Tuesday, 24 December 2013


Every year, during the holidays we go to see a film at the cinema.  I love going to the cinema, so we go at other times of the year too, but it feels really special going with the family at Christmas.

This year there's just us, so we went to see Frozen - the new Disney Princess movie out across the land.

Rapunzel threatens Flynn Rider in Tangled
Merida.  All this, and Scottish too.
I must admit, I was a bit nervous about going to see this.  Disney do not have a good track record as far as I am concerned, with their princesses, who are generally emaciated and pathetic.  Although, I had heard some good things, and, Disney's Princesses have been getting better in recent years.  In particular, Rapunzel and Merida were pretty awesome.  Although why their films weren't named for them I do not know.

I had read what Reel Girl had written in her blog about Frozen, both before and after she'd seen it.  She had lots of concerns too, but really enjoyed the film.  So shall we have a look at the issues?  Just so you know, I'm going to do this in the light of the movie, but the issues themselves were raised by Reel Girl before she saw the movie.  You can see her post here.

Frozen is loosely based on The Snow Queen.  But why change it so that the heroine no longer rescues the male lead?  In the story of The Snow Queen, Gerda rescues her boy-next-door childhood sweetheart, Kai, from the evil Snow Queen.  This at first glance seems like a pretty empowering story, but actually when you look at it it's just re-hashing the old tropes of women being virgins, mothers, and whores, and hell having no fury like a woman scorned.  Yes, Gerda does take on a fabulous quest to save Kai, but does he really need saving?  Despite Gerda being loving and good, Kai has chosen to go off with the Snow Queen.  It can only be because she has bewitched him (not because she's sexy and powerful at all), and good Gerda can bring him back to his senses.  It's a story, but it's mistress-blaming, and I don't find it particularly empowering.  It's also sexist.  Kai is merely a puppet of the Snow Queen, requiring rescue.  I am happy that Frozen has moved away from this story, giving the character of the Snow Queen a much more interesting character, and allowing the battle to be about much more than a boy's heart.

The Frozen sisters.  See how Elsa's taller?
That's because she's older.  That's why
I'm taller than my younger brother, oh, wait
a minute, that's nonsense!
Frozen has been criticised because it, like a lot of Disney films is not named after the female lead.  Apparently this happens a lot when a woman is the lead, but male leads usually get in the title.  This may seem like a petty issue, but I think it's a big deal.  I think Tangled should have been called Rapunzel, but as for Frozen.  Frozen is not The Snow Queen.  So perhaps call it Anna and the Queen?  I like Frozen better.

As in Tangled, a male co-star has been created to go with our heroine.  Kristoff helps Anna, but she helps him too.  He is a rather marvellous narrative device, subverting norms and challenging sexist stereotypes.  The two comedic side-kicks are also male, and they don't need to be, but Disney still doesn't seem to have realised that women can be funny.

It's a shame that most of the promotional pics
seem to portray Elsa as evil, or calculating.
The two main women in Frozen are both incredibly beautiful, in a Disney kind of way, and very similar - the main difference being their hair colour.  But they are sisters, so you might expect them to be similar.  They look like they'll make good dolls, but it is a shame that Disney can't yet make princesses that aren't emaciated.  The lead animator of Frozen, Lino diSalvo, said it was very difficult to have two female heroes because they have to be pretty, and yet show lots of emotions, and you don't want them to end up looking the same.  I think that Anna and Elsa did end up looking the same a lot in this film, but they didn't have to.  They are sisters, but they didn't both have to have the same shape.  They didn't both have to be so very pretty, or perhaps for Disney they did.  I imagine there are constraints, because of the merchandising that is planned, which goes into the issue of the dolls our children are playing with.  Merida and Rapunzel are better than some of the more risque dolls out there, but why are they all so very very thin?  I'm not saying we should have fat dolls, but a little bigger wouldn't hurt would it?  Sindy seemed to do ok, before she was turned into a Barbie clone.

I thought this was a really good film, and all the family liked it.  Apart from Kenny, who was driven mad by all the singing.  There are monsters, and fighting, dances, wild chases, romance, and I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that the day is saved, in a really rather wonderful way.  Check it out.  This film also shows strong women, who can manage, who can overcome the odds, and who do it with help from their friends.  This film would pass the Bechdel test with flying colours.  Here's the trailer:

Have you seen Frozen yet?  What did you think?  No spoilers please.

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