Suffragette Cinema

a feminist look at films and the media surrounding them

Frozen in Time

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This is a long one, but stick with me.

In January, I caved and decided to watch Frozen with my best friend at home… And I still do not know how I feel about it. This post may end up being a conglomeration of random thoughts and points about the movie, but that pretty much represents how I feel about it.

One moment I’ll be humming ‘Let it Go’ and pretending to shoot ice crystals from my hands and the next I’ll want nothing to do with the entire thing and find myself complaining about yet another typical Disney princess movie.

So here goes.

Elsa’s Power

Something I thought was really great was that when it came time for Elsa’s coronation, nothing was questioned. She did not have the expectation to be married, as we saw with Merida in Brave. The idea of her need to have a husband was never mentioned or explored.

This was continued through the story, with Elsa never finding love- and from there, many parodies featuring Elsa have popped up across the internet, including one of her singing to a few other princesses from other classic Disney tales.

However, I also want to examine Elsa’s character in Frozen. Despite what many have stated, Frozen did not have two female protagonists. It had  Anna, the protagonist, and Elsa, the antagonist. In the end, the film follows Anna whose goal is to thwart Elsa’s storm. In Disney, the antagonist doesn’t end up with a man- they don’t find love. Think Ursula from The Littler Mermaid, Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, Ratcliffe from Pocahontas, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, and now Elsa from Frozen– they are left alone while the protagonist, in this case Anna, finds love.

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Racial Representation

This time around, Disney made its main characters… white Europeans! Oh wait…

Frozen is the third all-white Disney princess movie to come out in a row, preceded by Tangled in 2010 and Brave in 2012.  It will make it so that there are nine princesses out of thirteen that identify as white. As explained by one Tumblr user, raptorforic;

In the eyes of Disney, there’s a Princess for Black little girls to look up to, a Princess for Native little girls to look up to, a Princess for Arab little girls to look up to, a Princess for Asian little girls to look up to, and nine princesses for all little girls to look up to. It’s no coincidence that in almost all promotional art featuring the “Princess Lineup,” Jasmine, Tiana, Mulan, and Pocahontas are all standing in the back, usually obscured by other white Princesses’ dresses, while the blonde lady brigade stands in the front.

Even before the movie came out, once it was announced that their would be an all-white cast, many internet users created racial variations of the main characters with the captions, “This could have been Frozen.

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LGBTQ+

There has been a lot of discussion about the possible prominence of queer characters within Frozen. For one, some believe that Elsa’s song, ‘Let it Go,’ is her partial way of coming out. This belief is strengthened by the fact that she did not end up with a male character at the end of the story, somehow meant to signify her identity as a queer woman.

I am not amused by this belief. While I like Elsa as a character, she’s a pretty average Disney female I feel, if she is actually meant to be a queer character, she is not the representation the community deserves. I do not want a queer character whose sexual identity is subtly hinted at, I want it to be boldly presented and normalized.

Personally, I do not see Elsa as a gay icon and I do not believe that was what her character was intended to be. It bothers me that many have stated that she may be queer- mainly because she ends up single at the end of the film. It brings across the idea that if a woman does not end up with a man or does not show interest in the opposite sex, the only thing that makes sense is that she is gay. Because those are the only two options- to be betrothed to a man or be a lesbian- right…?

The second discussion I’ve heard is about Oaken, the owner of the trading post, and the family that he says hello to briefly. In the image, there is discussion about whether there is one man and four boys, suggesting that Oaken may be gay. However, the character on the top right could just as easily be  woman. The possibilities could be endless. And I stick with my belief above, I do not want to have to guess a character is gay… if Disney is going to take that step (which they have not commented on) then I don’t want to have to question it.

family

True Love

Part way through the film, after visiting Elsa and pleading with her to come home, Anna is struck by one of Elsa’s icicles and progressively gets weaker. Anna is finally told that “an act of true love can melt a frozen heart.”

From there, Anna and Kristoff believe that the only way to save her is to return to Arrendale, Anna’s home, and find her fiancé, Hans. However, in a twist of fate, the act of true love is performed by Anna as she saves her sister, Elsa, from being stabbed and killed. In this act, she breaks her own spell and remains alive. Anna not only manages to break her own spell, without the need of a male figure or lover, but does it in an act to save another female character.

Finally, Disney breaks the idea of “true loves kiss” and gives Anna the power to not only break her own spell, but to save another female in the process.

Consent

Something that was amazingly wonderful that floored me was the simple fact that Kristoff, in one of the final scenes, asks Anna’s permission to kiss her, waits for her to respond, and then kisses her. Consent is so rarely modeled in the media, and much less in Disney movies, that this tiny step is something that made me literally squeal in the middle of the theater. I especially like how this progress can be tracked when looking at Disney’s 1989 film, The Little Mermaid, where in the song ‘Kiss the Girl’ lines state:

Yes, you want her
Look at her, you know you do
Possible she wants you too
There is one way to ask her
It don’t take a word
Not a single word
Go on and kiss the girl

This transition, from saying silence is okay to having a character ask for explicit verbal consent (which is what the norm ought to be) is huge.

Anna’s Relationships

Disney almost did something really cool when they had Kristoff call Anna out for getting engaged to a guy she had just met a few hours earlier, stating “you got engaged to someone you just met that day… hang on, you mean to tell me you got engaged to someone you just met that day… didn’t your parents ever warn you about strangers?”

Finally, I was thinking, Disney is acknowledging the stupidity and unrealistic nature of falling in love at first sight and is mocking the idea that you can have “true love” with someone you’ve only known for less than a day.

Aaaand then, after spending about a day together, most of which Anna remains engaged to Hans, Kristoff and Anna get together.

Disney, I guess you tried, but certainly not hard enough.

Conclusion

I think that Frozen had a lot of potential to be really amazing. The first half of the movie set it up to be progressive and then something happened. Maybe it was Disney’s version of cold feet?

I do think that there were some great elements included in the movie, however, despite the catchy music, I want more. And I don’t think that’s a lot to ask for.

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One thought on “Frozen in Time

  1. You looked at this movie from a lot of interesting angles that I’d never considered. Disney definitely made some progressive moves with this movie, but I agree that the portrayals in a lot of areas, including representations of women and race, still need to be addressed and expanded. Because seriously. You can’t get together with some dude you just met. Why is that a thing?

    Like

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