On Frozen and Feminism

We have FROZEN at our house and have watched it ... oh I dunno, a dozen times? At least. We own the soundtrack. We sing the soundtrack. We sing "LET IT GO" every time someone needs to use the bathroom etc etc - best soundtrack ever. 

There weren't a lot of strong feminist films this year (understatement central) which is par for the course but I'm very glad Disney turned the tables and shattered the glass princess movie ceiling because, whoa, true love = sisterhood? Hell yeah, it does. I mean, the moral of the story was all very "sisters before misters" which is a beautiful thing. And considering that most Princess stories paint sisters/mothers/non-princess-y women as "mean" and "ugly," cruel and abusive/forever-out-to-get-you, Frozen was a light at the end of the antiquated tunnel of Princess culture. 

Cinderella? Sleeping Beauty? The Little Mermaid? Snow White? Hell, even Tangled! These were women held back by women only to be "saved" by make-out sessions with men. Eff that noise. (Mulan had to pretend to be a man/surround herself with men in order to find herself. Womp.)

But the other night after discussing FROZEN with a friend (who felt the film was faux-feminist/rooted in fear-based misogyny), I began to see things a bit differently... 

"Misogynistic? DUDE."

... And then I listened to said friend's explanation and he kind of blew my mind. 

He felt the film's underlying message was "a woman in power is a threat to the world." He felt that Elsa running off to the woods was all very red tent "women are less equipped to lead because they are hormonal and bleed out of their vaginas and OMG PMS" esque. 

And then my head exploded because, whoaAAAAAH. Was I so blinded by the "pro-sisterhood" ending that I missed all of that? 

And, sure, in the end (SPOILER ALERT!) Elsa learns how to HARNESS her power, but only when she's lost absolutely everything/ turned the world to ice/has nothing left to lose. 

FROZEN is basically about a woman who comes into power and effs everything up because she can't control her body. Because she has extraordinary power and is therefore a threat to her world.

That is some shit, man.

And then I thought about it and HOLD ON WAIT A MINUTE SO NOT EVEN CLOSE. I mean, yes, I was blinded by the "pro-siserhood" message that I missed all of that but ALL OF THAT is what MAKES Frozen the feminist dynamo that it is. 

The message that "with great power comes great responsibility" is a very human message that extends beyond feminism and into a more (progressive) HUMANIST space.

When a woman (or a man) has extraordinary power she/he CAN (if the power isn't properly controlled) be a threat. AND YET. Because we're not conditioned to see a woman in the highest position of power it feels... wrong? Confusing? Misogynistic? 

Which is, paradoxically, what makes FROZEN that much more feminist...

"With great power comes great responsibility" has always been the "hero's" dilemma. Anna's character represents the typical fearlessly-quirky sidekick-heroine-archetype but up until now, Elsa's character has been played by, well, a man. 

"Sisters before misters" is a refreshing message for sure, but there's a more nuanced takeaway from this film that extends beyond the importance of sisterhood and into a brave new world where women struggle with power the same way men do. I love me some Joseph Campbell but his "Hero's Journey" disqualifies women as heroines. Frozen challenges the monomyth. (Although I completely agree that we've had enough Whitey McWhiteywhite princesses/love interests to last us fourteen lifetimes. Come on, Dis! You can do better than that!

When it comes to our daughters (and sons - Archer is as much a fan of FROZEN as his sisters) and the kind of movies that are marketed to them, Frozen is a groundbreaker that I feel deserves to be discussed. It isn't a perfect film by any means but we're certainly moving in the right direction I think.

ED: I realize I am about as academic as a hangnail and my knowledge in feminist studies/film is slim pickings compared to most of you, which is why I'd love for you to share your thoughts on FROZEN, as mothers, fathers, feminists, humanists, people who love (and/or despise) Disney movies, all of the above, none of the above, etc... 

Or, if you'd rather, you can just enjoy this amazing multi-language version of Let it Go: