Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Disney Role Model: Disney's Queen Elsa's got it right

(SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't watched Frozen, I discuss storyline and plot below.)

Hi everyone!

As some of you know, I studied Psychology for my Bachelors degree and gained a strong interest in mass media matters and it's relevance to women. I basically unofficially minored in Women's Studies and just took a whole bunch of perspectives courses related to women. I wanted to point out what I love about a popular QUEEN from the Disney movie Frozen. I have written a lot of informal private entries dissecting a "Disney Princess" aka a damsel in distress and how it has implemented the idea of a "happily ever after" with no real women power behind it.

I was thrilled to find that when Frozen was released, not only was it a fabulous musical number, but it depicted a story that was about self exploration and advancement over "finding a prince charming". Disney's princess movies have been slowly changing with a clear distinction starting from the first black princess, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. She was a hardworking and driven woman who had a dream to open up a restaurant in honor of her late father's dream. She does meet a man but gets to know him first and he is not a rich prince either. Talk about independent! The changes in storyline continued with Tangled with Rapunsel-- a spunky and carefree girl really wanted to get out of her tower, not meet men.

I want to add a disclaimer here and say that I really do enjoy Disney movies and grew up watching all of them from The Lion King  to Pocahontas. I love them all and when I compare Frozen to other Disney movies, I'm mainly discussing the digression from the Disney-princess complex. I will discuss some unique qualities of Elsa that I enjoyed from the Disney movie Frozen in order to share with you how much of a more well-rounded role model she is to young girls.

Let's start off with the fact that Elsa is a queen. That's right-- not a princess, but a queen. So far, all Disney movies have portrayed queens are evil stepmothers who were enraged by their stepdaughter's beauty or just power-hungry. They are often portrayed in an antagonistic light and never the main character. Elsa on the other hand is the protagonist and very vibrantly drawn in hues of white and sky blue which signifies a pure state. There is also a sense of maturity from her since she is the older daughter and in power, even though she is still young.

I felt like Frozen made a lot of satiric inside jokes moving away from the typical princess love story.
This tumblr post I found shows 3 frames of other Disney princesses making an appearance in this movie during Elsa and Ana's discussion of marrying the first man you meet.

Tumblr went pretty crazy and had fun pointing out Elsa rejecting the precedented "love at first sight" notion of past Disney princess movies as well.

Frozen, a lot like The Lion King, was really a journey towards self discovery and self acceptance. In The Lion King, Simba learns about death, family, responsibility, and friendship which tie into his understanding of love towards his pride, future wife, and trustworthy friends. Elsa is also on a journey of embracing her unique qualities and ultimately embracing herself as a person, sister, and queen. She in fact cared so deeply about keeping her kingdom and sister safe that she fled the kingdom and isolated herself. from the world. How scary and selfless is that?

It was really refreshing to watch Frozen and be able to relate to Elsa's burdened character. Her whole life, she lived in fear and couldn't even build a real relationship with her sister or kingdom. In various walks of life, we can relate to that feeling of inhibition and lack of self awareness that continues to hold us back from "letting go" as the popular song explained so well.

Subliminally, kids and adults are sent so many messages on who to strive to be and how to act. I'm so glad that Disney took a turn away from the damsel in distress who eventually gets carried away on the back of a horse with a prince who is really a stranger.

Many of the musical numbers and scenes showed real depictions of what girls would look like as well. This scene of the younger sister Ana waking up is nowhere near princess-perfect but it is a lot more accurate than waking up with a full face of makeup and already done hair. This hilariously true scene below is relatable and quite human. Although Ana is young and foolish in many ways, her clumsy and vibrant personality are not qualities of a prim and poised princess. I admired her character development as well because it's a nice shout out to all women who are a little silly, awkward, but undoubtedly natural.

I could probably talk about this forever but I'm going to wrap up with the motif of family.
Ana and Elsa are orphans by the end of the story and they only have each other. Their childhood bond was so endearing. The fact that they couldn't grow up together as friends made me so sad but the overall story's journey that much more compelling. Family is awesome and that's my final note.

Frozen's lead characters are genuine, promising, and full of flaws-- which is something I would most definitely want to share with kids. We aren't all perfect and we all strive to better or understand ourselves more. It's not about the love story, it's about first knowing yourself and your abilities, passions, etc. After all, you can't be a part of something greater if you don't know yourself very well. :) Yep. I loved this movie and this post is long overdue. I hope you guys enjoyed my rambles!

P.S. I covered some aspects of this movie that were approached maybe differently from other Disney princess movies. But, the story line and development of Frozen wasn't exactly the best in my opinion. It moved very quickly through the character development (which probably had to do with time restrictions). I can see why kids like it but I encourage you to make your own opinions about this movie. On the other end, there are elements about patriarchy and character development that I didn't cover in this post. I decided to focus on some of the positives for today. Enjoy!



  1. Nice pics I have to watch the movie again to spot Cinderella, rapunzel, tiana

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