To be honest, the first time I watched Disney’s Frozen I wasn’t crazy about it. Before I watched it, I had friends constantly asking me if I wanted to build a snowman and telling me that the movie was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Once I finally watched it, the movie just didn’t live up to my expectations. However, this past weekend I watched it for a second time and I actually liked it better. Why? I have no idea, maybe because I could sing along this time? But after the movie ended, I got into an interesting discussion with my friend Katarina about how Elsa is actually an awesome role model. This is what we concluded from our conversation: Frozen is probably Disney’s most feminist movie to date. And we love it.
Other Disney productions have shown hints of feminist concepts, such as Mulan which demonstrates how women are more than capable of accomplishing what men can do, or Beauty and the Beast where Belle isn’t afraid to choose her love of books over Gaston. But at the end of the story, what do we remember? Well, we remember the climax and we remember how the story ends, which is most commonly an act of love. I don’t know about you, but when I think of Disney I think of stories that can be summed up in a single sentence: “Once upon a time there was a princess who met her Prince Charming and they lived happily ever after.” What is incredible and unique about Frozen is that you remember the plot twist (aka the part that made us all cry/squeal/scream “OMG!!”): in the end, the act of true love was between sisters and had nothing at all to do with romantic love. The relationship between Anna and Kristoff is nothing but a subplot and we literally see the struggle in Anna’s face as she turns away from him and makes the decision to save her sister over herself.
One of my favorite parts in Frozen (either than “Yoo hoo! Big summer blowout!” of course) is seeing Elsa’s face when she sings “Let It Go”. It’s the first time we see her embracing her full potential and she’s goddamned excited about her new freedom. It’s almost a “In that moment, I swear we were infinite” kind of scene. Seeing how much power she has and what she’s actually capable of is beautiful, yet almost terrifying. Her individuality is defined by how her magic gives her these qualities of strength and intensity.
I must say that the first time I watched the movie I liked Anna a lot more than Elsa. I found it a lot easier to relate to her character because 1. She’s the protagonist so the story is more focused on her development and 2. She possesses qualities that are much easier to relate to as a teenager. She’s quirky, she’s outgoing, and she’s got a thirst for adventure. Oh and most importantly, she loves food. She’s also a hopeless romantic and from the very beginning, we desire a love like Hans and Anna’s where their quirks are accepted and awkwardness becomes adorableness. We even like her bad qualities: she’s clumsy, stupid, and incredibly naïve. These flaws not only add dimension to her character, but it also makes her a lot more relatable at least in the perspective of a teenager. We’re meant to fall in love with Anna.
On the other hand, Elsa has almost opposite qualities. She’s more mature, intelligent and practical. The line where she says “You can’t marry a man you just met!” is a clear representation of that. Elsa is a strong independent woman who don’t need no man! Actually, she don’t need no one… She’s happy being alone as long as she’s free. And that’s how I found I could relate to her: Elsa is very anti-social and sad teenager-like. From childhood, she is faced with an incredible amount of pressure. Just being royalty puts enough expectations on a person, but dealing with crazy, out-of-control magic that has the potential to kill people you love? That’s a lot of weight put on her shoulders. So obviously it’s pretty hard to relate to the whole magic thing, but I think every teenager is aware of how much pressure we’re forced to deal with everyday. This comes from school, family expectations, friends, etc. And most of the time, we probably feel like Elsa did: afraid. She spends at least half of the movie running away from her problems, which we all know is NEVER the solution to any problem.
Now in the beginning of this post, I said that Elsa was a great role model and now I’m saying she’s just an anti-social teenager… So I guess I have to take that statement back. But what I will say instead is that Disney created two strong female characters that are almost impossible not to love. And having their relationship as the center of the story line rather than focusing on a romantic relationship does make it feminist. Actually, if Disney had followed more closely the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen it would have been A LOT more feminist since it contains several other strong female characters. But they didn’t because they’re Disney and that’s just how they do things. But it’s kind of okay in a way because Frozen is definitely a step forward in the right direction.
From the research I did before writing this, I can see that there’s a lot of people out there with strong thoughts on this subject – in my opinion, way too strong considering we’re talking about a freaking kids movie. And that’s the truth; this is really nothing but a kids movie. I don’t think little six year olds walked out of the movie theater saying “I’m a feminist because Elsa rocks!” They were probably just like “Princesses are pretty! Can I have a sister?” And putting more feminist ideas in the movie probably wouldn’t have changed their thoughts. But I believe that it’s truly important to begin making more movies like Frozen that slowly introduce these concepts to the young generation. I know I’m not a parent or even an adult, but I personally don’t see any harm in creating more thought-provoking films.
So as I said before, a lot of people out there have some insanely strong opinions about this, so if you are one of those people and are reading this right now, then 1. I feel sorry that you have nothing better to do with your life than to bash on a kids movie and 2. This is just my opinion and if you don’t like it, then take some words of advice from Queen Elsa: Let. It. Go.