I’m just going to give you the requisite SPOILER ALERT before I even start this post, so if you haven’t seen Frozen and would prefer to not know what happens, stop reading. If you’ve seen the movie and/or are totally okay with spoilers, read on.
I went to the theater this weekend to see Disney’s newest animated feature Frozen because I’d read reviews comparing it to all the great Disney movies I grew up on, with compelling storytelling and catchy music. It didn’t totally live up to those expectations because movies like The Lion King and Mulan hold such a special place in my heart that few things can compare. But I still really enjoyed it. It had that signature Disney charm that’s appealing to both children and adults. My favorite thing about it, however, is how it defies fairy tale conventions with a twist ending that sends a powerful message to girls.
There’s certainly been a lot of discussion about how the portrayal of Disney princesses affects young girls’ perceptions of what it means to be a woman, and I certainly think the whole “someday my prince will come” idea is unhealthy and outdated. I don’t think Disney movies are the deciding factor in how a girl views herself, and it’s totally possible to enjoy a fairy tale without applying its themes to your everyday life, but it’s always nice to see that stereotype challenged, as Disney has been doing in their recent princess stories.
I loved that Disney/Pixar’s Brave was totally devoid of a love story and showed that a happy ending isn’t always defined by whether or not you get married. I also loved that it focused so much on the mother-daughter relationship, which doesn’t often get much attention in Disney movies since the moms are usually dead.
I liked Frozen, which was loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” for many of the same reasons, but what I found so interesting in this case is that I didn’t see that message coming. It’s clear throughout the movie that Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) is an unconventional Disney princess. She saves her companion Kristoff’s (voiced by Jonathan Groff) life more than once, and she’s not one to sit around waiting for things to happen to her. Similarly, her sister Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) is an ice queen who could easily have been portrayed as a one-dimensional villain but ends up being a much more complex character than Anna in many regards.