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A Skeptical Look at the Newest Disney Princess Film, Frozen

The promotional art for Frozen, which features two white women dressed in medieval clothes

Disney released the trailer last week for Frozen, the newest installment in its princess franchise that's based off the tale of "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen.

The trailer itself is princess-less, instead following the antics of a snowman named Olaf and a reindeer named Sven as they vie for a carrot. It's hard to tell what the story will actually be about—as of yet, not much is known about the film's plot. But what we do know is enough to have put some feminists on alert.

The problems with Disney princesses have obviously been reviewed before here at Bitch and elsewhere. With Frozen, it looks like Disney is continuing with its same-old, same-old dynamics.

The Hans Christian Andersen story "The Snow Queen" is a great tale. It follows little girl named Gerda who goes on an icy journey all alone to find her kidnapped friend Kai, who is a boy. It's the opposite of a damsel in distress story.

The Disney version has rewritten the classic fairytale in a way that gives the heroine less credit. In the Disney version, the main character Anna goes on a journey to find her sister Elsa, who has covered the kingdom in eternal winter. But not only is she not rescuing a boy, she's accompanied on the journey by a mountain man named Kristoff.

It's disappointing to see a story that was originally about a deeply independent and brave young woman on a rescue mission turned into a romance, as it inevitably will be. No one at Disney has inferred that a romantic relationship between Anna and Kristoff will be part of the movie, but romantic love is central to almost every Disney princess's story—and besides, why else add the character of Kristoff in the first place? Even if they don't fall in love, and he merely acts as Anna's guide, the fact that she needs one at all reproduces stereotypes about female weakness and the need for a strong male helper that the original narrative of "The Snow Queen" bucks.

Also disconcerting is the character of Elsa. It's nice to see a princess with a sister in a franchise where most heroines have few to no strong relationships with other women. But it's not so nice to see that sister being positioned as the potential villain. This is especially the case on the heels of Brave, which, for all wasn't perfect in the film, centered on a healthy, empowering, and positive female-female (mother-daughter) relationship. Is it really too much to ask for that to happen twice in a row?

There may be some hope on the horizon. Frozen will, at the very least, be the first feature film to come out of Disney Animation Studios that features a female director (Jennifer Lee, although she shares the credit with Chris Buck). Plus, most of the above is speculation – maybe Anna and Kristoff won't fall in love, and maybe Anna and Elsa will have a positive relationship, and maybe Elsa won't turn out to be the villain, or if she is, maybe she'll survive at the very least. As a kid who grew up with Disney, and an admitted (if ashamed) fan of Disney Princesses, I'd really like to see that. But from where I'm standing, it doesn't look terribly likely.

Related Reading: We reviewed the pros and cons of Frozen when it came out in theaters.


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Comments

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Damn!

The Snow Queen is one of my favorite stories...and it had such an impact on me as a child. I was fascinated by Gerda's brave quest, and horrified by Kai's mutation by the sliver of the troll mirror in his heart and eyes. Very sad to hear that Disney has plans to alter the story so significantly.

I totally agree with you. But

I totally agree with you. But I don't see how Elsa being the villain is bad... I mean, it doesn't make the movie more misogynist to me.... a villain is a villain, doesn't matter the sex of him/her.

(sorry for my bad english... greetings from Quebec :P)

My only worry is that they

My only worry is that they might have a very competitive relationship. There are far too few female friendships and alliances in these movies as it is.

Also, hello from Montreal!

Hans horse

Personally, the best part of this movie - for me - will be Hans adorable Fjord horse. I do find it interesting that of all horses Disney could have used , they chose to go with the rare Norwegian Fjord horse.

Hans horse

I agree! This horse is fanatstic!

Looks like its going to star

Looks like its going to star more white girls, too. Shocker.

I wonder if they are going to

I wonder if they are going to include the little robber girl as a character. As far as I'm concerned she is the best part of the original story.

White girls

The film is about a Norwegian Kingdom. Norwegians are WHITE, sorry. What's your problem?

"Brave" has a positive mother-daughter relationship?!

I completely disagree with that sentiment. I wrote a long blog post about it, Why I Didn't Like Brave. I hated Elinor, and I hated the way she treated Merida.

Not to derail, but you

Not to derail, but you realize that Elinor's treatment of Medrida was THE POINT of the movie, right? The story was about the mother learning to accept her daughter, and to loosen her own views on traditional gender roles. If there wasn't a conflict between Merida and Elinor, the movie wouldn't have much of an emotional core--or a plot. Elinor's restrictive rules for Merida are in no way represented as being right. What I appreciated was the balance the movie struck in portraying Elinor's repressive, controlling character with the idea that she does really seem to want what's best for her daughter, even if she's misguided in her actions. Just because Elinor is a protagonist and a sympathetic character doesn't mean that the film was not critical of her actions towards Merida. The point of the film is that, by the end, she realizes that she's stifling her daughter and learns to be more open-minded.

/endrant. But seriously? Watch the movie again.

ATTN MODS the above is spam

just letting you know.

I am going to wait and see

I am going to wait and see the film before judging it. It is hard to judge a movie by its trailers or marketing campaign.

Also worth nothing that Jennifer Lee, the co-director is also listed as a co-screenwriter as well. She also co-wrote Wreck-it-Ralph which I my opinion was a far better film then Brave.

Snow Queen

I actually wondered if Kristoff was playing the role that the reindeer plays in H C Andersen's original story. He assisted Gerda since he had the ability and strength to move fast through the snow. Gerda still was the one who undertook the quest and the hero of the story. Maybe it will be the same in this movie. Kristoff helps Anna because he knows the terrain and can be her guide, but she is the one who undertakes the mission and the only one who can save her sister.

Oh, and Fjord Horse mom-- I got excited to see the Fjording. I always thought they were ideal to be animated, and they are a symbol of Norway.

Frozen

It's great that woman have become independent in the last century, we have proven that we can look after ourselves, we have shown men that we can do everything they can, we have proven that we are equals and it's this last point EQUALS I wish to bring to your attention.

I love the fact that there are Disney movies that focuses on the fact that woman are not helpless etc. however I also appreciate movies (such as this one to be) where both sex all pulled into a quest or a story. I think the male being there does not threaten the heroin’s title- of I can do it all by myself- it puts emphasis on the fact that it is sometimes better to do it together. I think the idea behind the story even the potential villain is great – it shows that sometimes something meant good can turn out entirely the opposite but not only that it shows that something like this could happen to any character in that story. There might even be some other ‘hidden ideas’ we haven’t picked up as yet.
Disney stories teach kids a lot of things (don’t think they don’t pick up on the hidden meanings such as shown in Brave and many others). I loved one of the trailers I saw, I’m 22 btw and really excited to see it in the cinema.

PS. The Innocent Romance presented in the Disney movies truly is beautiful and I hope it's something that will not be lost.

I hope you all have seen the

I hope you all have seen the movie now, because almost all these skepticisms pretty much get turned on their heads! The trailer was very misleading so there was no way to know that, but romance is not the central focus, it's the sisters' relationship. Also, yes, Anna has a guide, but he doesn't even DO anything in the important action scenes, it's all her. I think they surprised everyone with this family-themed, girl power movie.

Can we get a frozen reprise?

I would love to see a new review of frozen, please.

The charming love story gets flipped upside down. We see the pitfalls of traditional "disney prince meets princess happily ever after".

The real love story is between Elsa and Anna, not Anna and Hans or Kristoff.

Elsa, once she flees sings about how she is finally free of all of the expectations. She rises above her fear to become a strong woman in her own right. She casts aside being a good girl and explores her power: there is no vilification here.

Yes, Disney has got it wrong before. But can't we discuss when they get things right?

Last time Disney was 'Brave' was with 'Hunchback of Notre Dame'

Probably among the most feminist Disney heroines (& interestingly not a princess nor becomes one) is Esmeralda. Yes, Victor Hugo's novel is toned down & simplified for children but the main story remains surprisingly strong and is ultimately Disney's darkest classic. Ignore the annoying singing gargoyles and you have a beautifully hand drawn animated film with a street-smart Gypsy girl who doesn't suffer fools, kicks butt, and knows how to take care of herself. The music score is gorgeous too, like a medieval opera.

(Btw, yes I know 'Brave' is from Pixar)

I agree that Frozen deserves an updated review from someone that actually saw it. From what I've heard, Disney went to great lengths to break their traditional princess mold in this story.

We have a new review!

This article was written before the film came out, we have a new Frozen review from Bitch, too.


Bitch Media Online Editor

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Just saw Frozen last night

I write this post with complete understanding that 'Frozen' is a movie primarily directed at children. I am not as familiar with the original story as many of those who posted here so I cannot speak to any inconsistencies but standing on it's own merits, everything about this movie with the exception of its stunning animation, was terrible. My husband and I left the theatre in instant agreement on the matter. First and foremost, the music was mediocre at best. All of it was entirely forgettable. With movies like this, there should be at least one song that you are humming as you leave the theatre. Sadly, there was not. No "Under the Sea" or "A Whole New World" moment. Secondly, there were endless holes in the story....glaringly obvious ones that reflect a poorly written script/story. For instance; where/how did the Queen get her power? There was absolutely no back story, no narration to set it up. Didn't the writers think a kid might want to know that? The characters were totally 2 dimensional and under-developed even for a children's story. One of the things that really bothered me was a scene were the Queen was in a slit up the knee, off the shoulder, totally form-fitting dress. She walks and sways across the floor in a way that almost appears seductive. All the while, she is singing about finally being able to be her real self. I'm as left as they come but it doesn't take a prude to feel like this is inappropriate for children. This somewhat sexualized image of the Queen was totally unnecessary to the story. As movies go, I am super easy to please so I was really surprised to see nearly NO poor reviews of this movie when I searched the internet. This site is one of the first.

it's frozen not "The Snow Queen"

i personally loved the story of frozen xx Frozen is an adaptation of The Snow Queen and not literally "The Snow Queen".. it was inspired by the story of Hans Andersen..and it took it's own spin from that. xx loved both stories!