As I watched the latest Disney Princess animation, Frozen I felt my inner child break through as I fell in love with Princesses Elsa and Anna. Disney exceeded my expectations by creating two female characters that strayed away from the traditional princess definition. The writers made great strides in manifesting a realistic modern day princess that young girls could embody and admire. Yet, despite this progression towards a stronger, independent princess, the misogynistic undertones remain prevalent beneath the fluffy happily-ever-after Disney exterior.
In Frozen, Princess Elsa discovers at a young age that she has magical snow powers. A simple wave of her hand can transform anything into a winter wonderland. As children, she and her little sister Anna used Elsa’s mystical gift to entertain themselves. Until one morning their fun and games go awry, when Elsa accidentally strikes Anna in the head, freezing her into a coma. The King and Queen hear Elsa’s screams, and the family rushes to an enchanted troll patch in the forest for help. The troll leader informs the King that the head is easily remedied, but if Elsa were to freeze someone’s heart, they would be killed. The troll’s presentiment subverts Elsa’s innocent power into a curse of monstrosity that could one day wreak great danger over the entire kingdom. Each time she loses control of her emotions, her powers jump off the deep end with them. It is clear that this scene exemplifies the patriarchal perspective that a woman is too emotional to handle a vast amount of power with a clear head. Every day the media parades sound bites and written statements from critics telling us women are too emotionally involved to become reputable figures in the political sphere.
Princess Elsa’s body becomes the locus of fear in which her powers pose a threat to masculinity. And so the King thinks it is in the best interest of his kingdom and family to confine Elsa within the four walls of the domestic sphere in hopes of suppressing her “dangerous” powers. Her father gives her a pair gloves, ordering her to “Conceal it. Don’t feel it.” These gloves are a metaphysical representation of the male silencing the female voice. Through isolation and prohibiting Elsa to learn how to control her magic, the King is able to contain Elsa within the watchful eyes of the omnipresent male gaze. With no power and a reticent voice, Elsa is easily forced into submission by the overpowering male construct, which coincidentally is a king – the ultimate symbol of male power.
The fear of matriarchal dominance looms over the film’s plot like a dark cloud. As Elsa grows into a young woman, she begins to introvert herself for fear of harming others. Soon she personifies the “Ice Queen:” cold with a distant attitude, a far cry from the feminine grace and kindness attributed to the traditional princess. During Elsa’s Coronation ceremony, not once is there mention of her finding a King to help her rule the Kingdom. Her callous demeanor toward a love life is threatening to the opposite gender because it is appalling for a man to hear that a woman does not need him to help her rule an entire kingdom.
And thus begins the constant power struggle between men and women throughout the movie. The catalyst for this incessant power struggle begins when Elsa’s powers are exposed to the kingdom at her Coronation Ball. Following her impressive display of power, the male characters Prince Hans and the Duke of Weselton are constantly trying to capture and kill Elsa or “the female threat”. Their male driven egos are determined to relinquish the new Queen of her powers and take back their throne for the patriarchy
Fortunately, the patriarchy does not succeed in winning the battle between men vs. women, masculine vs. feminine. The sisters prove that their everlasting familial bond and bad ass girl power trumps all.