I don’t have anything against princesses, personally. It’s just that they don’t do anything. Find me a princess who has some decent adventures, I tell my kids, and I’m there. Til then, I’ll stick with Dora. Her voice may be irritating, but at least she gets to hitch rides on condors and pal around with a monkey.
Then came Frozen. My younger daughter has only seen snippets of the movie, but she is obsessed with the theme song, to which she knows only two lines. “Let it go!” she yells, having little to no concept of pitch. “Let, itgo!... Le….etit gooo! Letit goo….oh!”.
She delivers the closer with a determination that only a three-year-old can muster: “The code nebber boddered me anyway!”
Despite this, I’m learning to love Frozen. Maybe because no one’s asked me to buy Disney’s official Elsa dress—at $239—to fit a three-year old. Maybe it’s because it wasn’t my kid’s Frozen lunchbox that recently went missing from daycare. Or maybe it’s because my older daughter is so unimpressed with Elsa and Anna, the sisters who are Frozen’s main characters, that when first she hears “Letit Go!” she starts belting out another of the movie’s songs. Only she changes the lyrics so they’re about eating a snowman rather than building one. She’s very creative.
Here are 10 other reasons there’s a princess movie I can finally get behind.
- It’s not a princess movie, it’s a queen movie. Elsa is coronated early in the movie, and she’s got a kingdom to run. She doesn’t do a great job of it, accidentally condemning her people to eternal winter. But she doesn’t answer to an annoying prince, king, or other pretender to the throne, either.
- It’s a great story—and it just happens to star two girls. Disney did what so many of us have wanted, and what Connie Guglielmo articulated so well in “Not so Brave.” They wrote a wonderful, compelling story, and made the two lead characters female. Even if the writers started with a “girl” story, they ended up with a universal one about love, family, and weather. You could change the two sisters in Frozen into two brothers without compromising any of the storyline or adventure.
- It’s directed by a woman, Jennifer Lee, with Chris Buck. Lee is the first female director of a Disney animated feature film. Think this is a coincidence?
- It proves Geena Davis right. About two years ago, I saw Davis give a speech about the way women are represented in media. One of the audience members asked, essentially, if Disney was the devil incarnate for perpetuating negative stereotypes about women and girls. Davis said she thought Disney would eventually be a standard-bearer for change. I thought Davis was naïve. One film does not make a turnaround, but I could easily --and happily -- be wrong on this one.
- It’s making boatloads of money. Frozen has brought in than $1 billion in box office receipts so far, making it the most successful animated film ever and No. 10 among all films. That doesn’t even count the merchandising. If Frozen were a flop, you can bet its failure would be blamed on the fact that it lacks a Prince Charming. Instead, it proves that movies with strong girl characters can become megahits.
- It spoofs other Disney films. In the movie, Elsa won’t condone Anna’s marriage, because Anna’s known her alleged Prince Charming, Hans of the Southern Isles, for just one day. When Anna relates this story to her friend Kristoff, his reaction is similar. He asks Anna what her suitor’s last name is, and she’s forced to pause a moment before defiantly answering, “of the South!” Can you imagine if Sleeping Beauty or Snow White woke up and said to the prince, “Wait, I just met you!”
- Boys don’t care that the movie is about two girls. Here’s what my friend’s seven-year-old son said to her recently: “Mommy, everyone has seen Frozen. Even the girls!”
- There is true love. Anna is the one who ultimately commits the “act of true love,” required to thaw her heart. She sacrifices herself for her sister, and in the process saves them both. No prince required.
- There is no evil stepmother or stand-in. It’s ironic that Disney had to kill both parents early in the movie to accomplish this, but in general, parents take a beating in Disney films. Think Bambi, Finding Nemo, The Lion King… somehow, the child has to become the protagonist of his or her own story.
- Dads. A friend of mine inadvertently found herself humming “Let It Go” at work. (It happens.) But she raised an eyebrow when the guy next to her joined in. “What?!” he asked, a little indignant. “I have four daughters! I’m entitled.” Yes, he is.
This is not to say Frozen is perfect, or that the just-this-side-of-anime look of the female characters isn’t a bit hard to take. But imagine what would happen if movie studios worked equally hard to appeal to grownup women. They’d save lots of money not having to blow stuff up, and I’d have way more reasons to go to the movies. --Kimberly Weisul
May 14, 2014
Missed our last issue? Here you go:
Meeting My Mother, A Small-Town Girl Turned Fashion Model
If you liked this story, you might also like:
Not So Brave: An Open Letter to Pixar
Oscar Movies and the Bechdel Test
Life Lessons from Mrs. Peel
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