the movie theater to watch Frozen. How appropriate! I wasn’t particularly excited about it. Just one more Disney princess movie with a lot of corny songs is what I was expecting. But I came, I saw…and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t plan on writing a blog post about it. But since I’ve seen its popularity grow, especially the popularity of one of its songs, I’ve become more interested in the Frozen phenomenon. To be specific, I’m interested in what the makers of the film intended the final message of the movie to be and what actually stuck.

But first, an overview. (I thought I might skip this step, since everyone and their brother seems to have watched the movie, but I’ll do it anyway just in case.) The setting is an unnamed Scandinavian country in a palace where princesses, Anna and Elsa live with their parents, the King and Queen. Anna is a happy-go-lucky, rambunctious little girl. Elsa is a hermit hiding away from the King’s loyal subjects and even her own sister. In time, the King and Queen are both drowned at sea and Elsa, as the oldest daughter, must assume the throne. Coronation day arrives and the palace gates are opened to the public for the first time since Anna was a small child. During the celebration that follows, Anna and Elsa get into a heated argument in front of a room full of people. With a flash of fear and anger from Elsa, everyone finally understands why she has hidden herself away all these years. She has a remarkable ability to produce ice…in large quantities. After this revelation, Elsa runs away to the mountains, leaving her kingdom in chaos, and more to the point, frozen. She builds an ice palace away from her people, declares her independence, breaks with her obligations and settles into a life of smug self-satisfaction. Her only problem is that the fear which caused the ice to get out of hand in the first place has not left her. Anna joins up with clod-hopper Kristoff, a goofy snowman named Olaf, and Sven the moose to find Elsa and bring her back so that, together, they can sort through their problems and put the kingdom to rights again.

Here’s what I liked about the film. I really appreciated the fact that self-sacrificing love saved the day. It was Anna’s love which caused her to throw herself in harm’s way to protect Elsa. And it was that sacrifice that helped Elsa realize she could fix the situation her icy temper tantrum had caused. How beautiful! And how refreshing to see self-sacrifice and not a kiss from a handsome prince save the day! I also appreciated the fact that Elsa’s liberation (otherwise known as selfishness and pride) was shown up for what it was – a total neglect of responsibility and more fuel for fear, compounding the first problem. In the end, she realized that running away and shutting everyone out wasn’t fixing anything. She had to have love in her heart to drown out the fear so she could remedy the problems she’d caused and use her gift for good and not for evil. That truly was the take-home theme of this film.

But I’ve noticed a lot of people seem to have latched onto one song, “Let It Go.” This is Elsa’s declaration of rebellion which eventually adds more fuel to the fears that consume her. I can understand why the song is popular. It’s catchy. The visuals are pretty amazing, too. The problem is that the message of “Let It Go,” is the antithesis of the message of self-sacrificing love the makers intended to get across. “Let It Go” is so well-executed and so visually attractive that it kind of upstages the final message of the movie. Take a minute to watch the clip from the movie and you’ll see what I mean. Elsa begins the song in her lovely coronation dress. At the end of the piece, she’s created her palace of ice and her own outfit, which is exponentially tighter with a big slit up the side. Now Elsa looks kind of, well, slinky as she wiggles her hips around during the last few measures of the song. (Why is it that Hollywood’s idea of liberation always involves releasing your inner sex kitten? It’s becoming a little monotonous.) Her new attitude isn’t good. The end of the movie confirms this. But that’s the song all the little girls are latching onto. That’s the song all the little girls are recording and putting up on Youtube. And that’s a problem.

This is the challenge of writing scripts, as far as I’m concerned. I’m taking a lesson from Frozen, especially since I’ve started my second movie script. Yes, reality has to be portrayed. No, people don’t make the right decisions all of the time. So my challenge, as a script writer is to write realistically without making clearly wrong attitudes or actions more attractive than the right ones. It’s quite a balancing act, but it has to be done. I’ll need to weigh each sentence, each scene, each portion of dialogue. Because words and especially pictures and words together are powerful and they can influence people for good or bad.

And now, for my personal favorite from the film. I see no one’s done a cover for this one yet. It’s about time.