“Frozen” Marks Improvement In Feminism, Accuracy In Cultural Representation

By Olivia Neal and Kinsey Danzis

Why has everyone been obsessing over Disney’s “Frozen” lately? Well, some movies are worth melting for.

Disney’s latest and greatest animated film brings together strong female characters, accurate cultural portrayal and talking snowmen. What more could a viewer ask for?

Apparently a lot, given the Internet’s complaints. “Frozen” is undeniably different from classic Disney animations, but some say it’s not different enough.

In the past, Disney films have had similar story arcs with most of its early princesses being young, white women. They’re saved by their true love and then they get married. Just look at “Sleeping Beauty,” “Snow White” and “Cinderella.”

​However, “Frozen” deviates from these stereotypes. While it doesn’t necessarily branch from the theme of young white characters, it properly portrays the culture it represents.

​It focuses on the lives of two sisters, Anna and Elsa. Most major plot and character developments revolve around the two girls, not their romantic lives — or lack thereof, in Elsa’s case.

​“Elsa doesn’t really care about finding love, it’s not on her mind at the moment, and that’s important for girls to see,” said Early College senior Jordan Smith. “But Anna shows that you can have a really good character who falls in love immediately with lots of people, and that’s okay. It’s just another type of personality.”

It’s essential to show girls that they can live outside of love. It shows them that they can love without losing themselves. ​Elsa and Anna demonstrate that both platonic and romantic relationships are equally important.

​“Life is bigger than just Prince Charming,” said Kristen Bell, who voices Anna, in an interview with The Showbiz. “When you find him it’s great, and you can live alongside someone, but until then you’re allowed to live vivaciously.”

​Developed female characters with both strengths and weaknesses are an important part of movies, especially those targeted towards kids. When little girls see these movies they should feel inspired and supported. When little boys see them, they should see how wonderful women can be.  

​“When we’re powerful and strong women, we wrestle with letting that be and still being loved,” said Idina Menzel, who voices Elsa, in an interview with The Independent.

If we want our children to grow up believing in themselves and others, we should show them what that looks like on screen.

​“Frozen” isn’t the first movie to have well-written female characters, but it’s made significant strides from the classics.

However, some who focus on the racial representation rather than gender claim that the film has made no improvement upon past themes.

The most prominent complaint is that of whitewashing, or flooding a movie with fair-skinned characters rather than those of darker skin. Critics rant that Disney has kept to its trend of keeping minorities from the spotlight.

​Their complaints aren’t unfounded given the movie’s abundance of caucasians. You only see minorities in the background of one scene and all of the main characters are white.

Elsa’s appearance, especially, has garnered criticism.

​“Elsa, per Disney’s usual whitewashing, falls in line with their typical fair-skinned, light hair, blue-eyed (character),” wrote Kerensa Cadenas for Indiewire.

​This stereotype is a common misconception. Before Elsa, the most recent blue-eyed blonde Disney princess was Aurora from the 1959 film “Sleeping Beauty.” Fifty-four years’ difference isn’t exactly “typical.”

​Despite that, it’s clear that Disney has a history of pretty pale royalty. They’ve included different ethnicities, such as Scottish, German and Danish, but these characters are still white.

​“Unless a Disney movie is based off a specifically non-white culture, you typically don’t see much diversity,” said Smith.

​Arendelle, the land where “Frozen” takes place, is based on 19th century Norway. The culture of this land is based on that of the Sami people, who were mostly pale.

​In the end, it’s a question of whether it’s better to sacrifice diversity or cultural accuracy.

​“If you’re trying to represent every single race and ethnicity and you put it into one film, then you’re giving up historical accuracy,” said Early College junior Jordan Richmond. “If you try to maintain historical accuracy, you’re going to make someone mad because a particular race wasn’t included despite the fact that it wasn’t really present in that area at the time.”

​Disney chose the latter for “Frozen,” and despite the criticisms, we should consider how accurately it represented the area and culture during this time.

​“If ‘Frozen’ portrays a certain culture of mainly pale-skinned individuals, then I think they did an excellent job,” said JaEric Brooks-Shoffner, administrative and research assistant for the multicultural education department. “If Disney wanted to make a movie about an African tribe where everyone was dark-skinned, would we still sit here and argue that it needs to be accurate and diverse?”

​Ultimately, “Frozen” is culturally accurate in its portrayal of the Sami culture, and progressive in its feminist motifs. Disney is moving in the right direction, and anyone who says differently should take some advice from Elsa and let it go.


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