A Review of “Frozen” and the Problem with Princesses
I realize this isn’t your typical movie review, but something I feel inclined to talk about…
let’s just start at the beginning.
While I am still Team Pixar, Disney has really stepped up their game in recent years with Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph. When Frozen released this past November, it showed that Disney was, once again, a force to be reckoned with. The film already took home the Golden Globe for best animated feature (and many other nominations and awards), and is also nominated twice at this year’s Academy Awards (Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.) The overall animation and sound in the film was not up to par to Pixar’s standards (or mine for that matter), but those are minuet details in comparison to it’s characters, story, and writing.
Frozen is about two sisters, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel), who were once close but drifted apart due to Elsa’s secret icy powers. After Elsa accidentally casts their kingdom under a never-ending winter, she runs away and Anna tries to bring her home. With the help of her friends Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) and Olaf the adorably funny snowman (Josh Gad), the trio encounters a lot of fun and adventure. The movie had me laughing out loud with it’s very dry and witty humor just as much as it brought me to the edge of my seat. Great characters, hilarious jokes, a recognizable and talented cast, wonderful songs, and (most importantly) the moral of this movie was inspiring, unique, and the perfect lesson I’d want to teach my children (if I had any.)
The movie was phenomenal… so what is my problem?
Whenever I watch a movie who’s target audience is children, I watch it from three different perspectives: the general moviegoer, the child, and the parent. And, yes, there were a few moments in this movie that really kicked in my raging maternal instincts.
But let me interrupt myself and touch base on something I will call the “Princess Problem.”
The Princess Problem is old news and can be traced back in Disney’s Snow White in 1937; the weak, stupid, and beautiful Snow White… only to be saved by Prince Charming. But that was 77 years ago and we have made progress! (Let’s fast forward over Ariel changing herself to please a man, or Jasmine seducing Jaffar because that’s the only tactic a woman has to offer.)
Pocahontas (1995) was the first princess to ever save the prince. However, it was based on a true story… because heaven forbid the writer’s at Disney invent their own strong female character like Pocahontas. But hey, I give them credit nonetheless.
In 2012, Brave came out! Definitely not my personal favorite as far as story or entertainment goes, but one I’d want to be my kids’ favorite. Princess Merida is the first princess to be somewhat normally proportioned and beyond your typical “beautiful girl.” She is independent, strong, and there is no love interest! Team Pixar all. the. way. When I watched this movie, a huge sigh of relief came over me… the Princess Problem is OVER!
Not so fast.
Frozen has two very strong female protagonists who, SPOILER ALERT, end up saving the day themselves… no men involved (sort of.) The moral of this movie is about a sister’s bond and the importance of family. I consider these to be great progresses and yet Anna still fits into so many weak, female stereotypes. She, SPOILER ALERT, falls madly in love with a guy who only takes advantage of her because she is too naive to know better. She even role models the importance of not eating in front of a man or being ashamed of wanting to eat chocolate!
But the biggest problem I noticed was the overtly sexualized Elsa… I mean, there was a point in the movie where I said, “DAMN.” and my jaw dropped. Princesses have always been beautiful, unnaturally tall, and scary thin… but now we have HIP ACTION? Deep dress slits? In Elsa’s main song (an awesome song btw), Let It Go, you watch her transform from being timid and scared to being… uncomfortably sexy? Because, as a woman, it is impossible to be strong and independent without also being totally hot. Great association, Disney.
I wanted to find a good photo for this post. I searched, “Frozen Elsa Sexy” only to find out just how behind I am on this subject. Turns out Frozen’s head of animation, Lino DiSalvo, said the following semi disturbing statement:
“Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, because they have to go through these range of emotions, but you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive to — you can get them off a model very quickly. So, having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the scene and look very different if they’re echoing the same expression; that Elsa looking angry looks different from Anna being angry.”
So, you “have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive…” and it’s tough animating a women’s broad scale of emotion while still keeping them pretty AND different! Because obviously there is only one type of “pretty” in the world: big round eyes, button nose, no emotion too dramatic, a tiny waste that would normally kill a person, hip action (that’s new!), and at least a nice full C cup.
Wait, I know! We’ll just give them different hair colors and clothes! Geniuses.
Regardless of Disney’s sexist staff or even it’s break away from prince-saves-princess formula, this movie is proof that we are still forcing sexy standards down young children’s throats. Little girls will look up to these characters and know that they need to be too tall and too thin to be beautiful… they will be ashamed of eating and associate power and strength with seduction. And the boys? Boys will continue to be boys as long as they’re surrounded by these images. Insecurity, anorexia, shallowness, even rape-culture… and it all starts here: at a PG rated children’s movie.
Our world is sex obsessed and saturated with pressure for women to fit this unrealistic mold while men learn to expect it. This is one of the biggest and worst societal flaws out there, and it’s everywhere… can’t we just leave it out of a children’s movie for once?
Watch/Sing along to this Best Original song nomination (particularly at 3:15) and tell me your thoughts on the subject. Do you think the Princess Problem will ever go away?