5 Reasons Frozen is Smarter Than the Average Disney Movie

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I thought I would take a break from blogging about books for a post and focus on a different media – movies! I went to see Frozen a few weeks ago and I was really impressed with how its themes break from the precedent of other romantic Disney movies (typically with heterosexual “true love” as the holy grail gained by the man saving the woman from some kind of ill fate). I can’t support my take on the themes while avoiding spoilers, so consider yourself warned if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

Here are the reasons why Frozen is unlike other Disney movies:

 

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1. The central love story is between sisters. The Aristocats and 101 Dalmations are the only Disney movies that I can think of that have sibling relationships, but they both are about animals and both contain a romantic relationship that is more central to the plot. This is kind of weird because sibling relationships are a huge deal for children, who make up Disney’s target market. Next to parents, siblings are the people who kids are usually the closest to, so why do Disney movies tend to focus on romantic relationships? And why are the ones that do show sibling relationships about animals?

The situation in Frozen with sisters being separated, or one being cold to another, is relevant to girls of all ages. As a kid, maybe your sibling gets sick or gets new friends and you don’t see much of them for awhile, but it’s even more relevant as you get older and move away from one another. It gets more difficult to keep in contact when you’re separated by distance and different interests… so it has a bittersweet note which makes it entertaining for older viewers, and also a great moment of catharsis at the end when the sisters decide to be friends again.

Frozen passes the Bechdel test (it has two women, talking to each other, about something other than men). The director, Jennifer Lee, is the first woman to ever direct a full-length animated Disney movie and it may be due to her influence that Elsa and Anna’s relationship became as complicated and interesting as it is.

It’s time to see what I can do

To test the limits and break through

No right, no wrong, no rules for me

I’m free

2. They give one of the heroines a real super-power, in contrast to most Disney heroines who have to put up with their situation until a prince comes to save them. Elsa’s struggles with her power mirror the struggles that many women have when they feel they’re expected to hold back in order to be modest and feminine and not draw attention to themselves. Sadly, Elsa can’t control her powers, so she’s extremely dangerous. When a woman is portrayed as powerful, mass media tends to skip good powerful and go right to Jean Gray or Carrie-style kill-everything-with-fire powerful, as if the existence of a powerful woman would make the world topple off its delicate balance and and erupt in flames. This might also be due to stereotypes that women are more emotional/volatile/unable to control themselves. In this light, Elsa and similar characters are not great role-model material.

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© Disney 2013

3. It warns about the dangers of whirlwind romances. In most Disney movies, love at first sight is true, but in Frozen it’s not so. The first day Anna is exposed to human beings outside her family (what kind of sadists are the king and queen anyway, keeping a girl locked away from everyone until she’s sixteen?) she is swept off her feet by a prince and decides that night she wants to marry him. It turns out later that he just wanted to marry her for her wealth and the kingdom, and didn’t love her as he’d professed earlier. Love takes time to grow, and it makes sense to be wary of someone who says he wants to spend his life with you without having spent any significant amount of time together (since your personality is less immediately apparent than your looks/money/etc). And, you know, give yourself some time to judge that they’re not secretly an awful person who would let you freeze to death for money.

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© Disney 2013

4. The person the heroine falls into true love with isn’t perfect (although he’s still pretty cute). In most Disney movies, the guy is a prince, Greek statue-beautiful, with a deep voice and suave manners. Frozen dispenses with the princely status and lets him be awkward, but keeps the handsome face (with some quirks) and deep voice. Which is sort of a sign of our generation – aristocracy is out, and working-class politics is in (with Occupy, we’re all about the little guy). Kristoff is an ice-cutter who lives on the mountain with his best friend, reindeer named Sven. He’s a little lonely, a little rude, and certainly isn’t in love with Anna at first sight. They go to see the trolls who are Kristoff’s family (he’s an orphan, I think) and they sing about how he’s a “fixer-upper” but he’s a good guy and Anna should give him a chance anyway. This is a refreshing departure from the perfect-but-kinda-empty guys in The Little Mermaid, Snow White, and others.

5. It could be read as the first Disney film with lesbian princesses. The true love at the end that breaks the curse and revives Anna is her sister’s, not a prince’s. Kristoff’s love for Anna feels shoehorned in, since neither of them seem to actually like each other that much, snipping at each other as they ride up the mountain. Elsa is voiced by Idina Menzel, who played Maureen in Rent, and the lyrics to “Let It Go” sound like a coming out song:

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know

Well now they know

Let it go, let it go

Can’t hold it back anymore

 

Though Elsa and Anna have a very platonic sisterly relationship in the movie, it’s not hard to watch the movie and see them as a couple (perhaps Olaf is their child?).

 What do you think? Did you like the movie? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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8 thoughts on “5 Reasons Frozen is Smarter Than the Average Disney Movie

  1. I just saw frozen last night and I couldn’t agree with you more! Every disney movie I can think of pivets around the love story and we never see any good and true relationships between other people. Personally, my sister is my best friend and I definetly was excited that they finally realized that sibling relationships make effective movies as well. Great post!

  2. The relationship between LILO and nani is much more realistic and frozens lack of poc is annoying. Disneys never cared about historical accuracy before (Pocahontas) so why do they care now.

    • True… Lilo & Nani do have a better relationship, but it’s a little atypical, since Nani is more like Lilo’s mother. I think siblings closer in age would relate better to Elsa & Anna’s relationship. And it does lack POC, but it’s set in Norway. Disney has had black, Indian, Native American, and Asian princesses, so I don’t think they’re doing all that bad on that front.

  3. I love the points you make about how refreshing it is to see Disney move away from the “all consuming romantic love” into the importance of unconditional love of family (they also did the same with Disney’s Maleficent.) However, I am disturbed about the lesbian comment. They’re sisters! Thats incest, and I highly doubt that the movie was meant to be interpreted that way. Gross!

  4. I agree with EVERY last thing you said! I ADORE Frozen and Elsa and Anna. And the last bit about it being possible for it to be read as the first Disney movie about lesbian princesses is where I 100% feel you! Because, and this why i have to disagree also about Elsa being a bad role model in this respect, like you said Let It Go sounds like a coming out song for one. And Elsa repressed so much for THIRTEEN years though! How can that be interpreted as the perpetuation of the stereotype of the emotionally volatile woman? I see it this way; the idea of Elsa’s ice powers being so unstable can be seen as something the people around her view as harmful or a handicap and she conceals this part of herself to please others under that societal pressure, which is very relatable. In the movie she only loses control of the powers after she accidentily strikes Anna. She then doesnt allow herself to be close to her sister anymore and wont even speak to Anna to tell her that shes doing this because shes in fear of losing her, which visibly breaks both their hearts. Yet she still represses. Dont you agree that that shows just how GREAT and painful a handle on her emotions she has throughout the film! We later learn that her ice powers are capable of great beauty and the ONLY reason theyre so unstable the duration of the film is BECAUSE of that childhood trauma she holds onto! Anyone can relate to that! Her losing control cant be interpreted as a stereotype because in her case anyone would feel the same. Scared, hurt, lonely, depressed, anxious, worried, ashamed, angry (in the instance of the coronation) and then later liberated. These aren’t strictly female emotions, these are HUMAN feelings and they’re played out in a perfectly natural and understandable progression. Not in the bipolar maniac way as the stereotype criticizes. Elsa is a wonderful role model for pushing through inner struggles and turmoil and being your true self wholly. She represents all of us who hold soooo much back and repress essential parts of who we are in fear of harming (either figuratively or physically) the people we love out of a sense of duty or shame and completely disregarding our own happiness in the process. Elsa is those of us who are conflicted and complicated and whose greatest challenge in life is finding acceptance–not just from others–but from ourselves as well. This is why her relationship with Anna is so freaking beautiful because she gave this to Elsa from the time they were children. Elsa just had to realize that even after THIRTEEN years of solitude and the seclusion from one another Anna still loves her uncondiotionally. She adores someone who is basically a stranger to her and who does nothing to deteer her younger sibling from the notion that shes despised or unloved in return. Anna still reaches out to and desires the affections of, by still climbing up a mountain, trekking through a blizzard, seeking the help of an even stranger stranger, fighting wolfs, and a giant snow beast, her sister even still! Elsa just wanted to be at peace with her immense power and she did that with Anna’s love. Which is why Anna is sooo fucking badass and a perfect role model as well. Strong, determined, devoted and loyal. And not to anyone or thing but her self and what she believes in – which is her sister.

    • Thank you for this comment! I like your idea that Elsa might be forced to act that way because of the influences of others. She doesn’t seem like a particularly angry character, despite all that’s been forced on her.

    • Ahhh I love this comment, I feel like you explained everything I felt and loved about this movie. I cried twice during the movie because I felt I was in the same situation as Elsa. And I was blown away by the ending, I never expected they’d go with sisterly true love xD The kiss between Anna and Kristoff felt a little off. lmao but it was mostly a movie designed for ppl like me so it’s cool.

      – Shipping Elsanna Forever

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