Just as marketing intended, boy thinks central character of ‘Frozen’ is the Snowman

I just read a fascinating interview from Pajiba.com titled: A Conversation With a Six-Year-Old Boy About ‘Frozen,’ Princess Movies, and Female Heroes.

Frozen-movie-poster

The boy is six years old, and if you read this interview, it’s obvious that he thinks that the star of the movie, “Frozen,” is not one of the two female protagonists, but Olaf, the snowman.

Here’s part of the interview:

Me: What would you say that this movie is about?

 

Kid: Well, it’s about a snowman, and the freezing cold, and frozen stuff, and people who are trying to get warm, and safe from the Queen (Idina Menzel), and about the Queen just trying to help instead of getting ice everywhere, and she wanted to get away from everyone because of her powers. She hurt some people with her powers, and she didn’t want to.

 

The movie does not begin with the Snowman, nor is the Snowman the central figure of the plot, so why do you think the kid begins his plot description with the Snowman?

You see the poster, above. Who is in the center?

Here’s the preview. From this, who do you think stars in the movie? Who is missing from this preview?

I was super-critical of the marketing of “Frozen” before the movie came out. On Reel Girl, I often write about marketing, because marketing is its own media. Even if kids don’t see the movie, they see the ads on TV, the posters, and the toys. My blog about Frozen’s marketing,  “Disney diminishes a heroine in 4 easy steps,” is about how the powerful females in the movie are concealed by (1) taking her name out of the title (2) changing the plot so she doesn’t rescue a male (3) not showing female characters in the first preview (4) not showing female clearly in the first poster.

The actual movie, I liked. Aside from the 2 protagonists looking like twin Barbies, their characters are great. You can read my review Heroines of “Frozen” melt my bitter heart.

But back to the kid in this interview, here’s why he liked the movie:

Me: What did you think of Frozen?

 

Kid: It was awesome. It was so awesome. It was my favorite movie ever.

 

Me: Really? I think it was one of my favorite kids’ movies, too.

 

Kid: I really loved Olaf [the snowman, voiced by Josh Gad], but I thought it was going to be a peaceful movie, but Daddy, it wasn’t a peaceful movie.

No matter what the interviewer asks the kid about, he steers the conversation back to Olaf.

Me: Did the Queen listen?

 

Kid: No, because all she wanted to do was keep people away from her powers. Hey Daddy, ask the question, ‘Did Olaf (the snowman) melt?’ That’s an important question.

 

Me: OK. Did Olaf melt?

 

Kid: No. Another good question is, ‘What did Olaf like?”

 

Me: What did Olaf like?

 

Kid: Warm hugs. And he also liked summer, and that was really funny.

And again:

Me: Do you think girls would like Frozen?

 

Kid: They might like it, but they might not. But they would definitely like Olaf.

The boy acknowledges that girls are the heroes of the movie, but he can’t resist going back to Olaf one more time:

Me: Do you think your sisters would like Frozen when they are older?

 

Kid: Yes.

 

Me: Why?

 

Kid: Because the girls are the heroes, and I think they would like the snowman.

The reason this is important is because there is a popular myth out there, loyally supported by most grow-ups: girls will see movies about boys but boys will not see movies about girls. As I’ve written often here, girls are trained from the moment they are born that stories about boys are important and for everyone, whereas stories about girls are only for girls. Stories for boys are mainstream while stories for girls are special interest. You can even see this if you look at something like “On Demand” where the “Girl Power” category has shows with female protagonists, in their own section because they are different/ separate/ other. Kids experience this gender dichotomy everywhere– movies, TV, books, and school

Right now, I’m reading The Hobbit. I’m writing a fantasy book, so I thought it would be good for me to read the “father” of fantasy. In The Hobbit, there are trolls, elves, dwarfs, wizards, goblins, dragons, and not one damn female. How could J.R.R. Tolkien write this book, a book for kids, a book that takes place in fantasy world, where all kinds of creatures exist, and magic happens, and completely leave out half of the kid population? And what is remarkable is The Hobbit is considered to be a book for everyone, mainstream, not some “special interest boy book.” I just read an interview with Evangeline Lilly, who plays a female character added to the movie, and she says The Hobbit was her favorite book as a kid. Can you imagine a male, a celebrity male with a role in a huge movie, saying that his favorite book as a child was one with about 50 female characters and no male characters? He would be some kind of freak. I actually don’t even know if a story exists with the reverse gender ratio as The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Here’s the thing: all kids are as just as self-centered as the six year old in this interview. Girls don’t come out of the womb anymore altruistic or open minded that boys do. They all want to see themselves mirrored out there. This is why girls are obsessed with princesses. Not because pink and frilly is in their DNA, but because they want to see girls, and princesses is pretty much what they get. All kids need to see more narratives with star girls as strong,  protagonists, because what do you think happens to kids’ imaginations and aspirations when they learn in childhood that stories about girls are not important? A new generation gets comfortable with a segregated world where females go missing.

 

 

31 thoughts on “Just as marketing intended, boy thinks central character of ‘Frozen’ is the Snowman

  1. My brother is so judgemental by saying that the movie Frozen is for girls because two girls are the main characters. Actually it is for both genders because there is also three other main characters that are boys (Olaf, Prince Hens and the man that Ana met) so if your thinking like my brother, here’s your answer; its for both genders as both men and women are in the script.

  2. Pingback: – Why I’m Not Super Into the Ban Bossy Campaign

  3. Not exactly on topic but i just saw it today in BBC news and i immediately thought that “Margot will love this!’ .Today Europe has launched the Gaia satellite – one of the most ambitious space missions in history.And check the design on it.A girl gazing at the stars!Loved it! http://www.arianespace.com/images/missionup-dates/2013/1115-4.jpg http://www.arianespace.com/images/missionup-dates/2013/1117-3.jpg http://cdn.ph.upi.com/sv/b//i/UPI-6571386969778/2013/1/13869714587909/ESAs-Gaia-spacecraft-to-create-3D-map-of-the-Milky-Way.jpg http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25426424

  4. My sister took my 5-year old son to see Frozen, so I haven’t actually seen it yet. The verdict from my son was that he didn’t like it because it was too scary (he’s a fairly sensitive kid, gets scared easily in movies). But he was making up stories 2 weeks later about girl super heros whose super powers involved freezing things…

  5. Margot Tolkien wrote Hobbit in the 1930s…that was a period when “a girls job” was basically to be kind, get married quickly,make kids (preferably male-many men didn’t ever consider girls as “kids” they were just “girls” while kids=boys), clean and cook and have sex with her husband regardless if she wanted it or not (“rape” didn’t exist in marriage).Several men still believed that females shouldn’t even vote-let alone have magical adventures.
    Better than the 1910s though -when young women were imprisoned and tortured for weeks simply b/c they were asking for the basic human right to vote .Check Night of Terror, November 15, 1917.
    If you could travel back in time,around 1935,to ask Tolkien “why there are no females in the book you write” he would probably look at you with a blank stare.

    As for TinTin-a subject that frequently comes up here-it is nothing but an old, obsolete,sexist (and racist) comic that has no place in the 21st century.Its a disgrace that Spielberg spend so much time/money/energy to bring this relic to the big screen.
    The Hobbit movie has one actress – about 5 minutes present in the film.In a 170 minutes movie!

    Enough with this sexist BS .We are in 2013 and we want to see in Hollywood films strong/complex/cool female characters who can kick ass.NOW.

      • : )
        I forgot to press “enter” after your name.
        My point was than during the early decades of the 20th century women were considered second class citizens-and girls were second rate “kids” .This is why there are no females in Hobbit.

  6. Actually, I don’t think the marketing team assumed the movie was about the snowman. I know trailers lie and all that and the trailer people don’t always communicate well with the movie people as they are different divisions but here is my guess. Given what I’ve been hearing about Tangled and Frozen and Marvel and Star Wars, Disney believes they have the female audience locked in with their princess movies but they need to make more of an effort to appeal to the male demographic. Basically, girls already want to see Frozen. We just have to convince the boys. Put the snowman in the trailer.

  7. Hey Margot, I also got a recommendation for a fantasy series: The earthsea books by Le Guin. Alright, only ‘The Tombs of Atuan’ (my favourite of the series!), ‘Tehanu’ and ‘The Other Wind’ focus more on the female characters, but the diversity of the characters is fascinating: everyone but the people from the Kargad lands (which is a tiny strip compared to everything else) is dark-skinned. I guess Le Guin is high on the list of good fantasy authors who break away from the ‘everyone is white’ trope. In the ‘Annals of the Western Shore’ trilogy you get this as well. I loved the second book, ‘Voices’, because it has a female main character and has a plot that shows how society goes on AFTER a war, not during it.
    Also nice as far as diversity goes: the ‘rai-kirah’ books by Carol Berg (starting with ‘Transformation’). The only female characters that appear in these books though are very strong. Unfortunately they’re not main characters but they’re amazing nonetheless. I can’t even say which of them I like the most, they’re all amazing. Even Vallyne, a demon (a ‘rai-kirah’) is a very good character who uses strategies and witt to get what she wants instead of depending only on her power to shape a good-looking body.
    Btw, a book series I didn’t read yet but is supposed to be really great is ‘Song of the Lioness’ by Tamora Pierce, featuring a woman who dresses as a man to become a knight.

    • Hi Kara,

      Thanks so much. I’ll look it up. I like Tamora Peirce a lot, but right now, I am kind of sick of the fantasy/ feminism where the woman dresses up as a male, or is the “woman who can fight as good as a man.” I just want to see equality, like in “Hunger Games.” I don’t want my kids to always be reading about how women are told they cant do something because they are woman. I get the importance of this story and its role in history, but it makes me mad when I have to explain to my 4 year old who doesnt know really about sexism why Mulan has to dress as a man, why women are told they cant fight. I crave fantasy worlds where women and men are shown as equal. If we cant imagine it, how can we create it?

      Margot

  8. Love your site! I just shot off a message on Facebook to a couple of movie theaters here in Iceland on why the title of the movie is essentially translated as “He’s frozen” (it has the double-n masculine definite article, and not the single-n feminine one, i.e. it’s translated as “Frosinn” and not “Frosin”.) The only reasons why it could be masculine was if a guy was the main character, oooor if you really want to stretch your reasoning, you could claim that the WORLD is frozen. Whereas Frosin would refer to a female or to the entire cast of characters (Icelandic is a little weird like that).

  9. I’ve noticed that the commercials for Frozen focus on the Snowman, which is quite sad considering he’s not the main character of the movie.

    I’ve read The Hobbit and love it, even though there are no female characters. However, I am excited for the added female character in the movie. If you like reading fantasy, I definitely recommend Diana Wynne Jones. Some of her books have male main characters and others have female main characters. She was an amazing fantasy author and one of my favorites.

    • hi cherokeee writer,

      I’ve heard Jones is great, we have Howl’s Moving Castle. I’ll try that one unless you have one to recommend?

      Margot

      • “Fire and Hemlock” has a strong female cast (heroine, baddie, wise older woman and more). The Chrestomanci books have mostly male protagonists but plenty of strong female characters. The first one is “Charmed Life” but the first one I read was “Witch Week”, which is 50/50 and a female saves the day.

  10. I love your blog by the way. It frequently gets referenced in our household.

    I’ve been thinking very seriously of buying a copy of the Hobbit and gender swapping half the characters throughout (with no other changes).

    It has never been true that no boys will watch media with girl characters, there have always been many who would, and for the ones who won’t, I feel very very certain that for most it’s an enculturation issue.

    Certainly my almost 5-year-old kid loves movies and shows with female protagonists. He loves good stories and he loves nuanced endings, where villains have an understandable source for their villainy and are capable of being reformed, and this seems far more common in media with female protagonists for some reason.

    • Hi Kenzie,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I really think this is true– everyone wants a great story and great characters, and kids would not reject this based on gender, especially if their parents encouraged it.

      Margot

  11. I attended this event in London recently, where Kay Benbow, Controller of Cbeebies (the BBC’s channel aimed at 3-6s) said that they had done research that showed that the audience for programmes with girl protagonists was 50/50 male/female and that boys turned out to be perfectly happy to watch programmes where a girl took the lead. (She also said that the boys mostly focused on boy characters – rather like the little boy above – but were untroubled by the focus being on the females.)

    The ‘fact’ that boys won’t read/watch things with a female in the lead is such received wisdom, it was fascinating to hear how easily it could be challenged.

    http://www.thechildrensmediafoundation.org/archives/1910

  12. Having seen only the trailer above, a friend of mine took her 2 daughters to see “Frozen,” fully expecting a movie about a snowman and a caribou. The *idea* that boys won’t watch a movie with female leads is so pervasive and insidious . . . She was relieved that even though the movie wasn’t what she was expecting, at least she had not brought boys to see it because they would have surely been disappointed.

  13. I think that even without the marketing (though the marketing likely contributed) it’s disappointing that the little boy was so focused on Olaf. I have yet to see Frozen (I’m seeing it later this week.) and it’s quite possible that Josh Gad does a fantastic job. But that still doesn’t make him the protagonist and the one that you should fixate on in one of the few films with a female protagonist. I think I’d find it less disappointing if I had heard similar things from male reviewers (grown men) who seemed to forget about the female characters and focus on how much they liked Olaf.

  14. Have you read the Graceling series? It doesn’t have 50 female characters in each book, but it’s a really powerful, women-centric fantasy series. I also love the Lunar Chronicles (which def has more women at the center than men), though that’s sci-fi/fantasy.

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