The Evolving Princess: The Progressive Feminism in Disney Films: Part Three – Frozen

In the third of a three-part Jackson Ball discusses the evolving Disney Princess, last up is Frozen….

Moving towards the contemporary end of Disney’s animated timeline, this essay’s final focus film is 2013’s Frozen. Despite being nearly 70 years later, the film meets many of the criteria first set by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, so initially this film just appears to be more of the same from Disney. It features a ‘princess’ lead character who wants to meet her true love, and then stumbles into a chance meeting with a charming prince. However, Frozen tackles all these conventions in the opening act, before spending the rest of the film subverting them.

Unlike Snow White and Belle, Frozen’s protagonist Anna meets her charming prince before her great adventure; in true Disney style she meets him, falls in love and accepts his marriage proposal on the first day they meet. Later though, in what appears to be a rare glimpse of self-awareness from Disney, Anna is repeatedly told by her companions that this is an irresponsible decision. A clear example of this is when the character of Kristoff’s reacts to Anna’s news:

Hang on. You mean to tell me you got engaged to someone you just met!?… Didn’t your parents ever warn you about strangers? …Have had a meal with him yet? What if you hate the way he eats?

(Kristoff, Frozen)

By the film’s finale, Anna has realised her mistake and calls off the engagement. Not only is Disney subverting the conventions that the studio itself set up over decades of films, but the result of this subversion is an end product that could be described as the studios first truly feminist film. If using the different feminist points that I have highlighted in this essay as an adequate criteria, then Frozen can be read through Feminist Theory as a pro-feminism film. Firstly, Anna has been given all the attributes that Susan Jefferds first praised Belle for: she’s intelligent, adventurous and dissatisfied with the notion of a simple life. In addition to this, she does not suffer from the drawback that Sean Griffin pinned to Belle; her story is not framed by male discourse. Yes, Anna meets a prince and immediately agrees to marry him, but she eventually realises her error and actively sets it right. Also, this can be argued to be a sub-plot anyway, as Anna’s primary character arc revolves around her relationship with another female character, her sister Elsa.

If Snow White reflected the submissive role women played in society in the 1930’s, and Belle reflected their complicated and contradictory role in the 1990’s, then Anna is certainly a reflection women’s social role in the new millennium. In a society where it can be argued that complete gender equality is already present, it is no surprised that a decisive character such as Frozen’s Anna exists.

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  • Laura

    These articles were great. Frozen is one of my favourite Disney movies!!

  • Trina

    Thanks for a good discussion of the situation overall, and I’m glad you’ve given the in-text citations for your sources, but I would love to see your references/bibliography, since I’d like to read the original material there, too.