Frozen was recently named the top-grossing animated film of all time. It has sold big, lived big, and nearly every person on Planet Earth has seen the damn film. So, what’s the fuss all about?
There are zero people of color in this movie. It was released in late 2013 and there are ZERO. People. of. Color.
This film is a victim of Disney fans’ “historical accuracy” argument, just like Tangled. Do those people not realize that there is a talking, autonomous snow man and that Elsa has magical ice powers throughout the film? How is that historically accurate? And if you’re going that route, let’s say Frozen takes place in Norway. Norway’s original people were the Sami people, and they looked like this:
Not very European looking. Not the blonde-haired, blue-eyed people that Frozen depicts. Argument invalid.
While the lack of diversity is certainly a problem in this movie, there were some really awesome things that happened as well.
The chemistry between Kristoff and Anna is a red herring for “true love” at the end. FIRST ANNA SAVES ELSA, THEN ANNA IS SAVED BY ELSA. Disney broke it’s own rule of having a prince fall in love and save a princess with a kiss. By simply redefining this quintessential element of breaking fairy tale curses, it opened the door for love to be defined in many different ways. Not just in the sense of a hetero romance, but between family, and even between women. That’s pretty cool. It totally destroys heterosexism and embraces female to female relationships.
Elsa’s struggle with her powers is a metaphor for depression. As a person who struggles from this, and being familiar with the isolation that goes along with depression, it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling that there was a Disney princess out there that struggles with it too. Disney, to my knowledge, has never touched on mental illness. Another barrier is broken with Frozen. How cool.
There is a gay family in the trading post, and it is nothing that is made a big deal of. Infact, I didn’t notice it the first time I watched this film. I think it’s really awesome that Disney broke another barrier in that instance. Instead of having a homosexual as a token item in the film, he was nothing more than another character – very human and dimensional for a side character. It happens in a split second. I have included the scene here:
This is a cute video created by YouTube user AVByte that criticizes Disney’s princess stereotype. The princesses featured in the video (Jasmine, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White, Belle) are lectured by Queen Elsa on their refusal to critically think about their story lines. Princesses such as Pocahontas, Mulan, and Merida are omitted, perhaps because their story line does not revolve around finding love but on other factors and AVByte’s criticism might not have held up.
This video exposes many of the problems that are prevalent within the older princess films. While progress has been made with films such as Frozen and Brave, old princess tropes are still prevalent and surround our young girls. Even though Snow White and Cinderella are older films, I grew up watching them and even though I am now in my twenties I still see young girls enjoying them. The presence of criticism such as this cutesy YouTube clip is uplifting, however, because videos such as this can spur discussion among mothers and their daughters about what being a girl and a woman means. And even newer Disney princess films such Tangled fall under this trope, with Rapunzel being saved from Mother Gothel by Flynn Rider and never given the chance to grow outside of someone else.
Girls need to recognize that they need to develop as themselves first, then worry about falling in love. Love is an incredible human emotion and should be experienced by everyone one way or another, either between siblings such as in Frozen, family such as in Brave, between friends, or between those in a consensual relationship. Dialogue such as this video needs to exist to bring light to the fact that men are not the be all and end all. While these older stories may center around the woman character, the real story is about finding and keeping a man. So are the stereotypical Disney princess movies really about women? ‘Cause it really seems to revolve around men.
The purpose of this blog is to examine the different roles women play in children’s media – primarily in Disney films. Many criticisms of Disney exist in regards to representation of race and women. While I plan on exploring both of those topics on my own, I will also reflect on my childhood and how growing up in the so-called “Disney Renaissance” affected my perceptions and expectations of the world. As a white girl, I had no shortage of princesses to identify with. Belle and Ariel were two favorites of mine until Rapunzel came along in 2010 (in all honesty, however, my ALL TIME favorite Disney movie growing up was the Lion King).
I can’t help but wonder, however, who did little girls of other races have to identify with? Mulan, maybe Jasmine, maybe Esmeralda. But the pickings are slim and representations of their races are problematic for reasons I will get into later. We would be kidding ourselves to think that girls of color do not watch and subsequently are not influenced by Disney films.
So, how are women of color represented in Disney? How are they different from the white women? They act differently, dress differently, and almost seem to operate in a separate dimension than white women. For example, why is Mulan a soldier in full armor on screen, but only marketed to parents and girls in her kimono? Why is Jasmine dressed so scantily compared to the other princesses (not to mention how inappropriate her outfit is for an Arabic princess)? Why does Tiana spend the majority of The Princess and the Frog as a frog instead of as the black woman she is? In addition, I want to explore women of color’s erasure in Disney films. Why was there a charismatic chameleon but no women of color in Tangled? Why was there a talking snow man in Frozen but not a single woman of color in that film, either?
I will be re-watching Disney movies and investigating such dilemmas. I will be working with a feminist lens with which I am going to employ my knowledge of intersectionality within feminism. I will also be stressing the importance of presenting images to children they can identify with.