(WARNING: If you haven’t seen “Frozen” and care about whether or not it is spoiled, don’t read this)
I may be 30 years old and childless, but I’ll admit it–I’ve seen and enjoyed “Frozen”. Considering the movie’s grossed half a billion dollars, I can’t be the only one in this situation.
Granted though, the group that really made this Disney retelling of “The Snow Queen” the massive success that it is is little girls. Much like my peers and I took to Ariel and Belle back in the early 90s, the tiny tots of today turned Elsa and Anna in the two new princesses to be on the Disney block.
That’s right, there are two “Frozen” princesses. The older one, Elsa, is the titular snow queen. She has magical powers that allow her to turn things to ice and manipulate the winter weather, but she doesn’t have complete control over them, so sometimes she accidentally freezes people or things, including her little sister. She also gets to sing “Let It Go”, the breakout song from the movie that recently won an Oscar. Here, have a gander:
The younger princess is more of the traditional Disney mold. Anna is young and sheltered, but is forced out into a whole new world in an effort to save her sister. She has not one but two suitors and dreams of a world much bigger than her little bubble of a life inside her castle. Note the spunky pigtails, but the decidedly less glamorous dress:
When I was talking with my friend Jeff about his four-year-old daughter’s obsession with the movie, he mentioned how much she loved Elsa. It didn’t surprise me, as his daughter always seemed to like super heroes and he goes out of his way to make sure little D doesn’t get too preoccupied with traditional Disney princess types.
He informed me that pretty much every little girl prefers Elsa to Anna though. He told me a story of going to Target in search of Elsa toys only to find all those shelves empty, yet all the Anna toys were fully stocked.
Apparently all the little girls like Elsa. Jeff acted like it was obvious she would be the favorite. “She has powers, she has the best song, of course they like Elsa.”
Clearly little girls’ priorities have changed since I was of Happy Meal-ordering age. I suppose I should trumpet the advent of feminism and progressive film heroines who are not all about marrying some dude they just met and only aspiring to be a wife and a mother.
But here’s the thing…
Elsa’s life blows.
I mean, this girl can’t even touch anyone without the risk of killing them. She is the literal and metaphorical frigid shrew who has to live a life as a spinster not because she wants to, but because she might seriously hurt someone she loves if she tries anything but this lonely life. Look at her hands in this photo. She has them tightly clasped, she spends the movie wearing gloves (though I do admit all those pretty gloves do give a point to Team Elsa). For the entire movie, Elsa either spends her hours locked in her room not talking to people or flitting about her ice palace she built to live out her days all by herself.
At the end of the film, she and Anna reconcile and Elsa returns to life in the palace, but we never get any indication that she will find companionship or ever be able to touch another human being. Granted, we also don’t know if she really wants companionship, but given how upset she seems when she rants away into “Let It Go”, you get the impression it bothers her at least a little. They say that love is the key to harnessing Elsa’s powers, but we never see her have anything except sisterly love to use as an example.
Meanwhile, you have Anna, who gets to be spunky, funny, go on adventures and meet not one, but two boys who think she is awesome within 48 hours of entering the dating world. If that’s not enough, she is voiced by Kristen Bell, who I think I have mentioned before is my biggest of girl crushes. Anna gets to save the day, Anna gets to befriend the funny magical Josh Gad-voiced snowman, and Anna even gets to be the martyr, almost dying for her sister’s mistakes not once, but twice.
In other words, Anna gets everything, while Elsa is the Jan Brady.
The movie has a lot of fun using Anna to offer some funny commentary on the whims of past Disney princesses to great effect. When she gets engaged to a dude she just met, numerous people react with righteous indignation. Yes, it is silly that Anna wants to marry some guy she just met, but her desire for companionship, even just a new friend or two, which she expresses in her song “For the First Time in Forever” isn’t that outlandish or anti-feminist of a desire, is it? Who doesn’t want friends and people to talk to each day?
I should also take the time to point out that Anna gets her shit done all on her own. Yes, she enlists the help of Kristoff to guide her up the mountain, but she hires him, pays him for his services, and doesn’t let him slack off on the job.
I guess what I am getting at is that I know that I should be happy that little girls of today are aspiring to be more than just Sleeping Beauty, literally doing nothing until the man of your dreams comes along and only through his actions allows you to be an actualized person, but doesn’t Elsa seem a bit too far in the other direction? Is the answer really to put forth a princess who literally can’t have anyone in her life because she is just so darn powerful?
Because, to me, Anna seems like the better option. She may not have powers, but she is capable, she filled her life with friends and people she cares about and, while she almost rushed into an ill-advised marriage, she learned some hard lessons about love and growing up that she will hopefully put to use in the future? She is flawed, but fun. She ends up with a guy, but she cares more about saving the day and her sister than ending up in a romantic relationship.
Maybe priorities really have changed a lot in the two decades since I was a little girl. In many ways, it feels like progress, but when I hear that little girls would rather be Elsa than Anna, I have to wonder if this is as good a thing as people are making it out to be. I’d like to hope if I had a daughter, she’d be one of the lone Anna fans. We could comb the Target aisles buying clearance Anna merchandise hoping there is a space for her to be happy that exists somewhere between the classic Disney princess and the frigid snow queen.