On our trip to the States last month, a little sister I know took me to see Disney’s latest princess fest, Frozen. It was pretty good as such things go, and I was glad to get to see it, since I didn’t think it’d come to Korea. Mostly, we get the movies that involve fighting robots, or sometimes the ones where an armed Liam Neeson sprints over rooftops. It turns out I had nothing to worry about.
We returned just in time for a long weekend, so without much to do we went to the theater to see what was playing. Our choices were: Frozen (subtitled), Frozen (dubbed), or Frozen (3D).
Obsessed ain’t the word. Every Korean I know has seen Frozen, including the little country kids who come to school without shoes. I know a teacher who’s seen it three times in the theater and is planning another go this weekend to catch the 3D. There are already Korean music videos. And spoofs.* And everyone, regardless of age or gender, walks around humming “Let It Go.”
I noticed my third graders singing it to themselves while doing worksheets the other day, so I spent an hour typing out the phonetic Korean for the lyrics. Biggest mistake ever. My students are relentlessly happy, but I’ve had the song stuck in my head so long I’m trying to dig it out of my ears.
"It's reached saturation point," Sam announced when he got home yesterday. He'd swung by a coffee shop, and in the 15 minutes he was there "Let It Go" played three times.
It's only partly the music. Apparently, everybody here has the hots for Elsa. When we sing along to the music video in class, my 6th grade boys spend the entire 3 minutes and 39 seconds staring slack-jawed at Elsa, with an appreciative murmur at 3:03 when she turns into a leggy snow queen. Their English only comes out when the clip ends. “Teacher, please. One more time!”
“Everyone likes Elsa,” a friend confirmed. “She is very beautiful with her white hair.”
“Really? What about Anna? In America, many people think red hair is beautiful.”
She shook her head firmly. It’s Elsa or nothing.
When I saw the movie, I remember thinking Disney’d gone too far with their princess aesthetic this time. Doe-eyed girls are all well and good, but when the eyes take up 50% of the face (and the nose roughly .2%) you’ve crossed into praying mantis territory. In a country where women routinely get surgery to enlarge their eyes and scrape down their chins, Elsa is not a beauty ideal that’s going to do anyone good. Except maybe the plastic surgeons.
Then again, I’m about to carve into my own head to get that stupid song out.
*The movie’s title in Korean is Gyeoul (winter) Wang Guk (kingdom), which someone noticed is one syllable away from gyeoul wang ddeok guk, winter rice cake soup, a hugely popular Korean dish. Hence Elsa scattering little rice cakes everywhere. Someone showed me this last Friday, and I’m still singing “wang ddeok guk” under my breath.