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About this blog: I grew up in Palo Alto and now live in Mountain View with my husband, daughter and two corgis. After about a decade grappling with the law, first as a law student at UC Berkeley and then as a litigator around the Bay Area, I left ...  (More)

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Is Frozen the First Feminist Disney Movie?

Uploaded: Jan 3, 2014
In the last few months dealing with multiple bouts of the worst flu ever, we've been watching a lot of family-friendly animated movies on the Disney Channel, Netflix and Amazon Prime. My daughter is a toddler so most of the time, we do other things while the movie plays in the background. We started with classics from my childhood and moved forward in time: Cinderella, The Fox and the Hound, Peter Pan, The Rescuers and The Little Mermaid. Later Shrek and Tangled. As we watched, it become plain to me just how unfriendly to women and people of color so many of the movies, even some recent ones, are. Slim pickings for progressives.

I'd forgotten, for example, about the scene in Peter Pan in which Peter tells Wendy that girls talk too much and the scene in which Native Americans sing a song about "What makes the red man red." I'd forgotten about why the mouse Bernard accompanies fellow mouse-rescuer Bianca on her quest to save Penny in The Rescuers. I hadn't remembered just how dark Ursula in The Little Mermaid is.

When I heard about the feminist controversy over Frozen, I was too curious not to go see the movie (a month late because I was working on the release of my own children's book). I skipped the spoilers because I like being surprised, but I got the gist.

Some writers complained about Disney's continuing princess culture. Others praised the movie as the first feminist Disney picture ever. Others were bothered by a dumb claim by a Disney animator. Others complained about the butchering of Hans Christian Anderson's gorgeous fairy tale The Snow Queen, the source material for Frozen.

The Snow Queen is one of my favorites — it's so bizarre and delightful, and so pro-female. It starts with the story of an evil troll's magic mirror, which distorts the person who is being reflected for the worse. The mirror shatters and bits of it become lodged in people's hearts. One shard pierces the heart of a little boy. When the boy is abducted, his devoted playmate Kai (a girl) must save him. Frozen has only elements (snow, trolls and a snow queen) in common with The Snow Queen, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

For those who haven't seen it, a brief recap: Frozen tells the story of Elsa and Anna, Scandinavian princess sisters who are close as children. Elsa has magic powers she can't control. After she accidentally hurts Anna, must grow up in isolation in her room. At Elsa's coronation as queen, she and Anna get into a fight over Anna's desire to marry a prince she just met. Without giving away too much, the movie tweaks the boy-saves-girl formulas that have become the standard plot for all the Disney princess movies.

In Frozen, both princesses are clearly independent, strong-willed, capable, and smart. Just as I thought the movie was about to veer off into boy-saves-helpless-princess territory, the movie resolved another way — the way I had hoped it would. It was both moving and fun, and I'm excited to show it to my daughter when it is available to stream.

But is Frozen the first feminist Disney movie? Perhaps it's more accurate to call it a step in the right direction of the first feminist princess Disney movie. With Elsa's costuming in the sequence for the song "Let It Go," it still plays somewhat into the usual good girl, bad girl (Madonna/whore) binary that Disney trots out in everything from The Little Mermaid to The Rescuers. Disney villainesses are always strikingly, disturbingly sexual and antisocial, while a warm, wholesome nonsexual girl is a heroine. Frozen doesn't exactly value Elsa's individualism, though it does celebrate Anna's strength and the bonds of sisterhood. And by transforming the Anderson fairy tale so much, Disney removed several (potentially diverse) female characters.

Both Mulan (1998) or Lilo and Stitch (2002) are better candidates for the first feminist Disney movie, in my opinion. The latter in particular is remarkable. It's almost entirely about two Hawaiian sisters and familial love, not playing with boy-saves-girl formulas the way Frozen does. It subverts gender stereotypes. It features two girls that don't conform to a Barbie ideal of beauty. Of course, Stitch saves Lilo from an alien abduction, but it's clear that by taking him in, she saves him just as much.

What did you think of Frozen? Any recommendations for good, progressive kids' movies?

Comments

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Posted by Bill G. , a resident of Rex Manor,
on Jan 4, 2014 at 11:27 am

Never really thought about the sexuality of Disney Villainesses - but in retrospect, there is a subtly obscene Lady MacBeth-ness about them

and yes, seeing them with adult eyes is like seeing them for the first time - warts and all


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Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jan 5, 2014 at 12:08 am

Hi Anita,

Probably the only social critique I would make about Frozen was that it's too bad Disney felt they had to go back to their kill-the-parents formula! I thought Pixar's The Incredibles was a huge breakthrough, keeping the parents and making the whole family important.

This what I posted on the 2013 film story.

I thought Frozen was one of the best Disney films in a very long time. It turned the typical across-a-crowded-room romance on its ear and was infused with themes of innocence, the difference between infatuation and relationship, and unconditional love.

I usually think songs inserted in films like these are maudlin and corny, but these were done just right, beautiful, infused with just the right amount of emotion and meaning, and catchy without taking you out of the story. The humor was on a whole other level than the usual Disney film. I especially loved the sequence in which the snowman dreams of what it would be like in summer, a sweet metaphorical interlude paralleling the young princess's naive imaginings of romance.

Plus, Frozen was just such a feast for the eyes. Anyone who enjoyed that extra artistic dimension of Kung Fu Panda will find the same here, in Nordic style. I'm ready to go out and buy some Scandinavian-themed stencils for my kitchen cabinets. It was worth seeing in 3D even just for the short film at the beginning and the beautiful credit imagery at the end, but it also delivered at most parts in between, especially in the opening sequence with the ice breakers. I saw the movie first without 3D, and the short film starter with Mickey Mouse was a completely different story with the added dimension, literally.

If I had any criticism, if you could call it that, it would be the desire to see the 3D technology conjure more depth in the very distance of big panoramic shots. In a few scenes it seemed like all the animation energy went into the foreground, understandably, but it occasionally gave the impression of almost a sound stage with a backdrop. In the most visually sweeping scenes, I would have liked to feel like the depth of the scenery extended into infinity. A very minor artistic quibble.

I am not someone who makes a habit of repeat-watching any film, no matter how good. I will watch Frozen again for the 3rd time when it comes out on DVD. I wouldn't turn down an invitation to see it again in a theater. It's such a visual joy, it's worth seeing in theaters and in 3D if you can still catch it — we saw it on New Year's Day at the Mtn Vw Cinemark in 3D, it may still be available.


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Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 5, 2014 at 7:37 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Bill G - I really like that, "obscene Lady MacBeth-ness." It's interesting to me that of all the things Disney chose to retain from the original fairytales, it chose to keep the theme of sexuality as villainous. Reminds me of how nobody who is sexually active survives an American horror movie.

Hi Anne - I agree, Frozen is visually gorgeous and more sophisticated than many of the other Disney princess movies. We were watching the YouTube clip of "Let it Go" yesterday and it's such a great number - far more memorable than musical sequences in Tangled or Brave, in my opinion. I also enjoyed the snowman interlude and the "Fixer-upper" song.

I guess I've never thought about the loss of parents idea as being a negative thing because I assumed that the kind of trouble Disney wants its characters to get into is the kind that wouldn't happen if there were parents there. (Or, maybe that Disney thinks it would be too scary for a kid to think that really bad complications can happen in life when their parents are there.) In Frozen, for example, the king and queen's presence would have helped to keep Elsa's powers from hurting anybody. In The Fox and the Hound, Tod's mother would have known to keep him away from a hound. In Lilo and Stitch, Lilo and Nani's parents would have been able to offer guidance that would have kept Stitch from getting enmeshed in the family.

I think the stories Pixar told before Disney bought it in 2006 (Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Monsters, Inc.) were more friendly to the idea of family in general than Disney's ever were - I haven't thought about it or seen enough of their more recent projects to know, but I wonder to what extent the more modern Pixar sensibility has affected Disney's storytelling.

Thanks, both of you, for your comments.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jan 5, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Hi Anita,
I really enjoy your movie blog posts. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one to be so taken by Frozen. I hope it wins the Oscar (what else in animated has been so good this year?) With animation, it's so hard to tell. When my kid brought home Hotel Transylvania from the library, I rolled my eyes, since critics seem to have hated it and the previews didn't help. It was hilarious and clever, much more original than I thought it would be, genuinely funny. It's not in the same league as Frozen, but it's different. It's one of those movies where the critics seem to have hated it but viewers liked it. Despite putting animation in a separate category, the Academy still doesn't seem to know what to do with the animated genre.

It occurs to me after mulling over your point that I never thought of Ilsa (Elsa?) as a villain in the story. I thought of her as a misunderstood protagonist. In many ways the story seems much more adapted from the Frankenstein story than The Snow Queen, and Ilsa is Frankenstein. I also thought Ilsa was a positive role model for every person who cannot live a way that is true to who they know they are because other people cannot handle the truth in a positive way, people who feel they must stay in the closet, people with invisible disabilities, people with autism, etc. People are always better off being able to be true to themselves, but the choice is often between being true to themselves and isolation, or can seem so. First she revels in her isolation, letting it go (as the song says). Then we realize the isolation is just another prison for her, she doesn't really want free reign with her powers instead of being with others, she just doesn't see how she can be a part of society and be herself. I saw so many parallels with life in Ilsa's journey.

Just looking at the story structure, Ilsa is not the antagonist or the villain. Frozen seems to be a classic example of a story in which the hero, main character, and protagonist are not the same character. Anna is the hero, but Ilsa is clearly the protagonist, and arguably both are the main character.
Web Link

Killing off or losing the parents (or absent in one way or other) was for decades an immutable box at the top of the Disney scriptwriting check-off list. I've even seen this parodied. Pixar was committing screenwriting heresy, I can only imagine the behind-the-scenes fights over how risky a movie with normal parents would be, at least until they had a few hits and people forgot. As you go through all those old Disney movies, are you finding any exceptions?


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Posted by Christopher Chiang, a resident of North Whisman,
on Jan 5, 2014 at 7:11 pm

It is worth noting that Frozen was directed and written by Jennifer Lee, and the music was written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her husband. This is a Disney first (way over due), which gives children an additional level to explore if they want to peak behind the making of such films and find great role models.

Our family and daughter are also major fans on Frozen, especially because it shows strong female characters without resorting to characterizing the female characters as violent (capable of violence) as the only way to portray strength.

Frozen along with Gravity (Sandra Bullock) are a great trend of films. I'm excited to see Maidentrip (story about 14 year Laura Dekker's voyage around the world).


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Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 6, 2014 at 8:07 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi Anne - Thanks for your thoughtful comment - I enjoy our discussions. I haven't seen Hotel Transylvania yet; it will go on my to-watch list. I like your interpretation, but I do think Elsa has a dual role. [SPOILER ALERT. Other readers: Skip to the last paragraph of the comment if you're don't want to be spoiled. In John August's glossary, he defines villain as "The hero's primary opponent who must be defeated in order for the hero to succeed." I think that's a fair definition. For 3/4 of the movie this role is filled by Elsa - she is the source of the eternal winter that Anna is trying to "defeat." That also means she can't be independent or go off and live in the palace by herself or choose a different destiny other than being queen.

In fact, if Elsa were able to do something other than live by traditional rules, I would think Frozen was a clearly feminist movie - two sisters, both of whom are able to explore their individuality. As you say, Elsa is not the "true" villain of the piece. But her natural powerfulness, which is not in line with traditional feminine values the way Anna's wholesome sweetness is, is structurally treated as villainous - as needing to be controlled and stopped. Also, I think Anna is both hero and protagonist because she does change: she learns that you can't fill a sister-shaped void with insta-romance.

Exceptions I've noticed to the dead parents premise: Mulan. Tangled. Brave. Peter Pan. Hercules. Sleeping Beauty (but the parents are sleeping) and Alice in Wonderland (parents are alive in the books, but not a part of the movie). In "Up" the kid's dad doesn't have time for him, but both parents are alive. 101 Dalmatians and Lady and the Tramp (the owners are parents to their fur-children).


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Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 6, 2014 at 8:31 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi Christopher,
Maidentrip looks awesome - thank you for bringing it to our attention! Great insights. Maybe your point about nonviolent strength is something I missed a little bit in my viewing because I was more focused on the story of Elsa needing to be controlled. Perhaps the better message to take away is that love conquers our worst impulses (that the strength of Anna's love is ultimately stronger than Elsa's wintery powers). With your comment and Anne's above, I'll have to think about my interpretation some more. We have had a long period of mainstream kick-ass heroines whose primary strength is physical (Buffy, Alias, Katniss, Lara Croft), but who are often lacking in basic ways, like emotional intelligence, and Frozen is a great change of pace.


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Posted by playbolo, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jan 6, 2014 at 11:31 am

playbolo is a registered user.

[Comment removed as spam.]


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Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West,
on Jan 6, 2014 at 1:20 pm

"... it become plain to me just how unfriendly to women and people of color so many of the movies, even some recent ones, are. Slim pickings for progressives.

I'd forgotten, for example, about the scene in Peter Pan..."

Peter Pan is over a hundred years old. So perhaps not a good example of a "recent" movie.


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Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 6, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi Steve - Are you calculating the age from Peter Pan the book? Peter Pan the movie, which is what I talk about here, was made in 1953. The sentence as it reads does not indicate that I will only be backing up my point with recent movies (that is why "even some recent ones" is a subordinate clause).


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Posted by Cherry Siller, a resident of Meadow Park,
on Jan 7, 2014 at 11:29 pm

I agree with most of the post except Elsa is not a villian. Her outfit in let it go isn't meant to be sexual or degrading and thats not the impression it gave me. Its supposed to contrasts to the restrictive clothing she was wearing before that reprsents her trying to hide who she is. It's a metaphor really, of stopping the act she was putting on and embracing who she is, which is beautiful and powerful. It's a great lesion for kids because its easy to feel weird or like an outcast and act different than you are. In this scene Elsa celebrates what makes her unique instead of running from it, teaching that not only is it acceptable to be different, but something to be proud of.


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Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 8, 2014 at 7:26 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi Cherry,
Thanks for your take. I agree that "Let it Go" is meant to be liberating in the moment, particularly for people who feel different, or as Anne points out above, disabled. I loved the song. I'm not saying hr clothing is meant to be degrading. Rather, I'm saying that after this powerful scene, Elsa starts to commit acts that would be villainous in any other Disney movie and that's what creates the tension that keeps the audience watching. Her clothes are a typical Disney signal of villainy, which the creators of the movie then subvert in the last quarter by revealing who the true villain is.

The song's placement earlier, rather than at the end of the movie, is particularly revealing. We're meant to think that Elsa needs to be stopped, like any other Disney villain - she needs to be stopped from her liberation. The ending, of course, comes back to the idea that she can use what makes her different for good. But most of the movie depends on the idea that it's not good that she do what she wants and follow her own individual path. Those of us who sympathize with Elsa are partially rooting against her, because we're rooting for Anna to save the day. I just think that a stronger (pro-woman) movie would have been less concerned with subverting our expectations from a structural perspective, and more concerned with the idea that it's ok for women to be who they are, that they don't all have to be as sweet as Anna to find happiness.

For another interesting take on the ambiguity of "Let It Go" in the context of the larger film:
http://flavorwire.com/431836/we-need-a-frozen-2-thats-all-about-elsas-good-girl-crisis/


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Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jan 8, 2014 at 10:32 pm

Hi Anita,
I am a hopeless nerd about things like this, stop me if you lose interest! -- as John August says in the link I gave above, if a story works, it works, don\'t get too lost in the intellectual exercise -- but you seem to be as much a nerd about this as I am! I agree with Cherry, Elsa is not the villain. The Prince is the villain, the guy from Weaseltown :-) is a villain. Conflict drives a story, and conflicts do not have to involve villains, conflicts can be internal, or caused by situations.

The Prince is the one who must be defeated if Anna is to succeed, even if she doesn\'t know it at first. Anna may have her love interest and idea of romance change over the course of the film -- Anna is the hero, and the hero\'s journey must involve change, and most characters in stories (not just the hero) are put through some kind of transformational arc -- but the film begins and ends with Elsa\'s problem and transformation, and it drives the story. Anna isn\'t fundamentally changed from the start to the end of the film the way Elsa is.

I also saw Elsa\'s new clothing as beautiful and powerful, an expression of who she was, and didn\'t see it as villainous or sexualizing her character.

So, I stand by my analysis that this is a case where the hero, the protagonist, and the main character are not one person, and that Elsa is the protagonist and shares the main character role with Anna (who is hero). I think you could possibly make an argument that Elsa is both protagonist and, via her uncontrollable power, at war with herself, antagonist (maybe), but not villain. (BTW, things or circumstances can be antagonists and villains -- the magical winter could serve as antagonist, and even if Elsa caused it, it doesn\'t make her the villain...)

I guess both of our interpretations come from our impressions from watching the movie, which seem to have been very different regarding Elsa.

Regarding the dead parent premise - the ones you mention all involve otherwise absent or incapacitated parents. (Peter Pan and the lost boys are orphans?) The only real exception is Brave, which deals with mother daughter relationship, but I thought it was a Pixar movie! (Pixar having exploded the myth that you have to kill off or otherwise absent the parents to have an engaging story, er, moneymaking movie, for kids.)

I appreciate your commentary, though. I\'m definitely going to be taking a new look when I watch Frozen again on DVD.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 9, 2014 at 7:58 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi Anne - thanks for your analysis, but I actually don't think we're debating what you and Cherry think we're debating. You both put forward arguments that Elsa is not a villain, but in my post, I never call Elsa a villain (nor do I think she actually is one) so you're fighting something of a straw man. I make a comment about what her clothing is supposed to signal to the audience and I stand by that. I definitely don't see Elsa as *actually the villain of the piece on a substantive level as your latest analysis suggests I do.

I think it's important to note that there are no "villains" or "heroes" - there are simply perceptions. Frozen is all about subverting the traditional storytelling structure that John August other paint-by-numbers screenwriters put forward, not about adhering to it. In the first half of Frozen, Disney is doing something similar to what's done in "Wicked" - making someone who would have been a villain in a traditional movie the misunderstood hero as John August suggests writers do on a much lesser scale. That's why we're alerted that the story is based on "The Snow Queen" even though the actual story has little to do with the villainous Snow Queen of the fairytale.

While I don't disagree with your argument overall, it's definitely not just "conflict" that pushes the movie forward, but Elsa's affirmative actions that thwart Anna. I think in hindsight, because all of us like Elsa and like the message of sisters beating the real bad guy, we can pretty easily gloss over the affirmative things Elsa does to stop Anna - but they aren't minor: building a frightening monster to scare away your sister, refusing to look for any way to stop an eternal winter, refusing to explain why you won't let your sister get married, throwing ice at your sister after you've already hurt her almost the exact same way before. Most audience-goers want Anna to "win" and Elsa to lose *during* the first 3/4 of the movie, whether they articulate that or not and as I noted in my original post that's because Elsa is *presented* in the visual language that Disney usually uses for villains - Cruella de Ville, Medusa, Ursula, and more recently Mother Gothel in Tangled. Her clothing is sexualized, in my opinion, so that people who watch lots of Disney movies are subconsciously signaled to root for wholesome Anna, even if, like me, they actually relate to Elsa. Doing so, in my opinion, is a way for storytellers to surprise us in the end by showing that Elsa loves Anna.

My criticism has to do with the fact that Frozen is a transitional movie - it moves us out of the typical Disney stereotypes by ambiguously playing with some of the lame stuff that Disney has done in the past. I would have liked the movie to have been less transitional. I think it should have gone full-force into the idea of Elsa as a protagonist - as someone who moves from being scared of her powers to wholeheartedly embracing them. I would have preferred she be someone who didn't need to be saved on an emotional level by Anna.

I do disagree with your comment on the dead parents' premise. Not featuring the parents as main characters is not the same as having them be dead and I don't have a problem with not having parents as main characters. I think kids' imaginations benefit from enjoying fantasies in which they, not adults, are central. You're right that Brave is from the Pixar studio, but it was created after Disney and Pixar merged and it's branded as a Disney Pixar movie. As for some of the others - The parents are integral characters in Mulan. It's specifically to help her father that Mulan goes off to battle. Wendy is the protagonist in Peter Pan, notwithstanding the title, and her parents are also prominent characters in the movie. The parents in Tangled are not featured prominently, but they're not dead either. Etc.


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Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jan 9, 2014 at 5:18 pm

HI Anita,
That's interesting that you identify most with Elsa, I did, too. I found myself crying when she sang, "Let it go." I guess we have to agree to disagree on the story structure, though. If they had gone all the way as you say with Elsa, she would have had no transformative journey to undergo. Also, I didn't get such a signal from Elsa's clothing. I thought they were part of the whole stunning visual beauty of the film and demonstration of her letting go. I am reminded more of the animals dressing Cinderella than of villains. I think we seem to be on the same page though, as I mentioned, structurally, I thought Elsa was a Frankenstein-like character. (Misunderstood, cast as a villain, powerful and yet vulnerable because of it, etc.)

I think you misunderstand about the dead parents premise. If you look back at my original message, I said, "Killing off or losing the parents (or absent in one way or other) " --

My point was one of Hollywood's expectations. You mentioned studying or reading about scriptwriting. If so, you are probably familiar with the hard-and-fast-rules that develop that few people are willing to challenge, even though they often make no sense. It's just, someone has a successful movie, or someone else has a flop, and suddenly it's a rule that no one challenges for years. For example, for many, many years, it was the rule that you just didn't use a narrator, that it was amateurish, to use one and now narration is very commonplace. It's like Hollywood has what I call "script Nazis" who just enforce these unspoken rules.

One of those rules is the absent (or dead) parent Disney rule. I DID say dead or otherwise absent. Even though Mulan's parents may not be dead or may be important motivators, they are not an important part of the story, the story puts Mulan out on her own. Independent children stories are very interesting for kids. I'm not arguing the value of that. I think having independent children characters is great. What I take issue with is the script Nazi's deciding the only way to have a successful children's film is if the absent-parent rule is followed. There have been whole treatises written about why that is so, and why that is an essential element of a family-oriented script.

If you look at the films Disney made, they pretty much didn't break that rule, even the ones you mentioned. I submit that it wasn't until Pixar broke the mold and showed you could integrate parental characters in a storyline and still have a successful and interesting movie with independent, hero children, that people started lightening up on scripts including major parental characters. I just found it interesting that Frozen needed to kill off the parents again.


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Posted by anne, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jan 9, 2014 at 9:04 pm

I forgot to add --
I love how your blog is ending up almost like a salon! Thank you for the thoughtful blogging AND commentary.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 10, 2014 at 7:38 am

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Thanks Anne - I appreciate you taking the time to write full responses - a great set of knowledgeable commenters makes writing these posts worthwhile. You're right, I misunderstood the dead parents' premise. Though, I think that's partly just me fighting with the premise as you stated it because that rule makes some sense to me. Most of the Disney movies where parents are dead are adapted from fairytales in which the parents are dead or incapacitated. For me, having parents or family as motivation (like the movies I mentioned) is much more important than giving them equal screen time. As a fiction writer, I've found that in writing for younger people, it is excessively hard to give equal weight to parents and kids at the same time. It might work for superheroes like The Incredibles, but it's difficult if your kids and adults are supposed to be ordinary. That is, it's too hard to put kids in truly dramatic or scary situations that they get themselves out of, while the parents are physically present. Most reasonably good parents would insist on taking over and stopping the bad situation themselves (as the parents did in Frozen when they went to see the trolls). And it is interesting how this was handled in "Brave" - where the mother learns from her child, only after she's turned into a bear. I can can see how it would be frustrating that Disney follows that as a rigid "rule" though. Do you write scripts?


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Posted by Movie lover, a resident of Midtown,
on Jan 11, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Milan and Pocahantas predates frozen. By at least a decade as far as Disney heroines go. As an aside regarding Mulan-- Asian action films have always had strong feminine characters-- see some of the Shaw bothers films from 30-40 years ago.


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Posted by Dani, a resident of another community,
on Feb 1, 2014 at 8:45 pm

On the one hand, I definitely agree that Disney has been doing feminism since well before Frozen; on the other, I can't agree that Frozen does feminism at all, never mind all that well: Web Link


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Posted by Anita Felicelli, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Feb 2, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Hi Dani - Thanks for sharing your smart and detailed analysis. I can understand your perspective. I guess I'm reluctant to say Frozen doesn't do feminism at all because I'm reluctant to narrow "feminism" very much. I think for any highly dramatic work to be a feminist work, feminism must be open to and embrace very flawed female characters.


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Posted by Kat, a resident of another community,
on Feb 6, 2014 at 12:32 pm

I would 100% argue the point that Elsa is meant to be a villain and that as viewers we are supposed to want her powers to be subdued. Rather, my interpretation of the conflict over use/don't use the magic is that it is meant to be a parallel to many social issues today in which "different" is frowned upon but the takeaway lesson is to be yourself. From subtle cues in the animation itself, you can see that the parents are meant to be seen as loving but ultimately wrong and somewhat "villainous" in the demand that Elsa suppresses her powers. "Let it Go" is placed early in the movie to allow time for her to go through a personal journey between extremes. As viewers, we do see good come from her magic. Olaf, for example, easily one of the most loved characters in the film, was a product of her powers, and at the end of the movie the town accepts her and enjoys ice skating.

Also, Anna is not trying to "defeat" Elsa or her powers. When she goes out into the wilderness, yes she does tell the townspeople that she is going to stop the winter, but she is very clear throughout her journey that her main motivation is to find her sister and bring her home. She doesn't want to defeat anything.


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Posted by Suzie, a resident of Ventura,
on Feb 19, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I don't understand the reasoning behind Frozen being a "feminist" movie at all - maybe compared to very early films like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, but not compared to recent Disney movies like Brave, Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, and The Princess and the Frog. It's made to look subversive and feminist, complete with the anthem of false empowerment, but in this day and age it is not a step forward, but a step backward from similar animated features.


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Posted by anna, a resident of Fairmeadow,
on Sep 18, 2014 at 11:12 am

Oh look, yet another blog that completely misses the point of the movie and pretty much all Disney movies.... You're the twelfth that doesn't get it, and only one I've read has actually understood. I really liked this one comment on another article I read that said something along the lines of "Feminism: the act of creating controversy over something that is a non-issue". Don't get me wrong, feminism used to be something great, and we really do still need it today, but now there's this crap and it's getting a bit ridiculous....
And by the way, Elsa was originally supposed to be the villain, but when the music writers came out with Let It Go, they knew they needed to make her deeper than that. So they gave her clinical depression. That's what the entire movie's supposed to be about. Let go of your pride for one moment to see that not everything in this world is about your precious 'feminism'.



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