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Essay: Is ‘Frozen’ really a feminist victory?

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  • Subject area(s): Sociology essays
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  • Published: 21 December 2019*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 1,426 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 6 (approx)
  • Tags: Feminism essays

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The Disney movie “Frozen” instantly took over the hearts of little girls across the nation. The very popular Disney movie depicts two sisters, Anna and Elsa, who must work together to save their kingdom of Arendelle. They face many challenges through journey but thanks to the help of several male supporting characters, the two sisters are able to protect the people of the kingdom. The movie is adored by young girls as it depicts two beautiful, strong female characters in what one may call leadership roles yet, many moviegoers seem to ignore the fact without the help of male characters, the kingdom would not be saved. The aspect of hegemonic masculinity continues to be on full display despite Disney’s attempt to present an illusion of female independence. While the movie “Frozen” is seen as a feminist victory, the lack of traditional patriarchy, depiction of the character Elsa as disabled and the glorification of the stereotypical housewife goal demonstrates the movie’s inability to defeat women as a male’s minority make them incapable of obtaining a position of power.
Disney created the illusion of a female obtaining power during the coronation of a sole female leader, causing many feminists to rejoice in response to the illusion. The citizens of Arendelle were not surprised that a woman will look over the country. During the ceremony, Elsa conforms to the stereotype that a woman cannot be trusted due to the takeover of her “hormones.” Allan Johnson’s researches that patriarchy needs a, “‘real man’ who knows how to ‘take charge of things,’” (Johnson, 95). Johnson’s research represents the stereotypical view that a man should be in charge of a country because, “females can’t be trusted, especially when they’re menstruating,” (Johnson, 95). Elsa becomes frustrated with her sister, Anna, who was asking for approval of her engagement to Hans, an evil conman whom she met in the last 24 hours. In her frustration, Elsa’s “hormones” cause her to freeze the kingdom. To further support the notion that women are too “hormonal” to be in a position of power, Elsa flees the kingdom instead of dealing with the severe problem she caused. Elsa’s escape from her kingdom and her problems is rooted in Disney’s theory that a man is needed to “save” a woman in her distress which leads to Hans, a man, taking his rightful position in the traditional patriarchy required to lead a kingdom.
Additionally, Elsa’s actions teaches girls that if they create a problem, they can just avoid fixing it. She teaches girls to be irresponsible by relying on others to fix problems. When Elsa runs away, Anna follows her and places the rule of the kingdom to her new fiancee, Hans who now must fix Elsa’s problems. The responsibility thrust at Hans represents traditional patriarchy as he is now the leader of the kingdom. The plot presented by the movie demonstrates that a man ends up fixing a woman’s problems. While Elsa was the woman in power, her gender caused her to become “hormonal” thus losing control. “Frozen” may celebrate the lack of traditional patriarchy by appointing a woman as leader however, the decision backfires on Disney due to their emphasis of the ideology that a man is always left with the responsibility of fixing the problems caused by a woman when Hans needs to save the kingdom after Elsa deserts her kingdom.
Furthermore, Disney presents a male with superpowers as dominantly strong while a woman is disabled when possessing any form of power. This notion is presented by Princess Elsa’s inability to control her ice superpowers. When she was a child, she accidently froze her younger sister, Princess Anna, leading to Elsa isolating herself from society due to fear of harming her sister again. Elsa’s power struggle alludes to a mental illness as the interrupt of her powers threatens her ability to lead a regular life Her isolation is characterized in Eli Clare’s research as, “a sign of moral weakness,” (Clare, 360). Elsa distances herself from society as her powers make her feel unable to contribute to it positively. Disney presents female “superheroes” to feel ashamed of their powers whereas a male with superpowers is viewed as a high being as his powers enriched his life. In the infamous song, “Let It Go,” Elsa explicitly preaches, “conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know,” (0:50-0:56). Through the character of Elsa, Disney teaches that disabilities should be hidden from public eye because it is a shame to appear different. By presenting Elsa’s powers as a disability, Disney further displays the domination of male characters in media. The company implies that women do not possess the ability to control powers which is why powers become a burden to a female but strengthen the already superior male.
Additionally, despite Anna and Elsa being superior on the social ladder due to their royal status, both girls glorify the role of the stereotypical housewife in their venture for freedom. Anna’s goal in life is to discover true love. She becomes engaged with the first man, Hans, she encounters. Although Anna is a princess, she still falls victim to the stereotypes presented by media. These stereotypes are supported by Jean Kilbourne’s research in which she finds that media teaches girls to, “value romantic relationships with boys above all else,” (Kilbourne, 179). Disney emphasizes the research by Kilbourne in presenting Anna as a “boy crazy” girl ready to give up her whole life to please a man she does not even know. The character of Anna symbolizes that the meaning of life is to find a man and, hypothetically, become his servant. Even after seeing how ridiculous her engagement to a complete stranger was, Disney capitalizes on Anna’s vulnerability by having her fall in love with Kristoff, a man she met only a few hours after Hans. Anna’s “lovestruck” persona does not educate girls to strive to be a free individual rather Disney teaches girls that their “freedom” shall be confined within their male partners desires.
On the other hand, while Anna finds her freedom in the form of a man, Elsa discovers hers through a wardrobe change. Elsa’s form of freedom communicates that girls must “dress to impress.” Jean Kilbourne reflects that, “girls are told by advertisers that what is most important about them is their perfume, their clothing, their bodies, their beauty,” (Kilbourne, 180). To express her freedom, Elsa adorns a very tight blue dress with a slit deep enough that in reality, she would flash anyone standing nearby. She also puts on spike heels to run through snow and ice in. Her shoe selection would make it uncomfortable to flee from her problems and most likely give her frostbite. Elsa sends the message that in order to appeal to the male gender, she must aim to be beautiful by dressing provocatively even if she is uncomfortable. Additionally, Elsa expresses her freedom through her brand new ice palace which completes another female desire of decorating their own home. Elsa embellishes her new home with new ice furniture. She then proudly strides through the home in her sensible spike heels. Elsa’s pride in her home decorating style relates back to the glorification of the housewife role in order to please the hegemonic male. Elsa symbolizes freedom as a manner to aesthetically please whether it is a sexy outfit or interior design. Despite both princesses being blessed with their royal positions, Disney is still unable to capitalize on an opportunity to create a vision of a dominant female rather they belittle the female characters to make them subordinate to the males.
The movie “Frozen” continues to be a massively followed and a sequel to the successful film is already in the works. While parents encourage their daughters to use the princesses as examples of how even they can be leaders in society, they overlook the aspects in how they achieved such positions. Despite Elsa being the queen of the kingdom, the movie showcases that she lacks control over her kingdom and a man is needed to fix her problems. Additionally, despite Elsa possessing superpowers, her character is weakened by them as she is unable to use them to her benefit. Moreover, both Anna and Elsa define freedom as falling in love or dressing in a sexually appealing manner in order to appeal to a male audience.. While the movie appears to be a feminist victory, the plot continues to present its female characters as unequal to males.

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