Critical Hit!!

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Media Affectation in Frozen

Disney's Frozen - Paintings and Anna

When talking about feminism in the media, people typically emphasize that media does not occur in a vacuum, but rather has social, historical, cultural, and politics contexts, among others,  that inform a reading. A pervasive trope, like the damsel in distress, proves damaging when its widely propagated throughout social and cultural institutions. Frozen has a microcosm of sorts of this idea: a context where a certain message seen in countless forms of media becomes the norm and is perpetuated by being taught to citizens. This particular context is within the castle walls itself.

Growing up in a relatively sheltered childhood, Anna had little contact with the outside world. We see this progression from the song “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” to “For The First Time In Forever”, from when Anna is a young girl to when she matures into a older teen. The lyrics of “Snowman” mentions that in midst of her boredom, she’s “started talking to the pictures on the walls.” This connects to her giddy actions while singing “Forever,” as her leaps and bounds around the castle mimic the poses in the paintings surrounding here. In essence, she’s become the romantic as effused by the paintings  - the media and its messages – she intakes daily.

The message is clear: media affects us and constructs what is normal and right. In Anna’s case, she growns up in an environment where the idealized images are incredibly romanticized, and thus holds wildly unwise notions about love. It’s a subtle connection the film makes, but the cause and effect is clear.

The National Is Boring

After many a listen and conversation, I’ve made up my mind in regards to The National: a boring waste of time. All their songs are the same mid-tempo balladry. Any interesting musical diversity in their earlier work was lost when they left their alt-country roots for repetitious dreck. There’s a dulling sameness to everything they put out, musically and lyrically.

I find it impossible to remember how any of their songs go, despite listening to albums multiple times. The only one I can approximate (aside from my ‘favorite’ track) is “I Should Live in Salt,” but of course I can’t sing along to it because Berninger mumbles his way through. Owen Pallett may have said it best, noting that “The National is the ultimate ‘They suck! except for that one song’ band, and that song is different for everyone.” For me, that song is “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks,” because The National’s form of music making actually works in favor for the song: slow layering to make a grand album ending song. Of course, all of The National’s songs sound like slow emotional songs to cap off an album, but they rarely do anything except crawl limply out of the speakers. 

I look back at my eager optimism in my past writings with a sense of shame. Was I so excited to jump on the bandwagon I purposefully dulled my critical edge? Pretty much.

 

“Theory of the Crows”

The first line of this early National track is “Where crybabies cry.” “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” much? The first line of the chorus in that song is “Vanderlyle Crybaby, cry.” I’m sensing a motif here.

The lyrics of this song are awkward and sometimes hilarious, illustrative of the growing pains of a writer, perhaps. Nothing like hearing Berninger lament “Not enough money/ To buy a PC.” Ha!

The National were once Alt-country!

Currently listening to The National’s self titled debut, I was first surprised to read critical reception noting that they have alt-country influences in their songs. Then I got to track 6 “Pay for Me”, and lo and behold, country guitars rear their head. With the Americana resurgence in the past couple years, I can imagine how popular The National would be if they debuted today. Luckily they’ve moved past their country influences to darker stuff. I’m enjoying the songs that are not country-tinged off the first album. I can only handle so much twang, but its presence is few and far between. There’s genuine musical variety that arises from this amalgam of influences that keeps things interesting on his album. I suspect this is a trait later discarded as The National hones in their own sound on later albums.

But seriously, country guitars slid around and twang occasionally on this album. *Shudder* I never thought they had it in them.

“I Should Live in Salt”

The first track of The National’s latest album Trouble Will Find Me, the song is all about the rampant noise around us choking our communication, and the lament arising from these missed connections. I seriously wonder if Berninger is intentionally mumbling his lines to purposefully reflect the theme, because the first stanza is almost incomprehensible. Regardless, it’s a trait that blocks me from enjoying the song. it’s hard to take something seriously when you start laughing from the beginning.

Mumbler Charlie and the Chocolate factory gif

 

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