Feminist Friday: The Snow Queen

March 28, 2014 12:00 pm6,989 comments

Every good chick flick needs a makeover … right? If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few months, chances are you’ve probably seen (maybe several times) or have at least heard of Disney’s newest extravaganza Frozen.

The movie is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen and features a tale of the life of the Snow Queen, Elsa, through the eyes of her younger sister Anna. Disney, as per usual, twists the story a bit to make it a little more child (and female) friendly. Instead of being evil and villainous, Elsa is simply misunderstood and wishes only to be normal like everyone else. She spends the entire movie trying desperately to control her powers to influence snow and ice. Contrary to most Disney flicks, however, Elsa doesn’t rely on a man to save her from herself, but rather her own sister. The viewer thinks they are getting a glimpse of the old Disney when Elsa freezes Anna’s heart and Anna needs an act of true love to save her, but her choice to save her sister from certain death ends up being the only act of love she needs to thaw her frozen heart.

There still remains one scene in the movie that has mommies and feminists everywhere raising eyebrows.  When Elsa first reveals her powers to the rest of her kingdom and banishes herself away to the North Mountain, she engages in a musical number that has proved to be one of the most influential and highly-praised Disney songs of all time – “Let It Go.” Performed by Idina Menzel, this song has become sort of an anthem to every teenage fangirl in the country. During the scene, Elsa uses her powers to build herself a gorgeous ice palace on the side of a mountain while singing about how she has been freed from the shackles of normality and oppression. At the very end, however, she emphasizes her freedom by throwing off her gloves and modest cape in favor of a slinky icy blue dress with a thigh-high slit. Her flats change into heels and her hair comes down from an up-do into a side braid. She basically struts around her new castle in a state of total sassiness and fabulously closes herself inside proclaiming, “the cold never bothered me anyway.”

Let me just say that it’s incredibly difficult to be a feminist and love Disney at the same time. The movies are known for generally portraying impossibly beautiful, thin, and desirable characters that have a startling dependency on men and “true love.” Since these movies are mostly marketed toward children, the female characters have always been a concern regarding their impact on children, especially little girls. The “Let It Go” scene has been said to be a cheap representation of the freedom Elsa experiences while exploring her power. Women are concerned that the ever-alive chick flick makeover detracts from the meaning of the self-actualizing it is supposed to represent. While she casts away her cape and gloves, Elsa sings, “that perfect girl is gone.” I don’t know about you, but she looks pretty perfect in her new outfit and hair.  Mothers are worried about the message this sends to their children in that they think Frozen, in all its girl-power glory, fails to reject the premise that you have to be beautiful in order to be free or come into your own.

Is there a chance that they may be missing the point? Should the makeover scene be ignored in comparison to the other feminist strides that this movie takes? In the beginning of the film, Elsa refuses to bless Anna’s engagement to Prince Hans because “you can’t marry a man you just met.” This basically rejects the logic in every Disney movie ever. I’m talking to you, Cinderella. And Ariel. And everyone else.

The movie ends with an act of true love that actually isn’t a kiss from a prince who is the center of the movie’s universe, but with an act of sisterly love that is enough to thaw a frozen heart. Like the engagement scene, this also kicks several animated classics right in the pants.  Personally, I thought the “Let It Go” scene solidifies Elsa’s identity as the fantastical Snow Queen. I mean she literally looks like Queen Frostine from Candyland. She just looks more … icy. It would be nice for a self-actualizing epiphany to happen without having to be manifested through physical appearance, but I’m not sure where the movie would have gone without it.  While I see where the concern is coming from, I can think that it’s important to remember that this movie does more good than bad.


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