No, seriously, you should. Why? Well in short, the movie:
- Is led and driven by female characters and stories
- Has subtle Sami references
- Touches upon economic disparities and exploitation
- Doesn’t hold up “purity” and doesn’t demonize female sexuality
- Teaches a small lesson about consent
- Skewers traditional romance tropes that Disney itself perpetuated
not going to pretend that this movie is perfect, either in gender or
diversity representation. But it is a huge step forward, and that kind
of progress shouldn’t be ignored.
For elaboration, see the spoilers:
HERE BE SPOILERS!
1.) The story is led and driven by women.
You’ve probably heard this before, but it bears saying again –
despite the misleading marketing, the story is very much about two
sisters and their struggle to overcome society’s and their parents’
expectations of them, and reaffirm their bond with each other. Rather
than the relationship between two women being about them tearing each
other down or being trivialized, their love for each other is presented
as the strongest and truest – a rarity in Hollywood, letalone Disney.
2.) It actually does have some subtle Sami influences.
I’m not going to pretend that this suddenly makes Disney or even this
movie a paragon of ethnic diversity. But a huge component of the
concern over the movie, besides yet again the lack of anything
resembling POC characters, were the Sami. Along with musical scores
based on Sami folk music, Kristoff’s outfit does take a page from Sami
style clothing. And while there are probably some concerns over cultural
appropriation, one key characteristic that separates appropriation from
sharing and/or discussion is…
3.) It touches upon economic disparities and exploitation.
Our introduction to Kristoff and his sidekick Sven is that they are
children who are already working with ice harvesters. While it is mostly
presented as a cute kid trying to copy the grown-ups, there is an
undertone of a child already needing to work, one that is further
implied with the unspoken confirmation that he has no family when there
seems to be no barrier or objection to him being adopted by the trolls.
He is a child at labor supporting himself because he has no one else. As
an adult, Kristoff criticizes a store owner who is selling winter
supplies at atrociously jacked-up prices by pointing out he himself is
an ice-trader in the middle of a mid-summer ice storm. In other words,
he has a job in an industry that is now largely useless due to external
circumstances that no one could have even seen coming, letalone
Additionally, a businessman who earlier in the story openly commented
that he was looking forward to exploiting a new trading partner now
that the queen of the kingdom has come of age is continuously presented
as an antagonist, a stand-point that is affirmed when he criticizes
another character for giving away good and clothing to a blindsided
populace instead of trying to make a profit, which they absolutely could
While none of these are directly connected to ethnicity or
exploitation of minorities, there is still as strong undertone of
economic exploitation and ethnic differences, and I am hopeful the in
the future, Disney – whose movies are some of the most popular
children’s movies in America and around the world – will continue to
build bridges between these two concepts. As I said above, it is far
from perfect, but it’s a great step forward.
4.) Against the tide, purity isn’t put on a pedestal, and sexuality isn’t demonized.
Both cases are subtle, but important. Anna is one of the most
conventionally sweet/pure characters you can come across, even by Disney
movie standards – a product of her and her family spending years in
near-isolation. Sweet and awkward, looking forward to a ball and
dreaming of a happily ever after, she is “pure”, and rather than that
purity being celebrated, it is put under the spotlight with how rash and
naive she is, and how that harms not only her but those around her.
Conversely yet (to me) more importantly, her sister Elsa is the
‘grown-up’, the woman to Anna’s “girl”. During the scene where she
finally lets go of her psychological and social constraints and grows
into her powers, her outfit and stance change from that of a “good girl”
in formal attire into an assertive and almost sexualized ones, complete
with hip pumps and slit dress. And a lot of that is probably fanservice
and merchandising, and but here’s the catch: this scene isn’t a villain
song. While her demons are practically their own antagonist, she is
always a protagonist alongside her sister. This scene and her letting go
of the “good girl persona” she was raised into and expected to carry is
presented as a good thing.
And most importantly, at the end of the movie when she finally has
control over her powers, has let the love into her heart, and is back in
Arendelle as the queen? She still keeps that outfit, hairstyle, shoes
and stance. She stays grown-up, stays mildly sexualized, and rather than
being presented as a fetish or being penalized, her growth is
celebrated. It’s a small and subtle move but it’s a massive change in
direction in American and Disney media, and it’s one I sincerely hope
Disney sticks to.
5.) A lesson in consent that kids can understand.
When was the last time a Disney prince/male-protagonist asked the
princess if he could kiss her before doing so, passionately? It’s a
small, passing scene, but at the end, there is no Male Lead grabbing the
female lead into a passionate kiss. He is a bit awkward about it, but
he stops and asks her first – and waits for her answer. Their passionate
kiss doesn’t come until after they’ve both explicitly stated their
enthusiastic consent – nothing is presumed, no matter how obvious the
context makes it that they would both enjoy it.
Again, such a small thing, but also incredibly important – one that
plays into one of the biggest themes of the movie besides the pro-woman,
sister relationship at the center, which is…
6.) Disney is dissecting and criticizing its own romance tropes.
A huge, HUGE point in the movie is that Anna “falls in love” with
practically the first man she meets. It’s passionate and sweet and has
all the hallmarks of a Disney True Love romance (and in fact, she says
“true love” to justify it, repeatedly). Within hours of meeting the man,
Hans, they get engaged – but her sister promptly puts a halt to any
marriage plans, and later, Kristoff criticizes her sudden rush into the
romance (not in a jealous manner, either, but in a genuine, “what the
hell were you thinking?” manner), and he points out how little she
really knows about this man she wants to spend the rest of her life
And the thing is, this turns out to not be a series of True Love
overcoming Judgment, but the dangers of rushing into love and other
major life decisions purely on gut feelings and ideals of romance. The
twist ending is that Hans doesn’t love Anna at all – he just wants to
get the throne (itself an interesting twist of the wicked step-mother
marrying a king just to get the throne). During the movie, even the
audience never sees this coming – he acts like a kind and caring prince
throughout the movie. If it weren’t for him trying to hasten Anna’s
demise by telling her the truth to break her spirit, we would never know
how monstrous he was underneath the kind exterior – an all too real
villain in many people’s lives, and perhaps one of the most realistic
and terrifying depictions of a villain because of it. This wasn’t a man
who was going to use an army or magic as a weapon, but love and
compassion, and they can be the most devastating weapons of all.
Additionally, when Anna is cursed, the troll healer tells them only
an act of true love will cure her. She and everyone else immediately
assumes that it means true love’s kiss, and rush to get her back to her
betrothed. Even after he turns out to be evil, she tries to get a kiss
from Kristoff, but ultimately chooses to spend her last few moments not
trying to save her own life but risking it to save her sister’s – and in
the process, cures herself. The act of sacrificing herself for her
sister is as much an act of true love as a kiss, if not moreso. The bond
between sisters outmatches any romantic or male-dependent bond, and the
love of family is what saves the day, not romantic love.
At the end, Anna is stepping into a relationship with Kristoff –
stepping, not running. They are taking things slow and getting to know
each other, and this is much more honest and sincere than the hours of
passionate bonding and rushed engagement Anna seemed to be sharing with
These are all such minor points, but their implications cannot and
should not be understressed. Despite all outward appearances, Frozen is a
huge change in direction for Disney – but an experimental one, one
whose results in the box office will hopefully not be ignored by one of
the world’s leading children’s media makers. Let’s hope Disney is
willing to take the lead on social responsibility now that they can see
it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing profits.
And no one got married? Do you understand how incredible that is? For once, the princesses win and don’t get married.
and there is nothing wrong with them for not getting married, they do
not face prosecution for not getting married. She buys him a fucking
sled instead. God this movie~