Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How Disney Having Two Female Leads For "Frozen" Doesn't Approach How Fantastically Feminist "The Snow Queen" Already Was

The Snow Queen by smokepaint
Note: All four lovely illustrations for The Snow Queen here
are by 
Polina Yakovleva, aka smokepaint.
You can find her deviantArt account HERE.
The title of the main article I'm referencing is actually: Reasons Why I'm Not Supporting Disney's Frozen by The Feminist Fangirl, but I wanted to point out this article specifically in terms of the female roles aspect (rather than it being "anti-Frozen") because it discusses how much more girl-empowering (read "feminist") Andersen's Snow Queen already was, and why so many of us are kind of dismayed that Disney couldn't seem to manage those dynamics.

There's a lot of (what is coming across as) self-congratulation on the part of Disney in having not one but TWO female leads for their next princess story. Apart from being bothered that this shouldn't be a big deal in 2013 (really? We still have to point this out as being unique, special and a big achievement? :/ ), it's ignoring the fact that the feminist aspect actually took a big, giant step backward in comparison to the source material.

For a truly love summary of the women and girls in Andersen's The Snow Queen, I'll point you to Laura Athena's blog, Untraveled Worlds,  and to her post on The Snow Queen: Visions of Female Strength. Here's a list of key female figures Laura beautifully discusses: Gerda, The Robber Girl, The Snow Queen, The Princess, The Strange Old Lady, The Lapland Woman and The Finland Woman. And the fairy tale itself has even more such as the Grandmother and the Robber Girl's mother. If there is one fairy tale that represents strong females from all walks and stages of life, it's probably this one.

But back to the direct comparison. Here are some excerpts from The Feminist Fangirl's article:
The Snow Queen is one of my all time favorite fairy tales. It’s epic, melancholy, emotionally complex, and fantastically feminist... 
It tells the story of a young girl named Gerda who must embark on a journey to rescue her best friend, a boy named Kai, from both the clutches of the Snow Queen and the soul killing influence of a cursed shard of mirror that has become lodged in his heart. 
That Gerda is the active and resourceful rescuer of her passive, male best friend is already a refreshing twist on mainstream western fairy tales, but the female power on display in the story is apparent in other ways. The Snow Queen is what I would call a Bechdel Test win. Female characters outnumber male characters to a startling degree. In fact, Kai is the only significant male character to speak of. Every other role in Gerda’s hero’s journey is fulfilled by a woman, girl or even an expressly female animal guide. 
There is the Snow Queen herself, a formidable villain who’s power is treated with respect. There is Kai’s grandmother, who provides an essential catalyst to Gerda’s journey. There is the old witch woman with the enchanted garden who functions as a threshold guardian for Gerda while being characterized in a respectful manner that serves as a good subversion of the old witch trope. There is a female crow who knows how to sneak into palaces, a helpful princess who heads a side plot in which she will only marry a prince as intelligent as her (!!!), a robber and her daughter, head of a band of robbers who kidnap Gerda. The daughter is a spunky, knife wielding girl who befriends Gerda and aids her on her way. And finally, there are two women, the latter of whom helps Gerda understand the inherent power she has always had within her, a power that will ultimately save her friend, and the world. 
Please excuse my while I go squee into a pillow over that roster of amazingly diverse female characters and the female agency on display in this story.
Well, now that I’m done with that, can we just take a minute to reflect on how many incredible female characters Disney had at their disposal. Expanded on with the studio’s signature storytelling skill, these ladies could have made up one of the most diverse, predominately female casts to ever grace children’s media. Not to mention the story’s Scandinavian setting offers a great opportunity for some racial diversity and indigenous representation, from Inuit to Sami and beyond.
...That Disney feels it’s necessary to take a female driven, female dominated story and cut it down to one princess protagonist with a dashing male helper/love interest, is honestly disgusting and one of the most blatant examples of Hollywood’s lack of faith in women in recent memory. 
It’s one of those clear examples in which everything that is wrong with our media’s approach to women and female agency is even more apparent, if only because we have a clear source to compare it to...
You can (and probably should) read the entirety of the article HERE.

I have been saying I wouldn't report on Frozen anymore because the film lost those fairy tale components and so isn't really relevant to fairy tale news any more, but I think issues like this are worth discussing, because it shows how important fairy tales can be. If you didn't understand before why so many people are upset by the "detour" in story Disney has taken for Frozen (apart from it not even being a fairy tale anymore but just a snowy adventure fantasy), hopefully it's a little clearer now.


  1. Thank you for linking my blog! :D

    And I agree, it's disgusting what Disney's done with Frozen. I refuse to think of it as the Snow Queen anymore. And I won't be watching it.

    1. I agree, I am tired of people loving this movie. The main reason they made only two female characters is because 'females have too much emotion and it's hard to animate' ...Really? Yet Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, and many others have done it so well...and speaking of that the adding all the humor (Snowman side kick, Elk, jokes and songs from the men) really ruins the beauty and atmosphere of the story. Plus both the girls look just like Rapunzel and they have been marketing the toys since late September...The movie is not even out till next month ._.

  2. Lovely imagination. Lovely art work. Its so like in the fairy world.

    The beauty of the fairy world is well portrayed.

  3. YES! Disney had so many opportunities with such a rich and diverse cast of characters - particularly the compelling and multi-faceted female characters - and they blew it. Such a waste: https://medium.com/disney-and-animation/7c0bbc7252ef