It seems like you can’t walk down the street in my neighborhood without hearing a parent either whistling “Do you want to build a snowman?” or their small child belting out “Let it Go” at the top of their lungs; where ever you go, the whole world has Frozen fever. And I’m certainly not immune. While the songs are particularly catchy, the animation remarkably lively, and the story arc surprisingly well written, these weren’t the aspects of Disney’s latest release that drew me in to the film. It was the progressive, feminist approach to telling the story of two sisters that drew me in, (and let me overlook an unnecessary snowy sidekick on parr with Jar Jar Binks), and gave me chills (pun intended) when I first heard “Let it Go” reprised by an independent Elsa.
The first Disney animated film, directed by a woman, the luminary Jennifer Lee, Frozen‘s tale of two sisters was a beacon in a box office dominated by men. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Lee said “These girls are very different from Cinderella,” she said. “Their wants and goals and dreams are much more, I think, contemporary. And I think you’ll keep seeing that shift.”
So, what made this Disney movie stand apart from its predecessors?
1. A realistic depiction of abusive parents and the effect of this trauma on their children
2. The unabashed self-empowerment of Elsa
3. Anna’s candid awkwardness in spite of her Disney princess status (an imperfect princess? Shocking!)
4. Not one, but two female characters with agency and a male supporting role (Kristoff) who can let them lead
5. Oaken’s openly gay family (at least referenced visually)
6. Acceptance of Elsa as Queen and rightful ruler, and a glance at the very real responsibilities of ruling a kingdom
7. A tongue-in-cheek skeptical response to Anna’s rash engagement (ahem, almost every other Disney princess ever)
8. The complex relationship between two strong young women, shown as having more substance than ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’
9. The fact that ‘true love’ means sisterly love not male/female instalove
10. A heroine is allowed to save the day, supported on her way by a platonic (until the end anyways, you can’t have it all) male character
To see similar points expanded upon and delightfully illustrated, check out Gina Luttrell’s 7 Moments That Made Frozen the Most Progressive Disney Movie Ever
and to see Director Jennifer Lee talk about why women on screen and behind the camera are more important than ever, watch her interview with The Hollywood Reporter