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.
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.
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: 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.