On Frozen (spoiler alert)

The latest animated film from Disney is out, and it’s a doozy. Talk about turning tradition upside down, this movie takes the Disney princess paradigm and rips it apart. The cute young prince is a traitor, and it’s a working class fellow who shows what it takes to be a real man. The story is an old one, perhaps the oldest one, about two siblings who get into trouble and end up apart. This isn’t Cain and Able, but Elsa and Ana, close as young children, find themselves separated by more than space as adults. As it is with almost all Disney products, the dark cloud of loss hangs over the film when the girls’ parents are lost in a shipwreck, turning the young girls into orphans. The movie recounts the coming of age of both sisters–one will be queen, the other, trouble. The wild card in this magical kingdom is Elsa’s powers over cold, ice, and snow, and her inability to control those powers. The movie quickly settles into a permanent winter, Elsa has exiled herself from her kingdom, and Ana has set out to save her accompanied by a man who sells ice, a goofy reindeer, and an even goofier snowman–the court jester of the film. The film’s academy award winning song, “Let It Go,” is Elsa’s anthem of release, liberty, and freedom from the constraints of the male dominated patriarchy under which she has been living her entire life. It is her now absent father who has condemned her to a life of solitude, away from her sister, in which she must not use her powers, which are a metaphor for female agency–the ability of women to decide their own futures regardless of what the male members of the family might have to say. Elsa is strong, powerful, not a helpless Disney princess that needs saving by some handsome male character, albeit woodsman, prince or whatever. Elsa is eventually saved by Ana who makes a gesture of true love toward her sister. Elsa’s anthem, “Let It Go,” underscores her ability to recognize publically that she is a strong woman with the ability and desire to make her own decisions about her life and that the patriarchy can go take a long walk of a short pier. In the end, the typical Disney prince has been cast into exile, the castle doors are flung wide, and Elsa will just be herself now that she has nothing to hide. She will not be someone else’s idea of a perfect helpless female, and she doesn’t need any males around to reinforce either her authority or her identity. She rejects spurious myths about femininity, about how good girls act, and about female passivity in the face of male authority. She rejects tradition, embracing her new identity as an independent and happy person who can live on her own. The movie does not end with any weddings, although one wonders about Ana and her ice salesman boyfriend–she has been learning about love from a snowman who likes warm hugs.