Tangled, Brave, and now Frozen– no, it’s not just a trend of adjective titled films, but big animated productions from Disney and Pixar which have made a conscious effort to have strong female protagonists. Disney and Pixar are arguably the most dominant forces on the animation market, and since The Princess and the Frog we’ve had a host of ‘princesses’ who are not just your average royalty, Boo-Boo.
In a year where I considered myself spoiled with female buddy movie The Heat, in came Frozen, the pinnacle of western animation’s feminist journey so far. Tiana was ambitious, Merida’s story revolved around her relationship with her mother instead of her relationship with boyz, and Rapunzel was so much feistier than the Auroras and Cinderellas of yesteryear. But watching Frozen, I felt more affinity with Anna and Elsa than I’d had with any Disney princess. That’s not to say their fore-runners haven’t had kick-ass qualities that I wanted and wished to have- but here were two women who felt like women, and most importantly they shared traits that were less ethereal and more realistic. Sorry Eilonwy, but Anna, with her incredible social awkwardness, is so my Disney Princess.
The songs are great, the jokes are cracking, the animation was sumptuous (and the ladies were obligatorily pretty, Lino DiSalvo) and I didn’t want the film to end. For the first time since my childhood, a Disney twist was actually surprising. The film transported me back to my own childhood. For you see, readers, I have a sister, and Frozen showcased a complicated, positive sisterhood tale that rang true. It was heart warming, and then it was heart melting, and by the end of the film I was a gushy puddle, as was my friend who grew up with no sisters.
What I really found interesting (and I promise you this is not a spoiler) was the opening of the film, where Elsa’s power is established, and, after a HEARTBREAKING ACCIDENT, we see her lock herself away in a room. The idea of Anna wandering around and growing up in a castle with an unknown and largely forgotten sister hidden away, reminded me strongly of Jane Eyre.
However, unlike Mrs. Rochester, Elsa is mostly a positive metaphor for female sexuality (her power is her sexuality, if you will follow me down the garden path of feminist theory). Yeah, Elsa is a party pooper, but because of the rich characterisation, you know she isn’t the bad guy (girl). In fact, she also seemed to be giving new insight into older Disney villainesses like Maleficent. Rather like Polly Teale’s stage adaptation of Jane Eyre, the separation of the innocent, virginal Anna from the mature, loose haired and slit skirted Elsa, only causes trouble and bother.
This film isn’t just breaking new ground in animation with its more realistic female protagonists and feminist themes, but it also feels like an age since I saw two strong positive female characters in any film full stop. Yeah, The Heat and Frozen are both great sisterhood movies, but since we doin’ so well with the girls on film, let’s not be contented with two a year. Let’s get bigger and better. Let’s keep this thing going!
Or snowing, if you will.