I’m just passing this on to all of you because I thought it was so well written and did such a good job breaking down a lot of the arguments against Frozen being a pro-feminist movie (can’t win with some people!).
It’s a movie about a girl who is taught a way to live and then she realizes it is not the way she should live. She let’s it go. It’s as simple as that. More to come when I post my review in a few weeks but the negativity over Frozen makes me very sad. It’s a movie for girls and just like I never had any selfish tendencies from Little Mermaid as some claim, only empowerment, so will Frozen impact and encourage young girls to find out who they are and let it go. Let them have their movie.
At the very least people are not less intelligent or thoughtful merely because they reject a certain analysis of a film. Nobody has to like or not like anything but when people are derided and criticized because they enjoyed an entertainment that makes me very sad. Especially a little girl.
I have no desire to steal this post. Merely just trying to spread its word so please look a the actual link and comment there. I will turn off comments on this blog because I want you to go to the blog.
If you are sensitive about language this is not the blog for you.
The problem with “The Problem with False Feminism” – a Strongly Worded Rebuttal
I understand if you don’t like Frozen.
After the first time I saw it, most of the discussion I had with my boyfriend revolved around its flaws. That was not to say that we didn’t like it- we both did- but there were some obvious flaws that we could both agree on. All the same, while it wasn’t my favorite movie of the year, I still enjoyed it, especially the show-stopping empowerment ballad and the woobie-that-would-be-queen, Elsa, and I put it on my top ten for the year.
I have good friends, however, who do not share my opinion. That is fine; again, after a first viewing some flaws were immediately obvious.
So, while Frozen has stirred up all sorts of debate on its merit as a progressive piece of media, I’ve for the most part stayed out of that discussion because, believe it or not, I have not very much energy for that sort of thing. I’ve discussed the sociology of Disney movies ad nauseum, and I gotta be honest, I’m a little sick of it.
Then the other day, this article shows up on my Tumblr dash.
The article starts with the writer wondering why everyone is praising the movie while she finds it lacking. Fine. I’ve been in the exact same position before. Hell, that’s how I feel about Wreck-It-Ralph. Genuinely curious to see a refutation of Frozen’s praise as a feminist piece that wasn’t steeped in idiocy or tumblr-stank, I read on.
To the point where it started to feel like, well…
And yet, I couldn’t stop reading the damn thing.
I mean, it’s a fucking novel, for starters. Tolstoy might take a look at the word count and raise an eyebrow. It’s so long you should be able to rate it on Goodreads.
See, the person who wrote this article didn’t like Frozen. She declares it “false feminism” as the reason.
Though I told myself reading this article wasn’t going to make be belch rage blobs into my cereal, well, I was wrong. My cereal was ruined. And reading each sentence was like forcing myself to eat said vomit cereal, bite after agonizing bite, sentence after badly-reasoned, painfully misrepresentative sentence.
And I’m not one to go all rage-spewy on my online spaces in long-winded refutations of things I read on the Internet. In fact, I’ve never done this before. I’ve hit a milestone. Congratulations, article! You pissed me off that much.
I feel that I must state up front that this is not an indictment on the person who wrote the article. She seems like a nice lady. I bet she remembers birthdays, sorts recycling and likes cats, and if I see any harassment sent her way because of this I will release the hound. But, in her own words, she has made no secret of her disdain for Frozen or reasons she’s… apparently seen people make defending it. I feel the same way about this article.
Because this article really pissed me off.
Gone are the days when people dislike movies based on issues of, say, story structure or flimsy characterization, or that it just doesn’t resonate with the viewer. Ooohhh, no. Now we have to back up our disdain with ideological reasons! Films have to be a failure on some sort of ideological grounds in order to back up one’s opinions. Hell, I’ve done the same thing. I do it often. Did you see my words on The Fifth Estate? On it’s own it’s a boring shitty movie, but just add ideological issues and it shoots right up into the stratosphere of moral outrage.
I’m not refuting her reasons for disliking Frozen. Opinion is opinion. I’m refuting her article’s assertion that Frozen is anti-feminist because her reasons for said assertion are terrible. They are hideously misrepresentative of anything that might be considered a step forward for mainstream narrative, and it really, really bothers me that people might read that dreck and agree with the article for why the film fails as a feminist narrative, because her reasons are simply god-awful. She sets up some terrible, straw-man arguments for why the film was feminist so she could deconstruct why it was not.
And the following reasons I’m about to list for why the article states the film is a failure on feminist ground are just… no.
It demonstrates all of the understanding of feminist theory and media studies as taught exclusively by TV Tropes. It’s the same, reductive, Kate Beatonian “Strong Female Character” crap that we keep seeing pushed in cries for why female characters are failures as feminist icons or role models or whatever, and I’m sick of it.
Here is the problem with false feminism indeed. Well here is my problem with what she is arguing against.
All of her strawman arguments she aims to deconstruct for why Frozen is feminist are terrible.
If there are any good arguments to be made, she either omits them, or bends the film’s narrative to refute them. More on that in a bit. But she brings up some assertions as to why the film is feminist so she can refute them, and again, these strawman assertions are terrible. I have not heard them elsewhere, perhaps she has, perhaps not, but they are terrible. If there are any good assertions as to why the film works as a feminist piece, she misrepresents them, argues them terribly, or ignores them.
Presented in order, here are her terrible strawman arguments for why the film is feminist that she aims to deconstruct:
1. There is no wedding at the end of the film.
Yeah, well, the same can be said for GI Joe: Retaliation or Zombie Strippers but no one’s holding those up as paragons of feminism.
See the argument in question is less about the film’s context within a wider cultural sphere, and more about it’s context within the Disney canon. Strap in, kiddies, this is about to get irritating. We’re gonna prove how unremarkable Frozen is… with math!
So honestly I don’t really have the energy to address the graphs, because the graphs are stupid. I mean, her strawman argument that she sets up so she can refute it is stupid, but the points the graphs are trying to prove are… I dunno. The numerical commonality for a trope within the Disney canon is what’s in question here, not how firmly embedded said tropes are in the minds of the audience. And I don’t think people are walking into this movie mentally comparing it to Treasure Planet or Dinosaur, so I’m not sure what’s at play here.
And incidentally, TANGLED ENDED WITH AN ENGAGEMENT.
Okay. I’m not sure I’d put movies like Lilo and Stitch and Wreck-it-Ralph in that left-hand column but… uh… I’m sorry. I forgot what we were talking about. What is the point of all this?
Well, taken on pure numbers, sure. And if that is the case, clearly Brother Bear is more feminist than Mulan.
But again, she’s conveniently glossing over the tone and presentation of Frozen (and also Elsa, but don’t worry kids, she’s got a solution for her, too) wherein much of the narrative is spent challenging Ana’s assumptions about romantic love and the importance of it. Also, unlike Belle, who sees right through Gaston from the beginning of the film, naive Anna trusts Hans implicitly because she’s so desperate for male attention. While this doesn’t make her a bad person, it certainly makes her an immature one, and her priorities and assumptions about the nature of love are challenged throughout the narrative. But the fact that Anna does have a happily-ever-after romance subplot is not mutually exclusive to the idea that there is something new and interesting about Frozen.
Frozen is not remarkable because it doesn’t end with a romantically happily ever after (it does, one that feels almost tacked-on), but the way the narrative takes a critical eye to the characters and their attitudes on romance.
Also, Elsa exists.
If we must flow down this log flume of examining Frozen within the Disney canon, the article fails to note that every single Disney movie- every single one– without a romantic plot involving the protagonist has had male protagonists, with one exception- Lilo and Stitch– which stars a six-year-old.
Oh, right, and Home on the Range. Which stars Roseanne.
I’d honestly love to see a feminist analysis of Home on the Range come to think about it. I mean, from anyone brave enough to suffer through that thing (I did it once. Never again.)
But all of this is a blustery glossing over of the main point – that “it doesn’t end with a wedding” doesn’t need refutation, because it’s a stupid reason to declare a film feminist. I didn’t even need a graph to tell you that.
2. The film passes the Bechdel test — no other Disney princess movie does that!
Yes, they do. Almost all of them do. Who says this?
You know what, everyone? We need to sit down and have a looooong discussion about the Bechdel test.
But not today.
3. It’s a Disney movie with two strong female characters — arguably two female protagonists!
I really worry about this pervasive conviction that Anna and Elsa are “strong” characters.
Here we go.
While Elsa is the motivating force in the plot and primary antagonist, it really is Anna’s story. Therefore, like most films, there is only one protagonist. So, no, Frozen doesn’t really have two protagonists. So, of course, the writer spends most of this portion of the article saying the movie’s a failure because Anna’s kind of an idiot.
She’s certainly self-absorbed, using the first opportunity to make Elsa’s coronation all about her; and she’s vain, believing absolutely in her ability to talk some sense into Elsa despite having had no relationship with her sister for what looks like roughly ten years.
There is one point here that I do agree with – “clumsy” as character development for teenage girl characters is overdone and lazy. As in Twilight, it’s a cheap way to give an otherwise perfect lady-character “flaws”. They are more beautiful than the average bear, so an easy way to make them relatable is to make them trip over their own feet. (Aww, Rapunzel bonked her head with a frying pan, so relatable!)
I would argue, however, that unlike Twilight, Anna is plenty flawed in many ways beyond being clumsy, and therefore the clumsiness thing (which isn’t really played up that much) is easier to overlook. Clumsiness isn’t Anna’s only flaw, but one in a list.
Unfortunately according to this article, Anna’s flaws are all a mark against her. Anna’s not that smart, clearly not as smart as Elsa, who is also a big dumb head. Anna rushes into an engagement. Her ambition is to find her “one true love.” She’s too immature not to get her way when Elsa says no. She’s too naive to realize how dangerous Elsa is.
And… all of these are bad things because…
When it comes to women I’d look up to or consider role models, especially for young girls, Anna ranks somewhere around Mean Girls’ Karen Smith…
Oh, there it is. The role model thing.
Are we making a movie or a PSA?
She’s outspoken, yes, but she’s also rude; she’s condescending towards Kristoff and belligerent towards her sister; and she has no ambition beyond finding her one true love…
Yes, Anna is all of those things. That’s why the comparison to Bella in Twilight isn’t a fair one- clumsiness is not her only flaw. In fact, in many regards she’s much more flawed than other Disney heroines. As a result, there is a lot of room for Anna to grow over the course of the narrative, to learn to be selfless, and to find out what really constitutes “true love.”
Again, the article misses a fundamental issue that most feminists take with earlier narratives, for instanceTwilight. The problem with Twilight isn’t that Bella is immature, self-indulgent and prone to bad decision making, it’s that within the course of the narrative, not only is this behavior romanticized, it is never challenged. Bella’s immaturity is continually reinforced by the tone and action of the narrative.
Oh, speak of the devil, there’s a movie with no wedding at the end! Twilight.
In Frozen, Anna is similarly immature at the beginning of the story. Despite being well-meaning and supportive, she’s also self-indulgent, not questioning the wisdom of wanting to marry someone she just met and then making a public scene when her sister tells her she won’t let her do it.
The key difference here is the way the portrayals are romanticized. The narrative of Frozen spends its entire run time deconstructing Anna’s behavior and having her grow past it, where Twilight does no such thing. But here in the moon logic world of this article, this is apparently anti-feminist. Anna having that clumsiness flaw is trite and overused (agreed) but every subsequent flaw makes her a failure as a character and a role model. Feminism!
Oh, I haven’t even gotten to her problems with Elsa yet.
Elsa shuts herself away so steadfastly a psychiatrist might call it pathological. She’s an absolute mess of characterological self-blame and avoidance, and she deals with her issues by speed-skating away from them.
But Simba, faced with the reality of the harm he has inflicted on the Pride Lands, makes the conscious, independent choice to turn around and set things right…
RAFIKI LITERALLY HITS HIM IN THE HEAD WITH A STICK. STOP BEING WRONG.
There’s an ongoing problem, I think, with “strong female character” being made synonymous with “any fictional woman who isn’t just window dressing”…. But it certainly doesn’t have two strong female characters, and two out of three just isn’t enough to justify all the praise.
I’m sorry, you were saying?
This is not a strong woman. This is a frightened, repressed, vulnerable woman who starts running at the beginning of the movie and doesn’t stop until her sister literally turns to ice in front of her.
Strong Female Characters! Must LITERALLY be strong! LITERALLY must kickbox. VULNERABILITY IS THE ENEMY OF FEMINISM!
So anyway, the basic thrust of this portion is that Elsa is a bad character because she has issues. Issues that, within the context of the narrative, are not only never challenged, but rewarded. Elsa’s irresponsibility is… celebrated?
Claiming your right to self-expression is one thing, but Frozen seems to be equating that with resolutely avoiding responsibility for your actions, and to be advocating both equally.
I don’t even know what to do with that one.
It would seem that article is confused because Anna and Elsa a) have some emotional issues and b) don’t ever use kung fu.
4. Both women have clearly defined goals, that aren’t just “I want to find true love!”
This was the point when I really started to see angry stars.
There’s a particular pattern that I’ve noticed in Disney animated features. Disney princesses state what they want, usually very early in the film, and they tend to get it.
Guess what she decides that Anna’s “want” is!
According to article, Anna’s “want” is to find a guy, which she does. ssllrrrghghffrrrrggh.
Maybe she was in the bathroom for “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” As Tony Goldmark pointed out, THE WORD “WANT” IS EVEN IN THE TITLE.
In screenwriting terms, the way character arcs form are usually described as “want vs. need” – a character establishes a “want” at the end of Act 1 (Luke wants to become an awesome Jedi like his father), but in order to grow and change, the character “needs” something in order to get dat character growth, and is usually different from the want (Luke must learn to trust his instincts and use the Force).
Despite being so focused on Frozen’s context within the Disney canon, the article misses the issue that most feminists take with renaissance-era princesses, and therefore what makes Frozen so exceptional. Regardless of what the princess wants at the beginning of the film, heteronormative love is generally the solution.
Belle is the primo example of this- her stated “want” is “adventure in the great wide somewhere”, and her need, in the terms of the narrative, seems to be falling in love and getting married, because that is where her character arc ends. Jasmine’s “want” is freedom from royal life and, optimally, to marry for love. She doesn’t really get the first one, but at least she gets the second one. Megara’s want is to do her time for Hades and get out of her contract, but her need is to… fall in love with (and give her life for) Hercules. Ariel wants to be human, and her need is to… actually I’m a bit foggy on that one. Ariel doesn’t really need to mature at all. She wants dat prince and she gets him.
Poor Tiana’s arc might be the most egregious in terms of prince-related arcs- she wants to work really hard so she can own a restaurant and live the American dream. She needs to… fall in love with the jerk entitled Prince of Moldova or whatever. Because, you know, love is important. Her Terrence Howard dad may have worked himself to the bone every day because he was trapped in a system that saw fit to work him to death without ever giving him even a ray of hope for escaping the cycle of poverty, but at least he had love! Why can’t you appreciate love Tiana for God’s sake you’re eightteen put the goddamn work ethic away and get married!
There’s even a truly painful scene where the old voodoo lady asks Tiana what she needs, and Tiana proclaims “to work even harder!” and all the characters facepalm. And I facepalm along with them, though perhaps not for the same reasons.
The article’s argument that the action-driven plot of most Disney movies is primary with the prince as a “reward” afterthought really only holds water for Mulan – her want (save her father’s life by pretending to be a guy) and her need (save China) have nothing to do with the romance subplot. Shang literally stumbles in at the end to awkwardly ask her out, and the film ends there.
But to say that the romance is secondary to whatever the plot happens to be is… I dunno, looking at the world through those slatted Kanye glasses at some kind of weird angle. I don’t know how to respond to that one.
She then states that the plot of Frozen…
Just like every other Disney princess, Anna states what she wants very early on. She wants to find “the one”. And, just like every other Disney princess, she gets exactly what she wants. Her renewed relationship with Elsa; the castle gates being opened for good: these are the bonus prizes. Anna’s real goal is true love.
Well… I guess the easiest way to refute something is to misrepresent it entirely.
Let me state this in sparkling clarity, because this truly dense narrative was apparently a bit too cloudy for some:
Anna’s “want” (as inferred from the song “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”) is to be close to her sister again.
And that is what the plot of the movie is about.
5. But…but…Anna’s grown up in isolation: of course her priorities are a bit messed up!
I do so love when strawmen are so flummoxed they can’t articulate well. What’s that? But… but… what, strawperson?
She then goes into a thousand-word spiel for why Ana’s social awkwardness somehow doesn’t make logical sense and is a bad thing and works to the movie’s detriment. Flaws are bad. I hate Anna.
Was there a special on PBS outlining that one of the goals of feminist theory is that female characters shall never be flawed? Did I miss that memo?
You know, I see a lot of the same vitriol channeled towards Skylar White from “Breaking Bad” and Sansa Stark from the A Song of Ice and Fire series, particularly Sansa. At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Sansa is a young, lovelorn girl fawning over Prince Joffrey. She believes in the social contract. Moreover, she wants to be a princess. As the narrative progresses, she finds her dreams dashed by increasingly horrifying circumstance and becomes trapped in a system she must learn to manipulate quickly in order to survive. However, despite Sansa starting from a place of such naiveté and immaturity giving her room to grow into one of the more interesting characters in the series, she more often is shit on, because teenage girls with teenage girl-emotions are for shitting on.
God forbid young girl characters start from a place of immaturity (in this case, falling in love with the first guy she sees) and then growing from there. Oh, no, they must spring forth from the thigh of Zeus, fully formed Strong Independent Women, guns blazing and kung fu fighting!
6. Elsa is a relatable antagonist who claims her identity and tells us it’s okay to be an individual.
If that’s what “okay to be an individual” looks like, sign me up for the herd. Elsa’s attempt to claim her identity results in her almost killing her sister and plunging Arendelle into an eternal winter.
Oh, hey, she found the plot of the movie!
So much of this portion is harping about Elsa because she is a hot mess of emotional issues. Such bad decision making. Very repression. Wow. You know, things that we in the human world call “complexity”, in this article apparently registers as anti-feminist.
Claiming your right to self-expression is one thing, but Frozen seems to be equating that with resolutely avoiding responsibility for your actions, and to be advocating both equally.
WHAT EVEN THE HECK
How do this person movie? How do conflicts arise in her preferred mode of storytelling? Is the character arc in a children’s story so beyond this article that it needs to be daintily explained, lest she think that Disney is pushing irresponsible morals?
See, fun thing about character growth is they usually start from a place that begs growing.
BECAUSE IT APPARENTLY REQUIRES AN ALL CAPS EXPLANATION LET’S HIT ALL OF ELSA’S CHARACTER BEATS
1. FUN CHILD TIME
3. SUCK IT
4. I REGRET HAVING SAID SUCK IT
5. FIGHT FOR OWN LIFE
6. I GIVE UP ON LIFE BECAUSE I APPARENTLY KILLED MY OWN SISTER
Somehow this ends up with Disney advocating resolutely avoiding responsibility for one’s own actions. Well… eh… maybe if the movie ended with “Let it Go” but… Christ.
Elsa’s moment of liberation, though temporarily celebrated, is not portrayed in the narrative as so much a good thing as a wrought eternal winter thing. Elsa, free from having to hide her ability, and having pushed her sister away her whole life, feeling that she has no one, is overjoyed to be able to explore her abilities. This joy is halted, however, when she realizes that revelling in her abilities came with a price- that whole eternal winter thing.
There was a whole scene where she goes on about what a fool she was to think she could ever really be free, and how it was a mistake to… run away and go all Dr. Manhattan… remember? Were you in the bathroom for that, too? Did the guy at the snack bar talk you into getting the large soda? I can’t believe I’m writing this.
7. Elsa claims her sexuality as well as her individuality! She’s a modern woman!
What are you on about? How does Elsa claim any sexuality, or show even the remotest of interest in anything sexual? Is it the dress? Is that it? COVER THE CHILDREN’S EYES MA YOU CAN SEE HER SHOULDERS AND EVERYTHING
And yes, I’m exactly the kind of woman that will defend to the death my right to wear a miniskirt and heels and still call myself a feminist.
The article was moon logic before, but here it gets really bizarre. Apparently this article’s idea of “sexuality” is “wears a form fitting dress.” Never mind the fact that there is nothing sexual about Elsa otherwise, either in motivation or interest from outside parties. I mean… I guess she has boobs and one must assume a vag, but where does sexuality come into the equation here? That “Let It Go” doubles easily as a coming out anthem?
I defy anyone to tell me Elsa’s new wardrobe isn’t entirely aesthetically motivated.
She then goes on to decry Elsa’s uh… shoes? Which, I dunno, seem perfectly reasonable to me, but apparently those stilettos are just a tad too pointy for writer’s tastes. Once again, the writer seems to take issue with the fact that the princesses in this movie can’t do kung fu, or at the very least don’t dress appropriately for it.
And it’s here, where you’re wondering, am I being studied? Is this a test? A test for how long it will take me to cry to the masses? That she drops the most truly bewildering bomb yet.
This is Jena Malone’s costume from Zack Snyder’s much-maligned Sucker Punch.
…..okay….. g…… go on…
When asked about her character’s costume — which, like Elsa’s, is the product of its wearer’s imagination — Malone’s response, paraphrased, boils down to, “If you’re fantasising about kicking ass, killing dragons and saving the day, aren’t you also imagining yourself looking sexy and beautiful doing it?” It’s a different wording of the same defence of Elsa’s costume, but here’s the difference: in the Sucker Punch costume, Malone can move
It is here that some serious Poe’s Law begins to take effect. I begin to wonder if this is not an elaborate troll, and only now am I beginning to realize that it was meant to be taken as a joke. Should I feel stupid that the joke has gone so far over my head, that I’ve read this far into the article without realizing that it was really some clever satire?
Is this person serious?
On another note, are there any movies that would pass this article’s ridiculous standards? You know, besides Sucker Punch.
Who knows, maybe this was a joke! A big elaborate joke targeted directly at me, knowing that I would waste all this time writing a Strongly Worded Rebuttal, because really, really, have I fallen into some form of portal fantasy where I am being tested so that I may take my place as the Chosen One but first I must make my way through this article? Have I stepped into an alternate dimension? Where it makes one lick of goddamn sense to compare Elsa’s outfit to what they wear in fucking Sucker Punch?!
The world decided it hated Sucker Punch, so the fact that Malone trained for months and could basically bench press an elephant while wearing her Rocket costume took second place to the fact that we could see her underwear. The world decided it loved Frozen, so it chose to ignore the fact that if Elsa so much as took a particularly wide step we’d be able to see her underwear too.
WHAT ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT
Seriously, what nebula of crazy am I in that I have to parse why the hell someone is trying to make an academic essay comparing the outfits in Frozen to the ones in Sucker Punch?
IT’S TWO THOUSAND FOURTEEN WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT SUCKER PUNCH
I think the reason why people object to the aesthetic Sucker Punch escapes her. There are many reasons, but none of them have to do with the mobility of the baby puppets and their fetish wear.
LET US RECAP: WE HAVE REACHED THE POINT IN THE ARTICLE WHERE IT IS ARGUED THAT THIS
IS MORE FEMINIST THAN THIS
BECAUSE IT ALLOWS FOR GREATER MOBILITY.
If it really must be spelled out why “the world decided it hated” Sucker Punch, it’s because it sucks. The film is a vile heap of garbage that was conceived and birthed based on an idea of female empowerment as perceived by men. It’s Zack Snyder’s army of baby Lara Crofts in one of the most astonishingly boring movies ever made. If some women find it empowering, more power to them, but let’s not kid ourselves here- this is Zack Snyder’s fantasy of what he assumes women, trapped in a mental hospital (trapped in a brothel [trapped in a WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS MOVIE]) find empowering based on a standard created by men. It is male gaze at its male gaziest. And Zack Snyder is a moron. He would lose in Jeopardy to an overripe tomato.
And for the sake of all that is holy, why are we comparing kinky fetish “action outfit” to Elsa’s dress? Did Elsa state at some point while I was in the bathroom that she was going to strap on an icy bazooka and go kick some ass, all the while wearing a completely impractical outfit?
The obvious solution here is to have both characters be Princess Fiona from Shrek. She wears sensible flats and doesn’t have that dirty, slutty slit. And she knows kung-fu!
8. There’s an openly gay character! With a family!
What the… ?
Okay apparently she’s talking about this:
And some people decided that this meant Disney was… out and proud. Oh, Tumblr.
But this is a) a bit of a stretch and b) has nothing to do with her statement of purpose for why the movie is bad so we’re not going to touch this one
9. We get to hear the words, “You can’t marry a man you just met!”
Her basic thrust here is that the movie is hypocritical because while it shows that Ana wanting to marry Hans right away, having known him for half a day, the relationship with Kristoff is rushed in a comparable timespan of about a day (again, proving feminism with math!) and then proceeds to undermine her own point by conveniently ignoring how Anna and Kristoff’s relationship is resolved (hint: it doesn’t matter, because the story isn’t about them. We’ve DISCUSSED this). The furthest Anna and Kristoff get by the very end of the movie is her replacing his sled, followed by a chaste kiss. I mean, to me the implication here is that they’re taking it slow, but read what you want into that I guess. Maybe in Arendelle sleds are a form of dowry.
And if she has a problem with a Disney movie subverting something that has, to the very letter, happened in relatively few movies within the canon, I’d hate to see her explosive rage at Enchanted.
It doesn’t matter that the act of true love ends up being between Anna and Elsa (and yes, I’ll be hitting that beat later too): the twist only works because we believe that what Anna and Kristoff have is real.
Admittedly Kristoff and Anna’s entire relationship serves as something of a red herring, but part of what I really like about the movie is that it still provides an integral support to the narrative as a whole. While Arrendale doesn’t have a neon sign with the word PATRIARCHY looming over the arch, we get a pretty clear idea of Anna’s priorities – like many repressed teenage girls, she wants a boyfriend. And she wants one right now.
Anna’s arc is about what her wants are and what her place is in the world being challenged by what’s really important. That is her arc. Miraculously, audiences liked it. Whether or not her relationship with Kristoff is true love or not is completely irrelevant. Because that is not what the story is.
Is it true love by that point? Maybe, maybe not, we never find out. Does the narrative rely on the audience’s assumption that it is true love? Yes, of course it does. But more importantly, Anna believes it’s true love. That believe makes her sacrifice a lot more powerful than if she was just wandering around out there on the ice looking of Olaf because she wants a warm hug.
You see, this is the culmination of Anna’s arc. Anna’s sweet and well-meaning, but she’s been pretty self-serving up until this point in the film. Whether Kristoff’s kiss would have been “true love” or not, Anna knowingly gives up her own life for her sister’s, despite the fact that it was Elsa who mortally wounded her in the first place.
Elsa does not need to “redeem” herself in order to earn Anna’s sacrifice. Anna forgives her regardless. That’s what true love is. That’s the point. That’s the point.
But the “twist” at the end is one of the wonderfully subversive aspects of the film – what our culture focuses on as “true love” tends to be very narrow, that being romantic love, always heterosexual, and usually young people. The film flips our expectations and makes the act of true love between the two sisters, and all this despite both of them having wronged each other. True, the only people who would find this mind-blowing are the same people that found Inception hard to keep up with, but it is a rare film that has the true love of sisterhood be placed as more important than that of the breeding pair.
The article then uses a bunch of counterexamples from other Disney movies (math!) that illustrate that somehow knowing someone for three days like we get in movies like The Little Mermaid and Aladdin is somehow truer love than the one day we get in Frozen I dunno. Maybe there’s a cut-off point around the 36th hour where True Love finishes baking. The yeast has to rise.
Basically, the entire crux of her argument relies on the notion that the romance between Anna and Kristoff in Frozen is the main plot. Which it isn’t. At all. It’s a subplot. Again, it’s so much a subplot it’s almost a red herring. It functions mostly as a vehicle to challenge Anna’s assumptions of what is important in her life. And what is important, in the end, is not romance.
A big fault here with the article’s reasoning is that she’s so hung up on this idea that Frozen’s plot points exist for the sole purpose of subverting Disney tropes and not, you know, providing plot points for character growth. But the writer of this article seems to have some bizarre grudge against character arcs, at least where women are concerned.
And the focus in this article on the film’s place within the context of the Disney canon is fucking exhausting.
10. But Elsa doesn’t end up with a guy — and she’s just as important as Anna!
This section is about how Elsa would have been a more feminist character if she’d had a love interest!
No, I’m actually not kidding.
It’s almost a shame, to imagine what could have been had Disney really bucked the trend and given Elsa a love interest instead of Anna.
The basic idea here is that it would have been nice to have a guy not afraid of her power but instead accept her for it and…. ugh. I’ll just suggest that perhaps the trope in animation of the guy who’s all “hubba hubba” in the face of a powerful woman
might not be
as she thinks it is.
11. The “true love” that saves the day is the love between sisters, not some silly “true love’s kiss”!
I don’t even see how you can argue against this one. And yet…
Disney has been cleverly subverting the True Love’s Kiss trope for over fifty years.
If by “cleverly” you mean “backhandedly complimenting itself,” then yes. Yes, it has.
Once again, math! to save the day with stats as to just how few Disney movies in which a True Love’s Kiss© literally saves the day. Princess and the Frog doesn’t count apparently because blarrrrgh. Once again, she ignores Enchanted.
Disney has never, ever been shy about telling its audience that there are many more types of love than just romantic. Consider Lilo and Stitch, The Fox and the Hound, The Lion King, Robin Hood, Brother Bear, Tarzan, The Black Cauldron…quick, someone stop me before I list three-quarters of all the films Disney has ever made.
Now, quick, make a list for all the major female characters of reproductive age that don’t feature in a romance!
Even Nani from Lilo and Stitch ends up with a love interest. The issue here is not “does Disney push the importance of friendship and family?” – obviously, that’s one of their richest commodities- it’s “are young women allowed to have a story arc without romance being involved?” And the answer to that is usually a resounding no. Hell, even in Brave, Merida’s whole storyline still revolves around her function as a reproductive vessel. This is one of the major sticking points when talking about female characters in the media – once they hit puberty, even if they don’t end up as part of a breeding pair it must at least be addressed.
The problem is not that young female characters have romantic arcs, it’s that’s all there is.
Plenty of Disney films, even the princess ones, tell us that family and friendship are just as important as — if not more than — romantic love. Frozen is the only one I can think of with so little respect for its audience that it has to beat us over the head with it.
Frozen is not Enchanted, it is not meant to be a parody so much as, you know, like, a story, with perhaps some subversive elements. And incidentally, while the literal “kiss” may only be the solution in two movies, the element of love as the (literally) magical solution is a good bit more common (see: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast).
She then does a few backbends to show how the “true love” in a bunch of other Disney movies was not the main romance, which, again, I’d say the only one of the renaissance movies where you could make the case for that is Mulan, where the father/daughter relationship is the main emotional thread, with Shang showing up as an afterthought who would maybe like to stay for dinner. Curiously, she does not mention this one.
But the assertion that the romance is not the main plot in all of the other renaissance films (except of course The Lion King) is wrong wrong wrong. Wrong. Also, wrong.
12. Anna takes charge and makes her own decisions!
Again, who says this? What moron over the age of twelve has, in all seriousness, stated that this is in some way unique among Disney princesses? That they don’t got that gumption, but Anna does? Post-mermaid princesses are all initiative! They’re plucky and headstrong to the point of being cliché at this point!
She then proceeds to list all the moments in the film in which Anna is not completely active. Female characters are allowed no moments of passivity. They shall not even allow other characters to talk. They must be all active all the time or they are failures of feminism and we’re going to lose the right to vote and spend the rest of our lives making sandwiches and enduring kitchen jokes THANKS DISNEY
Anna is not permitted to deduce what act of true love might save her failing heart: a troll tells her it must be true love’s kiss
STOP BEING WRONG.
Anna does, in fact, deduce the whole “True Love’s Kiss©” thing. That is her deduction. The Troll King’s words are “an act of true love,” Again, the article’s argument loses salt when she misrepresent the very thing she’s arguing against.
[Edit: It has been pointed out to me by parties completely unaffiliated with the original author that, while the troll king doesn’t suggest the whole “True Love’s Kiss©” thing, some rando grandma troll does. So I was wrong on that one. Ish. But Anna’s first word immediately after that suggestion is “Hans!” so the idea that this is an agency question, and that she wasn’t involved in an executive kiss decision, is still kind of silly.]
A lot of Anna’s poor choices are motivated by sheer stupidity, but in this case that lack of information prevents her from making good decisions.
NO MISTAKES EVER LADIES. MISTAKES ARE REGRESSIVE.
Do I need to cancel feminism again? Is that what needs to happen?
There is one point here that I do agree with, and that’s that the Troll King neglected to tell Elsa and family that “love” was the key to her controlling her powers, since he clearly knew that “love can thaw a frozen heart.” This isn’t a huge sticking point, however, more something that could have easily been written around by, say, having the troll king speak in riddles or something. An easily-fixable plot hole, if you will. This movie has quite a few of those.
And if you thought we were in crazy town before, strap in.
The article then spends several hundred words going on about the troll family’s song about Kristoff the fixer-upper, which to me isn’t a problem except in that it’s totally Frozen’s “A Guy Like You” from Hunchback song in pretty much every way. It’s even sung by rock people. But, see, it’s also “deeply troublesome,” because… wait for it…
I know it’s supposed to be a fun little comedy beat, but the trolls’ response to the news of Anna’s engagement shows no respect for her choices, or her agency as an individual.
Yep. Somehow she takes the stupid little ditty with the trolls a step further and makes it a consent issue.
Have you never had some guy’s family pushing an uncomfortable level of expectation on you? BOY I HAVE. And lemme tell you, that scene felt uncomfortably familiar! Albeit perhaps not uncomfortable in the way this article is thinking.
But I can’t say that, having found oneself in such a situation where someone was ignoring my wants to try to sell me on something, I ever thought “boy they sure are trying to rob me of my consent.” Because… ehhh
All of this leads up to Anna only escaping being married to Kristoff without her consent by almost dying from a heart condition. You forgot about that detail, didn’t you? I cannot think of a single other Disney movie in which a character gets all the way to “I now pronounce you…” without giving some kind of consent…actually, that’s not quite true. In The Little Mermaid, Prince Eric is brainwashed into marrying Ursula, and is halfway through the ceremony before Ariel and her animal friends rescue him. … A non-consensual marriage is the closest Disney animation will ever get to showing us a rape.
Are we sure this isn’t some elaborate troll?
I just… I….
They’re not even trying to… coerce her, they’re like trying to sell her on him. Like… a used car.
Somehow this equates to the horror of an arranged marriage under duress? Somehow this robs Anna of her consent? I…. I…
Did I miss a scene?
Anyway, the shitty troll song scene is like … promoting nonconsensual… marriage somehow. The second she turns to ice the trolls are gonna be all “Now’s your chance!” I dunno. Where am I? What year is it? Has civilization fallen yet? Is that why I’m here, in this cave, compelled by this truly bewildering force to respond to this one article of thousands? Nay, millions? What even the Christ? The trolls sing a song about how Kristoff is a fixer-upper. I think the song was called “Asking For It.” It got nominated for an Oscar, didn’t it? Anyway. Make a Disney movie about how I crack right here at this point in history. Call it Broken.
Finally this is almost over.
Now we get to the requisite point of every movie-feminism blog entry where we decry the state of women in the film industry, or lack thereof. Tempted though I am to do the smug “insider’s perspective” thing, I’m just going to let that one lie. At this point in my block of impotent words I’m too exhausted to talk about the state of women in the industry. Wooo, more ladies in film. Go team.
Curious in this section, however, she fails to mention, after whining about how there aren’t enough women in the film industry, that Frozen was written and directed by a woman.
That’s why Disney has been beating the “More Feminism” drum for years now: not because they believe it, but because the children of millenials are being brought up in homes that champion intelligent, outspoken women, and that’s where the ticket sales are coming from.
No, seriously, I have a hard time believing that anyone within the Disney company would use the dreaded f-word. The people I know who work there certainly wouldn’t. They hold it at a distance, like a pair of rank underwear. If there is some recent evidence of this, I’d be interested in seeing it. “Catering to a female demographic” and “MOAR FEMINISM” aren’t quite the same thing.
The gist of this section seems to be about complacency, comparing the proportion of women in the industry to how Disney’s just not going to challenge itself with its narratives anymore because Frozen is good enough and we can go back to… I dunno… Wreck-it-Ralph 2 or whatever. Which I would address if I considered Frozen a failure on the levels that she mentions. Which, for the most part, I don’t.
There are arguments to be made about how Frozen is a success in some regards and a failure in others. Few are made in the article we just discussed because the writer is too hung up on comparing them to other Disney movies rather than looking at a broader picture. Also, Sucker Punch. I do agree on some minor points- the character designs could have been a lot more interesting, especially for the two mains.
And also, I really hate this shot:
WOMEN AM I RIGHT?
But rationalizing the fact that you don’t like something with poorly researched ideology is helping no one. It’s okay to like regressive works. It’s okay to dislike progressive works. But the important think to keep in mind is that every movie, every single one, has problematic elements. No movie is perfect. What is a complete and utter triumph of feminist ideology in a compelling cinematic narrative? I don’t even know what that would look like.
Feminist theory applies the lens of an ideology – a malleable and constantly changing ideology, might I add – to existing work. Works may be influenced by feminist ideology, but asking things like “Is this feminist?” is inherently flawed, because the answer is always no. Aspects will line up to some parts of the ideology, but if the whole thing is just parroting feminist talking points? That’s agenda, buddy. Ain’t no good art ever came from a straight up agenda.
But since the issue is how progressive the film is, here is what I like about Frozen:
I think Elsa is wonderful. She’s powerful, she’s dangerous, she’s vulnerable, she’s confused. For a character with relatively little screen time, she goes through an incredible emotional range, from oppression, to fear, then to joy, then to terror and shame when she realizes that she’s hurting people. How unbelievably rare it is to have a female character of breeding age who is not evil have not even a whiff of a romantic subplot? Hell, at no point does some guy eyebrow waggle at her and do a wolf whistle, followed by her drop kicking him because STRONG INDEPENDENT WOMEN (god, I hate that shit).
On Ana’s side, one of the first things we noticed after our first viewing was that she wasn’t Princess Fiona. Anna fails a lot, she doesn’t know kung fu. I love the scene where she tries and fails to triumph a rock wall. Ana’s not a secret badass, her character lines up with just how sheltered she’s been growing up. The girls in this movie are allowed to be girls without smacking anyone down with nunchucks and then following up with a one-liner like “try wearing a corset.”
Which brings me to the thing that pissed me off the most about the article, poorly reasoned (although well written?) arguments aside, was that it decried character flaws as anti-feminist.
No no no no. We’re never going to even begin to approach a place of equal representation if female characters aren’t allowed to have major plot-driving flaws. But I keep seeing this misguided attitude being pushed about what really constitutes a feminist narrative, that we should be seeing more movies like Sucker Punch where women kick ass and shoot things because brothel or Thelma and Louise where women do murder because rape. I guess movies like that are easy to spot because they’re so on the nose, but I would argue that too much of that works to the detriment of greater representation in media. We can’t all have no feelings and kick ass.
Feminist theory within media isn’t about seeing more characters strapping on boots and fighting the Patriarchy©, it’s about seeing more and greater variety of character types on the same level as men. It shouldn’t be unusual to see a female character like Loki. It shouldn’t be weird to see one like Thor. The goal should not be a constant stream of asskickers, the goal should be that it no longer be remarkable when we do see movies like Frozen, or Gravity, or Catching Fire.
Is Gravity a triumph? Absolutely. Is Catching Fire a triumph? Absolutely. Is Twilight a triumph? Uh… I plead the Fifth. Is Frozen a triumph? Absolutely. And they’re all triumphs not only because people lined up to see them in droves, but because none of their narratives were integral to gender. They were all widely varying stories about the human experience that happened to feature women, all of whom displayed a wide variety of emotions.
I do agree with her idea that complacency is a bad thing, though what the industry and audiences are complacent about, that I can’t agree with. Take a bigger step back, look at the bigger picture. I see that you’re arguing against Frozen, and using an ideological basis to do so, but if that’s the case, what are you arguing for?
The era of Tumblr has brought social justice to the masses, but it has also ushered in a tendency for people to appropriate communications theories to justify why they didn’t like some Disney movie. It’s no longer “I didn’t like it”, it’s “it was a failure of [progressive thing]”, and all too often, as in the case with this article, the reasoning is just absurd.
And lo, we end up back in modern feminism where this gets lauded because people need some higher ideological justification to explain why they don’t like some kid’s movie. It’s no wonder everyone’s so confused.