Why the Feminist Hype for Frozen is leaving me a bit confused

Okay, I would like to start off by saying that I love Disney’s new movie Frozen as much as the next girl. I’m a total Disney fanatic, and I love that this new movie portrays women in strong roles where they pave the way for their own destinies. I would not argue with people who are saying that this movie has feminist values driving the plot. Elsa and Anna are both strong in their own ways, and the plot doesn’t necessarily revolve around their love for a guy.
But here’s the problem I’m having: I really don’t think this is the first “feminist” Disney movie that has come out.

First of all, Beauty and the Beast. Alright, I know it’s not quite there yet in terms of feminism. Yes, the plot does revolve around the fact that a man is keeping Belle locked in a castle until she falls in love with him, which seems a little stockholm syndrome-ish. However, Belle is a smart girl. She does her own thing. She resists the charms of the most handsome guy in town because she has enough of a brain to know that she wants better. When you look past the men in the story, Belle is a great female roll model. Alright, so not a great example, but stick with me. It gets better.

Pocohantas. Now here’s a story that I truly think embodies female empowerment. When John Smith shows up all racist and stuff, she teaches him about living with the land. She bonds with people who are different than her. She saves her people and the English from starting a bloody war with each other. She puts her body on the line to save not only the life of John Smith, but the lives of everyone around her. And, she doesn’t even get to stick with the guy in the end. She knows she can be a leader for her people, so she stays when he goes back to England. Tell me what part of this doesn’t make you think of Pocohantas as a bad-ass female roll model.

Next, we have Mulan. There’s no way you could convince me that Mulan isn’t the embodiment of an empowered female. First of all, the film itself highlights how stupid sexism is. By showing that she is capable of being in the army and then showing how her comrades treat her when they find out she’s a woman, you see how futile the distinction is. And then, she SAVES ALL OF CHINA. And the emperor and all of China BOWS DOWN TO HER. Yea, she’s in love with Li Shang, but her love for him doesn’t have anything to do with how boss she is. They don’t even get married in the end, it’s just assumed they’re “together”. If there’s one princess that I would most want to be like, it’s probably Mulan.

There’s Tiana, who reaches her goals through hard work. Not much more to say about that one other than she’s yet another smart, driven person with dreams that she’ll do anything to achieve.

The one that I really want to get to is Merida, from the movie Brave. This is the first female-led Disney-Pixar film. This one came out just a little over a year ago, and this is the confusing one for me. Merida is incredibly strong-willed and opinionated. She’s smart, she knows what she wants, and she refuses to be set up with a man she doesn’t want. When the men are supposed to be competing to win her hand, she competes for her own hand and blows them out of the water. She’s not as pretty as the other princesses have been (although her hair is awesome), and she’s not incomprehensibly skinny, either. She’s the ultimate tomboy. So here’s where my confusion occurs. Never did I hear a peep about this incredible feminist princess. But along comes Frozen, and I’ve heard so much about it being pro-women and feminist.

To those out there hailing Frozen as an important movie with a better view of women, you’re totally right. To those of you saying this is the first time this has happened in Disney’s movie-making history, I think you’re wrong. Don’t be so hard on Disney. I’ve felt inspired and empowered by Disney’s characters since my childhood, and I bet I’m not the only one. What really matters is that in terms of media that reaches out children, we’re on a good path. We’re headed towards a brighter future in which little girls have powerful role models that turn them into strong women, and that’s what matters.


3 thoughts on “Why the Feminist Hype for Frozen is leaving me a bit confused

  1. *Role model

    Also, I would recommend starting with your strongest point instead of saving it for the end. If someone loses interesting halfway through you want through, you want them to at least hear out your best example.

    I think people like Frozen because of it’s “sisterhood” aspect, and having two female characters is kind of like Disney is turning away from the idea that being awesome/badass AND a girl makes you different. It also focuses on a “relationship” that isn’t with a romantic interest, where in other stories princesses ignore their families. It’s almost like an apology for all the times a girl has been cured from something with a kiss from “Prince Charming.” Also, it’s easy for people to imagine Elsa being the antagonist, evil-step mother type and they appreciate Disney not going for that easy, simple portrayal.

    However, this is an interesting analysis of 90s and millennial Disney heroines. Maybe it’s just that feminists haven’t thought to go to Disney for source material before, in which case, break out the popcorn and the notepads and discussion circles!

  2. I’ve heard similar sentiments about Frozen being the ultimate feminist Disney movie because of the focus on the sisterhood aspect. HOWEVER those sentiments usually fail to acknowledge the isolation/sequestration of Elsa because of her power (much like the oppression of women and the stifling of women’s voices and abilities), and the fact that the plot of the movie is very much centered around Anna’s journey to get to a prince. Personally, I think Frozen is an epic feminist fail. Yay sisterhood, but the movie misses the feminist mark for me personally. I think Mulan was a way better model of feminism as far as Disney is concerned, but ppl just go straight to Frozen lately, likely due to it’s newness.

  3. Also, all this praise for Frozen fails to acknowledge the complete lack of people of color. Literally everyone is white. When Disney was questioned about this, their response was that it wouldn’t have been historically accurate to include people of color for that time period, but talking trolls and singing snowmen are okay in terms of accuracy, apparently.

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