On New Years’ Eve, I went with some friends to see Frozen 2. I liked the first Frozen well enough. I thought the story was creative and engaging, though I thought the music was completely overrated (why they thought a song like “For the First Time in Forever” was fit for production is completely beyond me). Frozen 2 was also entertaining, and often very funny, though I think the songs this time were even more bland and forgettable than the last movie. 

But what really made this movie stand out from its predecessor was the really bizarre political angle that the story attempted to take.

I had heard stories about this in the weeks leading up to my viewing of the movie. One of my friends sent me an article from Slate touching on the film’s apparently crazy take on the issue of reparations and imperialism. I skimmed through the article and I was fascinated. Was Disney really starting to put overt leftist messages in their films? When some of my friends decided to go see the movie, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see it myself.

After watching it I was… amusingly underwhelmed. You can clearly tell that the writers wanted to display some radical message, but because it’s a Disney movie, they couldn’t go that far. I found it more funny than anything.

Before I go any further, I should probably give my opinions on reparations. I generally think that they’re a silly idea, especially for injustices that occurred outside of living memory. And before anyone accuses me of “white privilege,” I should add that I even oppose calls for reparations for the Armenian Genocide, of which seven of my eight great grandparents were survivors (the eighth was a survivor of a smaller scale massacre that took place about thirty years earlier). I think it is unrealistic and ultimately unjust to punish the descendants of perpetrators of a great crime by forcing them to pay the descendants of victims of that great crime. We should only be responsible for our own sins, not the sins of others. And the way in which Frozen 2’s plot initially unfolds proves my point (Spoilers ahead!).

The movie opens with a flashback of Princesses Anna and Elsa as children. Their parents tell them the story of a primitive tribe (called the Northuldrans) to the North of their relatively advanced civilization of Arendelle. Anna and Elsa’s grandfather, the former king of Arendelle, builds the Northuldrans a dam to contain the river as a sign of goodwill to the tribe. However, something goes wrong, and the tribe attacks the people of Arendelle. As the Arendellians defend themselves, the enchanted spirits of the forest become enraged and kick the Arendellians out of the forest, while keeping the Northauldrians trapped there indefinitely. 

As the plot unfolds, we learn that Anna and Elsa’s mother was actually a Northuldran, while their grandfather was really a genocidal maniac who was highly suspicious of the Northuldrans because of their pagan heresy use of Forest magic. The dam was actually a trick because it cut off the supply of water to the Northuldrans, killing their crops, and the reason why the Northuldrans attacked the the Arendellians was because Elsa’s grandfather murdered their chief in cold blood. 

Well, there you go guys, I haven’t seen Disney deal with themes of genocide and the marginilization of minorities this much since The Hunchback of Notre Dame

So how do reparations play into all this? Well, it’s discovered that the only way to lift the curse of the forest is to destroy the dam that had been destroying the environment.

Only one problem: the dam protects the city of Arendelle from being completely flooded. If anyone breaks the dam, the entire civilization of Arendelle will be destroyed.

So already this movie is setting up a pretty radical situation. Justice for the Northauldrans is nothing short of the destruction of Arendelle’s civilization. We can’t have any sort of middle ground (for example, the Arendellians simply admitting and publicly apologizing for what they have done), we have to restore everything to how it originally was, even at the expense of displacing an entire group of people.

This is my biggest problem with reparations by the way. The claimants’ demands and zeal for justice is so single-minded that they completely forget the wider context of how things have changed. In seeking to perfectly rectify one injustice, they create a thousand others. For example, Armenians who wish to get Eastern Turkey back are awfully quiet about the fate of the Turks and Kurds that have lived there for generations now. Is it worth it to displace these innocent people just for historic lands? Aren’t there smarter ways to ask Turkey to acknowledge its past crimes?

Getting back to the movie, it seems as if Anna is about to go through with it. She manages to break the dam and the river floods through the fjord, moments away from destroying Arendelle. Anna spends about two seconds in conflict about her choice, but the movie seems to be pretty clear: those Arendellian jerks deserve it (even though they had no idea that their former king caused all these problems in the first place). 

Then, all of a sudden, Elsa emerges from nowhere and uses her magical snow powers to stop the tidal wave. The enchantment is lifted, and Arendelle is protected. Everyone gets what they want.

What… you seriously didn’t think they were going to obliterate an entire civilization in a Disney movie, did you?

Recently, I wrote an article commenting on film critic Lindsay Ellis’s take on Disney’s growing woke politics. I used her frustration at the corporation’s half-measures to prove that, unless Disney goes completely progressive in how it tells stories, leftists will not be satisfied if Disney’s live-action remakes throw in a gay character here or there. This movie once again proves my point. What was the purpose of putting this storyline in if you’re not going to go all the way with it? Once again, making a half-baked story about reparations is only going to anger conservatives (“Who wrote this thing, Howard Zinn!?!?”), annoy progressives (“Oh of course they can’t really destroy Arendelle, that would make the bougies in the audience squirm”) and just baffle the average moviegoer (“Why are we talking about genocide in a Disney movie?”). 

What unsettles me is the fact that the only thing stopping the writers of the film from teaching kids that such dangerously simple-minded politics is okay is that as of now, the writers knew that they couldn’t get away with it without a large public outcry. But as parts of our society (particularly the parts with cultural power) drift further and further to the left, the writers for children’s movies like Frozen 2 may not feel so inhibited in injecting their radical politics into movies anymore.