Is Frozen Feminist?

Frozen has been touted as a lot of things, from progressively pro-gay to Christian allegory. It’s been called feminist, not-actually-feminist, not-actually-not-feminist, recycled feminist, and all-around overly wanked-over by feminists and film critics alike. We also talked briefly about Frozen last Wednesday in class in the context of the Disney princess narrative and whether or not Disney’s children-targeted content is ultimately healthy, positive, or “good,” for some vague notion of “good”-ness.

I believe that Frozen was an excellent movie. Artistically, thematically, musically, Frozen spoke very well to my personal experiences, my coming-out process, my (perhaps naive) moral belief in the value of self-sacrifice, and the path to pride and acceptance for the person I’ve come to be. Frozen moreover represented a self-aware subversion of the prince-saves-princess trope, as well as a reinforcement and emphasis on the prevailing strength of sisterly and familial love in spite of parental failures. This is not to mention the textual richness of the film itself, being not only beautifully animated and scored, but also rife with musical talent (Idina Menzel! Jonathan Groff!), rich in thematically consistent imagery and symbolism (doors as closets, anyone?), and dimensional, likable, relatable, real characters.

It’s important to acknowledge, I think, that Frozen is by no means a “perfect” movie. I don’t know if a truly “perfect” movie can even be made–the discourse around the representation of female characters and women in media is tangled enough that every single one can be criticized in some way or another. Anna wants to fall in love: unfeminist. Mulan’s movie still ends with her getting together with General Shang: unfeminist. Black Widow, though kick-ass, is an overly sexualized “female fucktoy”: unfeminist. Emma Watson doesn’t address real issues, but only rehashes old feminist thought watered down to make a mainstream audience feel good: unfeminist. Laverne Cox used to be a man: unfeminist. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a cissexual, heterosexual, attractive man: unfeminist.

I draw out fringe points of view only to illustrate that while analysis and academic criticism is all well and good, it’s too easy to devolve into circle-jerky finger-pointing about who or what is allowed to be called feminist. Discourse should be discourse with the bigger picture of trying to eliminate those societal and institutional biases that allow sexism to propagate, not a stream of one-upping one another about who gets to claim the feminist name tag. Is it ultimately a bad thing that feminism is becoming mainstream? I say no. Let’s open the doors to the newbies by welcoming them, educating them, and showing them how they can do more, instead of locking them out by criticizing their ignorance, questioning their motives, or attacking their “feminist cred.”

Sure, maybe Frozen isn’t the most progressive, feminist movie that Disney’s ever made or could have made. It’s might not be as pro-gay or blatantly feminist as a lot of people make it out to be. But it sure is a damn good movie with some damn good, easy-to-digest messages, wrapped up in catchy songs, a feel-good plot, and an adorably dysfunctional snowman to boot. Sure, maybe people like it for the “wrong reasons,” and they should have liked Tangled or Brave more. But that’s how social change happens–it centers around unpredictable, unmanageable focal points, media texts and events like Frozen or Blurred Lines or #GamerGate around which the wheels of change pivot. Since people make up society, it’s people that have to change–so once we have the discussion going, let’s try to point it in a positive direction.


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