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Warning: Spoilers Ahead! 

Let me start by admitting a terrible truth.  I, too, am addicted to the absolutely horrible, cheesy, and contrived holiday movies shown on Hallmark and Lifetime from November 1st until January 1st each year.  One season, I wrote down the title of every one that I watched over the two month time span.  The total hovered around 50.  The terrible feeling of guilt overwhelms me at the end of each movie.  It's not guilt over time wasted that could have been better spent doing just about anything else (including writing up teacher observations).  It's guilt over exposing my two young daughters to media that doesn't accurately represent reality...not even remotely so.  First, let's state the common characteristics of all these movies:

  • Man/woman begins movie engaged to the wrong person
  • Man/woman returns to hometown and runs into former love interest (who is actually the true soul mate)
  • Some magic device intervenes to create Holiday hi-jinx and hilarity  
  • Friends and family attempt to help Man/woman realize the true meaning of the holidays and love
  • Wrong person shows up and eventually is exposed
  • Man/Woman ends up with former love interest
  • Holiday magic device makes everyone’s holiday wonderful

So, basically, by allowing my children to watch these films, I reaffirm the following fantasies:

  • There is always a happy ending
  • Families are always loving and kind
  • All problems are neatly wrapped up in 2 hours
  • There is only one person who you are meant to love in this world
  • Women mostly need to be rescued by men
  • Women passively participate in romantic relationships

Sadly, Disney movies, with the recent notable exception of Tangled, tend to fall into a similar box.  However, this season’s movie, Frozen, gets it right.  More than that, it’s a good movie for your kids to see, especially if you are the parent of daughters.  Frozen is about two sisters, very close in age, who begin their lives with an incredibly tight bond, but lose the closeness of their relationship after some “magical” events unfold.  The movie goes on to explore the notions of true love, self-determination, isolation, and even fear-mongering (meet the Duke of Weselton).  It’s entertaining enough, with decent music, comic relief characters (the delightful Olaf), and two “big” twists.  You won’t see either coming, but it’s the second twist that makes Frozen so worthwhile.

(Spoilers Ahead)

Frozen does a wonderful job of making you feel Anna’s pain from being shut out by her older sibling.  We experience the depth of their caring for each other through its absence.  Every event in the movie is a result of the fractured relationship between the sisters that is driven by their feelings for one another.  Also, throughout the film, the notion of true love is explored through the eyes of the youngest sister, Anna.  It’s determined towards the end of the movie that only an act of true love can save Anna’s life.  A quest ensues to bring Anna to her love interest, Hans, to receive the necessary life-giving smooch.  After a wild adventure scene and the first major plot twist, Anna winds up sacrificing her life to save her sister, Elsa, foregoing her own salvation.  Several terrible moments pass and then Anna comes back to life.  It’s at that moment that everyone, audience included, realizes that the act of true love was never about a prince or a kiss.  In fact, it had nothing to do with romance.  Anna’s act of true love was the sacrifice she made for her sister. 

Hold on.  Stop the presses.  Did a major studio big budget film just subvert the usual “Prince Charming Save” in lieu of the love between sisters?  Was the realistic message just sent that the love between family developed over 18 years is stronger than that of stranger you’ve known for less than a day?  Yes on both counts.  Take a minute and let that sink in. 

Now, I watched Frozen with my two daughters: Bella (age 5) and Talia (age 4).  As the movie progressed, they talked to each other about the relationship between the two sisters in the movie and they asked me lots of “why” questions about things that happened between the sisters.  It was clear that Talia understood Anna’s pain of being the jilted younger sister and Bella kept repeating the mantra that I preach constantly, “Friends come and go, but your sister will always be there for you” and “It’s your job to take care of your little sister.”  But during the big climax when sisterly love won the day, Bella and Talia were celebrating by hugging each other and yelling, “They did it!  They saved each other!”  For my money, as a guilt ridden lazy parent allowing my kids to watch movies, it doesn’t get any better than that.

As a teacher and principal, I know the research.  I understand that a lot is out of my control and dictated my social factors, peer relationships, and school experiences.  But in addition to the positive modeling when my daughters see me interacting with my siblings, movies like Frozen can make an impact as well. 

(And you can’t go wrong with a snowman named Olaf who loves warm hugs.)

Category:Review-Movie -- posted at: 1:18pm EST
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