22 Dec First World, Frozen, Coffee
If you live in the first world you have first world problems. When we discuss first world problems it doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the rest of the world’s ills. Today I ran into some minor first world problems and while I think it’s important to let minor things go and not obsess about them, I also think it’s important to question rules when they are problematic.
I woke up this morning to find out that I needed to get dressed quickly because we were going to a 10:20 am screening of the Disney film “Frozen”. We hustled out of the house in time to grab some biscuits from a drive through. Since we hadn’t had time to make coffee we ordered one. This coffee made dirty dishwater taste like champagne. Really, it was that bad. We made good time on the way to the theater at the mall so we pulled into the ubiquitous chain coffee store with that green princess of Seattle on the sign. It was crowded but we got our coffees and our fake healthy drinks for the kids, and made it to the movie just in time. As we walked in with our still full coffees we were told we had to finish them before entering. I totally understand that chain movie theaters make all their profit from 5 dollar sodas and 9 dollar popcorn. If I’m gonna bring in food, I’m not going to flash it in their faces. However, they don’t even sell coffee and it was 10 am and I was bringing 3 kids! I pointed this out to them but they reiterated that it had to be drunk before entering. This is about as first world a problem as it gets, I know. However, it was also about a certain type of rigid tyranny that I hate; the “a rule’s a rule” nonsense that people spout whenever their rules are questioned.
Power structures that dictate that front line workers have to administer rules often lead to people dehumanizing each other. The workers are instructed enforce the rules but are given no training in treating people respectfully. The customers unsurprisingly react to this process by being rude in return and the workers end up hating the customers, and are in turn treated rudely by them. I was conscious of this dynamic and tried to point out that I realized they were just doing their job, but that the rule made no sense in this situation.
We stood outside for a bit, but my kids were getting stressed about getting seats, so we poured out the rest of the coffee and tweeted a picture to @AMCtheaters. Surprisingly we didn’t get a response. I was kind of hoping I could get into a comedic twitter war that would be THE hot topic of Christmas. While I didn’t make the tweets serious, I was bringing up a serious question. When does rigid policy making that leads to everyone being uncomfortable make sense? Again, while I understand that the theater makes money from concessions, I’m as opposed too the tyranny of choice in that regard as I am to cost. It’s not a matter of natural law that the only thing we should be able to consume in a movie is gallons of sugar water and massive amounts of candy. When kids are constantly marketed products and ideas that run counter to their parents beliefs about whats right and wrong it sets up a constant series of conflicts. My kids know that I’m not getting them candy and soda, but it doesn’t stop them from asking.
We got in with a couple of scary trailers left, and I kept tweeting but I guess it was too early for no coffee AND corporate social media.
I was willing to go to the film because I had heard that it was good, and my daughters had seen it before and loved it, but I was kind of appalled from the opening scenes. The two little girls at the beginning of the film have huge heads and even bigger eyes, like Bratz dolls. As they get older, the girls get more features that look more like our modern photo shopped ideal of women; non existent waist and overripe bosoms and bottoms. I was watching the film with my daughters and thinking about how this kind of spectacle marketing was affecting their sense of themselves. Plus, I hadn’t had my full coffee.
The plot turned on the idea that the older daughter had magical powers that had to do with ice. While playing with her younger sister by shooting mounds of snow out of her fingers she misses and hits her in the head, nearly killing her by icing her brain. Her father, the king, knows of some trolls who can help so they gallop off to the trolls who fix the problem by erasing all of the younger girls memories of the power, and telling the family to keep the truth from her. He then gives them the mixed message to be careful not to fear the power because that will make things worse, while simultaneously telling them to keep the power a secret.
The more the older girl hides away from the world and represses her emotions, and her powers, the more out of control her powers become, and the more she needs to hide away. This message, of the danger of repression, is strong and useful, but it becomes obscured by the race and class idiocy that follows. The only people in the film that are real characters are the aristocracy and one emotionally cut off orphaned ice merchant. This orphan follows the family royal family when they seek out the trolls help, and we find out later that they are now have become his de-facto family.
The young princess who grows up with everyone hiding both physical and emotional truths from her is a real naïve sweetheart, like every other Disney princess. The older one who hides her emotional truth from herself becomes a cripple of sorts. They both break into song every few minutes like young Rosie O’Donells. The songs are kind of atrocious and seem designed to pave the way for the Broadway adaptation. I had trouble stomaching them. However the gasp worthy part of the film happens when the young princess once again falls ill from her sister’s out of control powers.
Sent into a tizzy of fear and repression during her coronation, the older princess, now the queen, panics and sends the whole area into a deep freeze. She flees to the top of a mountain, and hidden away from everyone else she finally feels free to be who she feels she really is, a kind of sultry sexually charged super vixen. When the young princess, convinced that she make things right by simply talking to her sister, makes her way to the mountain, the ice queen accidentally hits her in the heart with her a blast of icy power.
The orphaned emotional cripple, who has helped her to reach the queen, rushes her to the trolls. They jump at the opportunity to help out these strapping Nordic people. Oddly, they have African American and Jewish voices and mannerisms. These trolls, that exist only as moss covered rocks until these white people need them are straight up 50’s stereotypes. At this point I really needed a drink, let alone my coffee.
In a positive twist the princesses who is told by the trolls that she needs to experience true love in order to melt the ice that is freezing her heart, isn’t saved by a man, but instead by her self. Moments from dying from her frozen heart she sees her sister under threat and throws herself between the sister that has doomed her and a sword that is set to strike her down. This act of love thaws her heart and girl power wins the day. The main theme that emerges is that the repression of her true self and emotions was the cause of all of the turmoil in the movie. Still it was kind of shocking that the filmmakers who had a strong grasp of the power of emotions are so deaf and dumb when it comes to power and class.
Later in the day AMC finally tweeted back, basically saying a rule’s a rule. So much for dialogue. Then a little while later a worker tweeted that I was childish for posting a picture of me pouring out the coffee. I looked at his other tweets. They were almost entirely negative posts about customers or other angry responses to complaints. This made it even more clear to me how the system the way it stands sets the customers against the workers and vice versa. There’s a reason I don’t go to movies very much, especially at places like that. When you have a process and a product that’s dehumanizing, at the end of the day everyone’s gonna feel like crap. This is especially true if they experience it with a belly full of sugar. I don’t agree that I’m supposed to just accept this as the reality that we live in. I don’t think it’s childish to question these rules. To be honest though, I don’t always react so well when my kids question my rules. Unfortunately a lot of my rules are designed to keep them away from the overwhelming influence of popular culture.