This is a film reaction to Dreamworks’ 2016 film Trolls, directed by Mike Mitchell.
Spoilers for this movie are included.
Header found from Google Images (link)
Author Note: Wow, there is a LOT to talk about in this movie. This is MUCH longer than I had anticipated it to be (and took much longer as well), and so I’ve tried my best to break it down into two major sections for you all: General Plot/Film Reaction and Dynamics Breakdowns (which is then further broken down into the subsections Main Characters, Romance and Heteronormativity, and Representation).
I have also decided to add images to this reaction post, which hopefully will help those who haven’t seen this movie to understand the visual cues and context that I discuss in this. These images are gathered through Google Images, the Trolls movie Wiki fan-site, and from screen caps of the movie, which can be found on Netflix.
As well, as a disclaimer, I am not trying to completely destroy this movie and say that it isn’t okay to watch/like/enjoy this movie. I personally enjoy it. However, when looked at through a critical lens, there are issues with the execution of this movie.
General Plot/Film Reaction
Trolls (2016) starts off with a brief introduction to the life of the Trolls, filled with happiness, versus the life of the Bergens, filled with misery. The only way that a Bergen can be happy is through consumption of a Troll, which has been made into an annual community-wide event called Trollstice (a combination of Troll and solstice). However, the Trollstice of the movie’s setting year is cancelled, as the Trolls have escaped from Bergentown to their new sanctuary settlement in the forest.
Twenty years later, we see Princess Poppy grown up, telling this story to some of the younger Trolls. She is shown as an older sister/mother figure to these Trolls, telling them that everything will be okay and how this anniversary of safety will be celebrated that night. This leads the film into another song, in which Poppy tells the entire Troll village about the upcoming party that night.
Poppy is heavily coded with femininity and the color pink. Everything about her physical being is pink, from her hair to her skin to her eyes. The only non-pink aspect is Poppy’s clothing, which likely would have also been made pink if not for simplicity and ease of distance-shot-distinguishability between her body and clothes. Pink has been, since World War II, heavily associated and connected with femininity, emotions, and softness/vulnerabilty. Poppy is seemingly the embodiment of these traits, as she is highly emotional, maternal, loving, feminine, crafty, and easily loved by all. She loves glitter, singing, flowers, hugging, emotional displays, etc. She is also portrayed as extremely talkative and loud, which is another stereotype for women.
It can be easily argued that, due to all of this, Poppy is a stereotypical representation of “a generic girl/princess”; this can be problematic, as it’s the same as many other films’ representations of women, which lack diversity in female personality and presentation. However, it can also be seen as progressive, as despite these “stereotypical traits”, Poppy is still very determined and accomplished by the movie, as well as sure of herself and confident in her identity. She uses her upbeat personality to stay motivated throughout the majority of the movie, despite conflicts and obstacles that divert her from saving her friends.
After this, we meet Branch, another major character in the movie. He is not impressed with the performance, instead worried about how the noise and celebration will attract the attention of the Bergens and cause their endangerment. He is depicted as a very unenthusiastic, bitter, and easily annoyed character, contrasting completely with Poppy’s bright and excitable personality. We also meet Creek, a mellow Troll who seems to have a very strong connection with Poppy. He tells Branch to relax and to “try some positivity”, as the negativity brings everyone else down. It’s made very obvious that Branch and Creek do not get along.
Branch, an almost complete opposite to Poppy, is an almost undeniable representation of masculinity to perpendiculate Poppy’s femininity. Rather than being upbeat, positive, and outgoing like Poppy, Branch is pessimistic, cynical, and reserved. He looks more on the bad side of situations, mocking Poppy for her optimistic view on everything: “I cant wait to see the look on your face when you realize the world isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows, because it isn’t. Bad things happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” He’s more resourceful, aggressive, and assertive than Poppy is, often finding ways out of situations and protecting Poppy from harm and to keep her from being too outgoing and obnoxious. He also gets easily frustrated and annoyed, often leading to him becoming angrily aggressive with other characters, which we can see later in the film. This can also be seen as a toxic representation of masculinity, as it plays into the notion that the only emotions men can feel are anger, frustration, bitterness, cynicism, boredom, or nothing at all.
The party, as Branch predicted, did attract the attention of the banished chef Bergen, and so almost all of Poppy’s friends, Creek included, were abducted. Poppy is determined to go to Bergentown to save her friends, as it was her party and enthusiasm that caused them to be taken.
Poppy goes to Branch for consultation and help, as he “knows more about the Bergens than anyone else” and “now she doesn’t know what to do”. This plays into the trope that in order to do anything, a woman needs to consult a man for advice or help first. However, rather than going with Poppy to help, as they’re “her friends, not his”, Branch feels much more secure staying in his Bergen-proof bunker. In order to help protect the rest of her village, she then leaves the other Trolls there with Branch, as he has enough supplies to last him ten years if needed, despite Branch’s objections.
On her way to Bergentown, Poppy sings “Get Back Up Again”, a song about her determination to save her friends and that no challenge will prevent her from doing so. However, by the end of the song, she is left incapacitated by spiderwebs, leaving her susceptible to harm and potential death. And so, re-enter Branch. He defends the unconscious Poppy from the four spiders that threaten her, putting his own safety on the line for her, and resuscitating her using electric bugs. Even the music in the background is very heroic, placing Branch as the hero coming to the damsel’s rescue. However, Poppy seemed to predict Branch’s arrival, stating that he was bound to come along, while Branch felt Poppy couldn’t complete her quest alone. This, again, plays into the heteronormative expectation of how a woman needs a man to help her accomplish her goals.
Branch constantly rags on Poppy for her upbeat, bubbly personality, dismissing it as annoying and disruptive. When Poppy’s Hug Time bracelet goes off and she looks over at him, he says to her, “Don’t even think about it”, and when she starts to sing, he responds negatively, “I don’t sing, and I don’t relax. This is the way I am, and I like it.” This complete contrast helps to establish the common trope of “opposites attract” for relationships, generating “chemistry” between the two characters. It’s common to assume that the “grumpy character” secretly enjoys the antics of the “happy character”, finding them endearing but would never openly admit it. This trope is constantly repeated in children’s media, whether platonic or romantic, as it’s easy to create amusing scenarios with the dynamic, such as the high-five scene when the duo approaches the root tunnels. A cloud character offers help in getting to Bergentown in exchange for a high-five, but requires it from the unwilling Branch, as opposed to Poppy. This dynamic is an easy way to add comedy to a scene, as it’s been repeated so many times in our media.
Finally, Branch and Poppy arrive in Bergentown – the residents are portrayed as conventionally unattractive in modern culture, with unusual body types and colors, dismal personalities, and gravelly voices. We see the Chef approach the recently crowned King Gristle, presenting the Trolls she had captured earlier. The Chef is depicted as a highly manipulative and abusive character, acting condescendingly towards King Gristle, Bridget, and the Trolls. She even says that “it feels great to be ordering everyone around again”- this can be inferred as depicting women as only capable of being “bossy”, rather than a “leader”.
While Poppy’s friends are being held captive by the Chef, she mentions “For he who controls the Trolls controls the kingdom! And I? I am that he!” to which Cooper responds “You’re a dude?”. This joke can be seen as an innocent misinterpretation of language, however it is also argued to be a transphobic joke. However, it’s played off as an easy way to make a joke for a younger audience, as they don’t have much education on individuals diverting from the common binary, you-dress/look-like-your-assigned-gender, presented in the media.
Then, Gristle eats Creek in a Troll taco prepared by the Chef. Immediately, a sombrero and maracas are placed in Gristle’s hands, while the Bergen guards play Mariachi-styled music. This scene is also argued as being problematic, as it reduces an entire culture to a simple joke made, which wasn’t even necessary. Again, it was just an “easy way” for the director to get laughs from the audience.
There is a major problem with these kinds of jokes being placed in children’s movies; it tells children that these kinds of jokes are okay, and that the insensitivity and disregard for others “for the sake of humor” isn’t an actual issue.
The audience then gets to know Bridget, who is heavily infatuated with King Gristle. She sings “Hello”, a song about hoping that he will notice her, and return her love. This is another common trope for female characters: fantasizing about a male character and dreaming about a relationship with them. In the song, Bridget even sings how “in her dreams she’s kissed his lips a thousand times”. However, she feels that this relationship would be impossible, as he is the king and she is “just a scullery maid”.
She, like Poppy, is heavily coded with the color pink. In a room of all dark colors, her bed and headboard are bright pink, emphasizing her femininity. Poppy is able to use Bridget’s love for Gristle as a way to connect with her – Poppy says that she is willing to “do anything to save Creek”, implying a similar kind of feeling for Creek like what Bridget feels for Creek. And so, a deal is made; if Bridget agrees to help the Trolls, they’ll give her a makeover and help her get a date with King Gristle.
This interaction is common in media representations of women, in which the only way to connect, despite their differences, is through their feelings for men in their lives. While it is true that this connection is made to help save Creek and that Poppy wants the best for everyone, she is still essentially using Bridget, through her feelings for Gristle, to get her to do what she wants, rather than actually connecting and helping Bridget without a selfish ulterior motive.
However, there’s another issue in how they approach this. Bridget claims that King Gristle won’t ever love her, as she’s only a scullery maid with bad hair, bad clothes, and no idea what to say. Immediately, the Trolls offer to give her new clothes, new hair, and everything to say around him, to essentially hide her entire identity. Once Bridget agrees, the Trolls start singing as they carry makeup towards her: “When you look in the mirror, let it disappear, all your insecurities!” This interaction reinforces the idea that, in order to get a man’s attention, women have to change themselves to fit the “conventionally attractive” societal standard. This is extremely problematic, as it tells young children that a woman’s only worth is her appearance, as opposed to her talents, intelligence, or accomplishments. Would this have been necessary if Bridget had been presented in the movie as a male-presenting or non-binary character?
When Bridget cries because that the plan won’t work, Biggie tells her to “let it out” and to “have a good cry”, but immediately tells her to “reel it in” once she cries louder and more emotionally. This also tells kids, inadvertently, that women should be emotional, but not too emotional.
Then, in this whirlwind of emotions, we find out why Branch doesn’t sing or dance. When Poppy confronts him by asking why he won’t just help out and sing, he lashes out: “Because singing killed my grandma, okay?” We see a flashback to Branch’s childhood, in which he is more brightly colored and energetic, yet was too distracted by singing to notice the Chef coming up behind him. His grandma runs over to push him out of the way, sacrificing herself for him. After this, we see Branch become more somber and grey, matching the color scheme he has presently in the movie. Following this flashback, Poppy gives Branch a hug. At first it seems that he appreciates it, but once the others join to make a group hug, he backs out and restates that he’ll help with the plan but still won’t sing.
In thinking about this, I realized that Branch is at least a few years older than Poppy, as his memory from his grandma occurred on the Troll Tree. The Trolls left this tree when Poppy was still very young, infantile even, while Branch was seemingly at least a few years old (or the equivalent for Troll maturity).
We then go back to the makeover for Bridget. The Trolls become a rainbow colored wig for her, along with a new pink jumpsuit, white platform heels, and newly painted pink nails. The song they all sing, “I’m Coming Out”, is about how Bridget has this newfound confidence due to this makeover, and she’s able to do just about anything now. This again reinforces that a woman’s confidence only comes from her appearance, rather than from multiple sources such as personal self esteem, mood, and more.
Before (above) and After (below)
In rewatching this scene, I wonder if the choice of coloring and specific song lyrics is intended to mean more than the surface reveals. The wig that the Trolls create is rainbow colored, and the song’s main lyrics are “I’m/she’s coming out”. Could this be in reference to how members of the LGBTQ+ community can “come out” to others? Coming out in the LGBTQ+ community is an expression of self acceptance and devaluing of possible resistance by society.
Bridget then sees Gristle shopping for a new bib for Trollstice, who states his need for a “man’s bib”, which also reinforces the idea that even simple things like an eating bib are gendered, and that there is a “wrong” bib for a man to wear. Upon interacting with Bridget, known by the pseudonym “Lady Glitter Sparkles”, Gristle is only attracted to her at first due to appearance. He floats over to her, remarking on the “total honesty from a total babe”. Gristle then asks her on a date, which she agrees to.
At the date, we see Poppy and the Trolls helping Bridget talk to Gristle. When the Bergens’ hands touch, Bridget smacks Gristle’s hand away and eats the pizza, without regard to how she appears. Gristle calls her “fantastic”, and Poppy tells Bridget to compliment him back. After the other Trolls have trouble coming up with a suitable compliment, Branch was the one able to help Bridget with the most eloquent one. This is also another way in which this movie can be seen as defying certain societal views, as most men are not expected to be romantically eloquent or poetic. As well, Branch’s words can be seen as reflection of how he feels for Poppy (as he looks at Poppy when finishing up the compliment, before realizing it and looking away quickly) rather than how he thinks a good compliment could made towards to Gristle.
In a way to “work up an appetite” for Trollstice, we see Gristle and Bridget in a roller skating montage to Ariana Grande’s song “They Don’t Know”. This song choice is reflective of how no one else knows about this connection and the date between Bridget and Gristle. It could also be seen in reference to how no one else knows that the Trolls are helping Bridget be Lady Glitter Sparkles. As well, in this scene, we see another divergence from expectations: Bridget is able to pick up and hold Gristle with only one finger, which reverses the typical lead & follow dance roles for a man and woman.
Upon returning to her room, Bridget is ecstatic that Gristle noticed her and is seemingly interested. However, she feels that this interest is only in this persona of Lady Glitter Sparkles, rather than herself. When the Trolls mention wanting to leave to save Creek and go home, she says they can’t leave: “You have to help me be Lady Glitter Sparkles, I need you!” Bridget is certain that happiness can only be achieved through eating a Troll; she can’t even feel wanted by Gristle as herself, and now her persona Lady Glitter Sparkles is also being taken away from her as the Trolls leave.
The Trolls then go to Gristle’s room to save Creek. We see Gristle putting on active wear, saying that “I just have to lose 30 lbs in the next 8 hours” before Trollstice. This, another seemingly innocent joke, is another problem in disguise: fat shaming. In order for Gristle to be attractive, get the girl, and be happy, he has to be skinnier and therefore push himself unrealistically to reach that. It’s completely unhealthy and dangerous to try to lose so much weight in such a short time, and the situation being so unrealistic makes it humorous. However, this joke based in a very real, very harmful social discrimination and is problematic when looked at from a deeper perspective.
However, their rescue mission doesn’t go according to plan, as they “weren’t in time” to save Creek, and the Chef recaptures the Trolls. She mentions how she’ll be able to find “all of the Trolls” with some help from “someone who knows” where they are. Poppy and the others then find out that Creek is indeed alive, but “he’s selling us out”. Creek then tells them that he’s doing so to save himself from being eaten, and that “At least you get to die with a clear conscious. So in a way, you could say I’m doing this for you”. In this interaction, we see Creek’s true intentions and how he’s selfishly taking advantage of Poppy and her love for him to betray the entire Troll population.
The Chef is able to gather the rest of the Trolls with Creek’s help, and they are all placed in a pot with Poppy, Branch, and their friends. When asked if she’s alright, Poppy “breaks character” and acts sarcastically. She goes as far to say, “You were right, Branch. The world isn’t all cupcakes and rainbows”. She loses color, visually representing her loss of optimism and motivation, which causes the other Trolls to lose color as well. Poppy, as she is the Princess of their population, is the major source of hope and happiness for the Trolls, and so when a leader is sad and dejected, the population is quick to follow.
Branch, the Troll with the longest trend of sadness and grey-ness, goes to try to cheer up Poppy, by singing – singing had been a previously traumatic and triggering thing for Branch, and so he overcomes that to help the one he loves. He sings “True Colors” to her, in hopes of reinvigorating her happiness; it’s both fitting and slightly ironic that the one that knows depression the best is able to help Poppy overcome this onset of sadness. We see the previous roles of these two characters being reversed; Branch acts happy for the sad Poppy because he never wants the one he loves to feel as bad as he has for potentially 20 years or more. In the song, Poppy’s Hug Time bracelet goes off, and he opens his arms to her in offer of a hug. As well, he sings the line, “I see your true colors, and that’s why I love you”, to Poppy’s surprise, and after which she joins him in singing. Branch shows his emotions, leaving himself vulnerable to everyone, which helps him to realize his own personal self and true feelings, especially towards Poppy. This openness allows him to also regain his colors after at least twenty years of grey. He also initiates a hug with Poppy after they finish singing – both completely different from his past characteristics. When Poppy asks him about this newfound happiness, he responds with “Happiness is inside all of us, right? Sometimes you just need someone to help you find it”, and Poppy, along with the love they share, definitely helped him find it.
Bridget releases the Trolls so that they can escape from being eaten- she acts self-sacrificially despite the consequences, as Poppy helped Bridget realize what it was like to be happy. Similar to Poppy and Branch, the two realize a love for each other, albeit in a sisterly/platonic way.
As Bridget is working during Trollstice, she is unable to arrive as Lady Glitter Sparkles, causing Gristle to worry. When he asks the Chef to delay the start of Trollstice, asking “Shouldn’t we wait for Lady Glitter Sparkles?”, she instills doubt in his heart about Lady Glitter Sparkles, saying what roughly translates to “if she actually liked you, she would be here. But she isn’t”. The Chef manipulates Gristle’s feelings into getting what she wants, which is redemption in the Bergen community by reinstating Trollstice. And so, along with the pressure of pleasing the crowd of impatient Bergens, Gristle decides to let the Trollstice feast to begin.
After leading the Trolls back to safety through the root tunnels, Poppy decides that “Bridget deserves to be happy just as much as we do”, immediately followed with the realization that all of the Bergens do.
When the Chef opens the Troll pot to start the feast, everyone sees that all of the Trolls are gone. Immediately, she blames Bridget for disappearance, claiming that she ate all of them and that “she ruined Trollstice”. Right as the Chef orders the guards to arrest Bridget, the Trolls arrive again and reestablish Bridget as Lady Glitter Sparkles. Gristle realizes it’s her, and asks why she would do this. Poppy jumps in right away, saying that “she didn’t think you would want someone like her”. Poppy then goes further to prompt Gristle and Bridget to realize that they were happy together, without the consumption of Trolls. This also, however, is another way in which the movie promotes heteronormativity – the only Bergens have experienced true happiness without eating a Troll are Gristle and Bridget, and the way they did so is through their hetero-romantic relationship.
Yet, in retaliation to this, the Chef angrily shouts that the “only way to be happy” is HER way, by eating a Troll. She then grabs Branch and attempts to force-feed him to Gristle, to show how he will be happy once he’s eaten a Troll. However, Poppy jumps in to save Branch, saying that “happiness isn’t something you put inside of you; it’s already there!” She then starts singing “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”, a song about happiness. This helps the Bergens find happiness – slowly, one by one, they all start dancing, and so they all realize that they don’t have to eat a Troll to be happy. As well, the Chef and Creek are sent out of Bergen Town on the rolling cart, visually representation the removal of toxic people and influences. With those two gone and the Trolls helping the Bergens to dance, they’re able to let go of the perpetuated hegemony of happiness coming from Troll consumption and realize that a widespread publicly supported opinion isn’t always the truth.
Poppy is then named Queen, for helping Trolls and Bergens alike, instating peace between the communities, and demonstrating effective leadership. At the end, we see the Happily Ever After between Poppy and Branch: Branch asks for a hug, and Poppy jokingly degrees that “Hug Time is all the time” in response. This movie, as it is intended for an audience of children, is a “feel good” movie with the general message that love and happiness will triumph over bad situations if you have the right attitude. The upbeat music, cute artistic style, and good humor help to enforce this, making it an enjoyable movie for many.
In this movie, we see a strict distinction between how genders are represented. In this, we see the common theme in media of only two contrasting binary genders being represented: male and female. These genders are presented with a few notable characteristics for each gender.
Female: round faces, eyelashes, small noses, thin eyebrows, typically pastel-bright or warm colors, dresses/bows, soft/high voices
Male: wider faces, no eyelashes, larger noses, thick eyebrows, bright-dark or cool colors, pants, rough/low voices
There are certain deviations from the above “guidelines” used for creating male vs. female characters, such as Smidge having bright colors and a low voice, DJ Suki wearing pants, and Cooper having a primarily pink body. However, for the majority of the characters, there are clear divisions between who is male and who is female, and very little room, if any, for any known non-binary or transgender characters.
This portrayal of binary genders is problematic, as it essentially shows young children that there are certain characteristics expected, or even required, of being a boy or a girl. Boys can’t wear dresses or makeup, and girls have to wear dresses and makeup. Anyone who deviates from these is considered unusual, odd, or peculiar. Many parents are hesitant to have societal-non-conforming individuals in children’s media, as they worry that it will somehow harm their child and “cause them to become different” due to the potential trends they might influence. However, I believe that restricting children’s media to only depict cis-gendered, heterosexual, societal-conforming characters is actually more harmful, as it leaves children unsatisfied with themselves if they can’t match or fit these expectations. This can consequently lead to low self esteem, confidence issues, confusion, lack of certainty in identity, depression, anxiety, and potentially suicide in more extreme cases.
Romance and Heteronormativity
In this movie, there is a major overarching sub-plot: romance between Poppy and Branch. It starts off very subtle until its major pronunciation by the end of the film.
Branch likes to pretend he’s annoyed by Poppy, especially in the first half of the film, but there are clear signs that this isn’t always the case.
In his bunker during the party, Branch is shown looking at the personal invitation that Poppy made for him. When Poppy knocks on the entrance to his home after the Bergen attack, he frantically tries to hide the card, and we see that he has kept many others that were made by her in the past. Obviously, despite public rejection of the cards, he appreciates them, but still tries to hide this to others.
As well, when he learns that a Bergen had crashed the party, he immediately pulls Poppy inside the bunker, presumably to protect her; no matter how much Branch pretends not to, he still deeply cares about Poppy and her safety.
As well, the two are on a bantering level, another way in which hetero-platonic relationships can be romantically insinuated- the two characters are able to make sarcastic jokes to each other without fear of truly hurting the other’s feelings. When Poppy states that she doesn’t know what to do to save her friends, Branch responds with “Why don’t you try scrapbooking them to freedom?” Knowing that Branch is being sarcastic, Poppy retorts with “Wow, solid burn, Branch.” We see this happen multiple times in the movie, where Poppy and Branch make small jabs at each other, and themselves, with good and humorous intentions.
Some more examples of this:
“You all said I was crazy, but who’s crazy now? Me. Crazy prepared.”
“You won’t last a day out there.” “And you won’t last a day in here. [Other Trolls are shown rampaging around Branch’s bunker] Solid burn, returned.”
“I figured after the third Hug Time, getting eaten by a Bergen wouldn’t seem so bad.” “And I figured there was no way you could do this on your own. Guess we were both right.”
“Wait, wait, wait, what’s your plan?” “I just told you: rescue everyone and make it home safely.” “Okay, that’s not a plan; that’s a wishlist.”
“Hold on a second, are you scrapbooking my plan?” “Uh huh, yeah, almost… done!” “There will be no more [pause to blow glitter out of his nose] scrapbooking.”
“There’s no Bergen is there? You just said that so I’d stop talking.” “[in a whisper]…maybe.”
“Singing helps me relax. Maybe you should try it.”
[After Poppy sings “The Sound of Silence” with a ukulele] “May I?” Poppy hands Branch the ukulele. He tosses it into the campfire and goes back to sleep.
“Branch, it’s a high-five. The others lead to certain death. Get perspective!”
[Poppy referring to the Bergens] “Wow, they’re as miserable as you.”
“Now, let’s go save our friends!” “Your friends. “Our friends. Don’t fight it.”
“Don’t you know anything about romance?” “Of course, I’m passionate about it.” “Really?” “Don’t you know anything about sarcasm?”
[Upon realizing that Creek is alive, and the ensuing celebration] “Up top! [Poppy goes to high-five Branch, but he moves his hand out of the way] Too slow!”
The hetero-romantic relationship that grows between Poppy and Branch is what allows them to return to their “true colors” and be happy again.
This enforces the idea that to be happy, you have to have a significant other, preferably of the binary-structured opposite gender. This is also shown through the relationship between King Gristle and Bridget, as they realized that true happiness was possible without eating a Troll only after they developed romantic feelings for each other. Without this hetero-romantic relationship, would they have ever discovered this? In real life, yes, but in this fictional narrative, likely not.
Individual Character Representations
There is a diverse range of representation in this movie’s character list. Listed below are just a few speculative examples of this inclusive representation.
Branch is immediately portrayed as different from the other Trolls in the exposition of the film. He is less colorful, grumpier, and cynical, and the other Trolls criticize his seeming paranoia about Bergen attacks. In the middle of the film, we learn that Branch no longer sings or dances after the death of his grandma. This changes the perspective on Branch, both of the Trolls and the audience; rather than just being grumpy all of the time, he is still suffering from depression and grief caused by the loss.
Once the Trolls know this, they no longer mock him for not singing nor pressure him to. He simply says “But I’m still not singing”, and they all respect that. When he does start singing, it’s of his own volition.
Satin and Chenille:
Chenille and Satin are connected together by their hair – this is likely representative of twins, specifically conjoined twins. Rather than exclusively holding them back, the two are able to use their connection to their advantage, such as helping to steer the rollerskate around the castle in Bergen Town.
Biggie is physically much larger than the Trolls and is constantly in company of Mr. Dinkle. He is also extremely emotional and likely a representation of a single parent. Neither that, his emotional openness, nor his size are openly objectified for humor in the film.
Smidge is a female Troll (as described on the fan Wiki site) with a very masculine voice and more strength than other characters. Her strength and voice often throw viewers off, leaving them wondering how she identifies. It is possible that Smidge is non-binary, transgender, or genderqueer, however this is only speculation.
DJ Suki and Cooper:
DJ Suki and Cooper are coded as characters of color. This is achieved through stereotypical means, such as dreadlocks and vernacular. While this does achieve ethnic diversity in character design, the way in which it is achieved can be problematic as it reduces them to those characteristics and stereotypes, and therefore reinforcing them.
Bridget and Gristle:
Bridget and Gristle are much rounder characters compared to the Trolls and even to other Bergens. There are certain jokes make at this expense, mentioned in the plot analysis section.
As well, Bridget seems to have extreme social anxiety, shown by her reactions to the Chef and Gristle.
Fuzzbert, unlike the other Trolls, is much shorter and has no visible upper body. It is possible that Fuzzbert represents an individual with dwarfism or another body developmental condition.
Except for slight hints, there is practically no representation for the LGBTQ+ community. This is rather shocking, as this movie was released in only a year ago in 2016. I was intrigued by this, since we are in a time of rapidly expanding inclusive representation in our media. TV shows and movies are increasingly showing characters of non-heterosexual orientations, non-binary and transgender identities, and more. For a movie intended for child audiences, I am surprised and not surprised at the same time. I am surprised because inclusive representation, I believe, should start in the very beginning with children’s media to immediately show that there are more identities than heterosexual and cisgender. However, I am not surprised that there isn’t more inclusive representation because of the intense backlash that TV shows and films have received for inclusive representation, as it’s “too sensitive of material to show to children”. Regardless, I believe that inclusive representation will continue to expand in media, and I hope that children’s media will not get the least of it.
Overall, this is definitely a movie made for a young audience, with good and bad aspects alike.
The movie is aimed to be as widely received as possible. The bright coloring and simplistic styling makes for easily recognizable characters, with easily marketable outfits. There are some issues with presentations of characters and plots. There are jokes aimed towards innocent senses of humor, yet can come across as transphobic, sexist, heteronormative, etc. As well, despite diverse representation of character design, there is still a lack of representation of the LGBTQ+ community. This lack is common among children’s media, but slowly progress is made towards inclusion. The presentation of gender in this movie could also be improved; the strict binary between female and male character design is exclusionary, and can lead to esteem issues for children who do not fit that binary. There is also a very present hetero-romantic sub-plots throughout the film, between Branch and Poppy and between Gristle and Bridget. On the latter, Bridget had to change herself to get Gristle’s attention, perpetuating the idea that a woman’s value lies majorally in her appearance. She didn’t need to stay in this make-over version of herself to keep his attention, though.
There are multiple progressive aspects to this movie as well. Poppy was named Queen after she helped to unite the Bergens and Trolls, as opposed to being crowned after marrying a prince/man as other movies have done. When Branch explained his story behind not singing, the other Trolls respected that and didn’t try to pressure him into singing after that. Poppy’s persistence and determination are also good characteristics to put in a main female protagonist, as they inspire children to “Get back up again” when life tries to bring them down.