Heroines of ‘Frozen’ melt my bitter heart

Today, I saw ‘Frozen’ with 4 kids ages 4 – 11, and we all loved it. The second it ended, my oldest daughter asked if we could go see it again, tomorrow. When I said no, she said maybe she could go with her aunt. All the kids couldn’t stop talking about how cool the “ice queen” is (ha ha, but those are their words.)  The Queen is my favorite character in the movie too, and  I can’t think of a Disney story with a female hero– not villain– that powerful and magical. The Snow Queen’s name is Elsa, and I wish she were in the movie more. I still wish the damn movie was titled for her.


I blogged on Reel Girl about how pissed off I was with the tactics Disney used to adapt the story— struck the powerful female from the title, changed the plot so the heroine doesn’t rescue a boy, elevates males to costars, and leaves out the female stars from the first preview. Matters were made worse when the movie’s head animator said it was difficult to make female characters show anger differently and challenging also since girls have to be pretty. Of course, all this comes from a company that has been marginalizing female characters, presenting them as a minority and sticking them into supporting roles, only glorifying them in a limited way when they are princesses.

I look forward to the day when Disney markets a movie with a female protagonist by putting her name in the title, placing her front and center on the posters around town, and making it obvious in the preview that she’s the star. Marketing is its own media and too often, as with “Frozen,” Disney’s presentation is sexist. Girls go missing. But, still, the actual movie is really good.

“Frozen” has a princess, but it also has a Queen. The princess, Anna, is a good character too. She rescues the man in love with her at least twice. The “true love” in this story is about sisterhood, not romance. But another thing I liked about the movie is that Anna is not in an either/ or situation that so many female characters are: be strong or be in love. Just like a guy character, Elsa gets to have it all.

Is the movie perfect? No way. If I were head of Disney, my Snow Queen movie would be completely different. Besides all the great plot points and characters missing from the original, I hated the Barbie look of Elsa. If you were in a snow palace in the mountains, all alone no less, would you wear heels? A dress, slit to your thigh? I felt like I was watching a doll, to the point that at times, she was painful to see. Elsa and Anna do seem too much alike physically. Also, if you were a Martian and you saw “Frozen,” you would still think females are in the minority. In spite of two female protagonists, there are many scenes in the movie where male characters far outnumber females, including scenes with no females at all. There are no scenes with multiple females and no males.

In spite of these complaints, the movie is the best animated one I’ve seen this year for female characters. There is no question that this narrative belongs to Elsa and Anna. It’s an adventure with smart, brave heroines who may look the same but act differently. Most of all, I was thrilled that my kids got to experience a magical female learning how to use her power. Can we please have some more of that, Disney?

Reel Girl rates “Frozen” ***HH***




20 thoughts on “Heroines of ‘Frozen’ melt my bitter heart

  1. I loved Frozen so much (I’m 13)! My siblings (5 and 9), my mom, and some of our friends all went to see it and I fell in love with Elsa’s character. Just a few years ago, I was much more drawn to the clean-cut, honest, innocent type of princess. But now, I adored that Elsa has a multi-faceted personality, is incredibly powerful and deals with internal emotional turmoil. I liked that Frozen had two main princesses: one that followed this mold (Anna) and another that went a little deeper (Elsa).

    I think someone already mentioned this, but I disagree about the impracticality of Elsa’s clothing change. Even though yes, she’s in the freezing cold, she says that the “cold never bothered her anyway” because of her ice powers in “Let it Go”. Her outfit could be perceived as “sexy”, but it’s clear that SHE is finally free, and her new life is purely for her own self and no one else. After years of being cooped up for the sake of the kingdom and others, she is free to express her emotions and her talents. So if an icy gown is how she chooses to show that, I think that’s pretty cool. I know that the repeated image of girls in dresses can have a bigger effect. But how often do we see a woman in a kid’s film looking gorgeous by herself, and for herself? In most Disney movies, the princess’ ball gowns only come out for dancing with a prince, the princess’ wedding, or another kind of date with a guy. Elsa’s clothing doesn’t contribute a lot to the message she sings in “Let it Go”, but it’s still important.

    Another thing I thought was interesting that really resonated with me (since I’m still growing up) was how the two sisters found a way to mature and grow into young women. Anna thought the only way to grow up was to fall in love at first, but I think she realized that relationships with her family are just as important. Elsa had been acting mature for years since she was forced to keep her feelings in for the better of the kingdom. But she truly found herself when she let her power blossom to its full potential. I think these are both feminist ways for the princesses to grow up. Both of them found love in different ways, and one of them ended up with a guy but didn’t sacrifice any of herself in the process.

    • Hi Motomotogirl.

      First of all, I love what you wrote about the sexist previews. NOt unusual, but it drives me bats! I saw that movie with my 3 daughters and they had to watch all that shit? The LEGO guy going gaga????

      About “Frozen” I mostly disagree with you. I liked the plot twist about Hans. I did not think the film was more about the princes. I thought both females were powerful, especially Elsa.

      The character that pissed me off the most was Olaf, and I liked Olaf, but I hated how he was marketed in posters as if he were the star of the movie.

      I also agree I AM SICK OF THE FEMALE PROTAG CHOOSING WHO SHE WANTS TO MARRY AS IF THIS IS HER BIG EMPOWERING MOVE. Too often, the plot is STILL all about marriage. That said, I did not feel that was predominantly the case with this movie.

      I wrote mainly blogs critical of the animator and the marketing (title changed from “Snow Queen” added male characters>)
      I don’t like how skinny and big eyed and similar the females are.

      Thanks for visiting Reel Girl and I enjoyed reading your blog, I am sharing the post on FB and Twitter


      • I actually think we agree for the most part 🙂 I just wish the romance had been less of an issue so that the sisterhood aspect of the film could shine forth. I wanted the sisterhood theme to be the CLEAR major theme, but for me it was simply overshadowed by the “who should I marry?” theme (or at least, which boy should I choose). I really wish there had been either just one boy or a boy for each sister; that way there would have been NO romantic conflict. The film just did not need the romantic conflict.

        And thank you for the share 🙂 I’ve subscribed to your blog and will be following it from here on out!

        p.s. The Olaf advertising also bothered me…. as did the character himself lol I’m a scrooge, I know.

        And yes, they changed the title, as they did with Tangled. They blame Princess and the Frog, for the most part. They really dug themselves into a hole with the Disney Princess franchise.

    • Hi Cat,

      Great review, totally agree. Love your point about never making gender an issue, that is so important. I shared your post.


  2. I’ve just been to Frozen with my four year old daughter. We really enjoyed it, the story was good and the music was great. I also loved the message of family love saving the day. However, I have the same issues with Elsa’s ridiculously glamorous outfit, which she moves very strangely in during the Let It Go sequence. Still, highly recommended, especially for Disney.

  3. Just want to point out that the Let It Go sequence makes total sense for Elsa. Of course I wouldn’t wear a thin-looking dress with a slit to the thigh in the freezing cold. But she liberating herself and she’s a snow queen. She’s freeing herself from the restrictions she was placed under when she was restrained to being a “good girl”. She was always told not to be emotional, not to make waves, not to show off her power but to conceal it. Don’t be anything that doesn’t suit your status and gender. And she freed herself, and made her own image in the way she wanted. She can wear that dress in the freezing cold because she has ice powers. She doesn’t feel the cold. That’s the point of that sequence. That she is able to dress how she wants and look how she wants and live how she wants because people know what she is. Why should she hide it? So she embraces it. And it sticks with her to the very end of the movie. I think it’s a very positive message. Look girls – here is a woman who has always been told to adhere to societal norms, never make waves, look perfect and be a good girl. But it makes her unhappy and restrained and she’s much happier in the end when she not only learns that her image can be anything she wants it to be, but also that it’s okay for her to have emotions and feel them and show them.

    Visually, that change has to be obvious. From the dark, conservative outfit she is made to wear as queen into the bright, beautiful,airy, less restrictive outfit she designs for herself. It is an outfit that represents Elsa, how she really feels and wants to be. No-one told her to dress like that. Even her sister is shocked when she sees her new look. But it gets ultimately embraced in the end. It’s a great message for little girls.

    And as an added bonus, Disney made a queen marketable as a heroine. Despite pretending that she was a villain in order to get people into the theatres.

  4. I’m with you, Reel Girl! I’ve been waiting tirelessly for a Disney princess tale that figures out how to combine strong girls/women with romance and humor, and I think Disney finally did it. Although I also agree that Elsa’s outfit change–to be more comfortable–was preposterous (from a gown into a GOWN??). Sigh. In my documentary, Seeking Happily Ever After, I explore, in part, the harm done to girls and women with seeing bland princes saves the day over and over and how it impacts our dating choices, so I was thrilled to see sisterly love saving the day. Perfect or not, we’re getting there! And I don’t think there’s any turning back.

    Michelle Cove

  5. It’s interesting that you were so quick to condemn it before you saw it, see previous posts. Please aim for a more intelligent and nuanced approach to your postings. Creating such a fervent atmosphere of fear and loathing is not constructive and really adds nothing to a more sophisticated reading of 21st century feminism/equalism. Remember little boys growing up today need to be embraced and loved so that they don’t feel angry and shamed before they are out of short trousers. Embrace the human.

    • Hi Claire,

      I condemn the marketing of the movie, absolutely. To this day, I haven’t seen a poster in San Francisco where you would know Elsa and Anna are the stars of the movie.


  6. Perhaps the best approach is to forget that there was ever an association with Hans Christian Anderson’s story. As a wholly new story it sounds quite charming, and it leaves The Snow Queen still there to be made into a film, by Dreamworks or somebody.

    • I agree with this so much. I have always appreciated Hans Christian Andersen’s stories, and The Snow Queen was always my favorite (or in the top 3). It hurts me to see the plot has been changed so much, I prefer to think this is a whole different story that is not even inspired by the original. Maybe someone can made a loyal version of it.

  7. Hi Margot !
    I had mixed up feelings about rather to watch it or not, But every feedback I got for now on are quite good. Not perfect but this movie seems worth seeing.
    Oh ! and as an anecdote, here in France and Belgium, its title stood “The Snow Queen” and not Frozen… 🙂

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