A Brief Note on FROZEN (Buck & Lee, 2013) and the Feminist Heroine

FROZEN is a great Disney movie, let there be no doubt about it. I could cite simply this in support: my 11-year old niece has fallen in love with “Let It Go,” a fine theme made even finer for the ways it cuts this way and that for LGBTQ viewers. But there’s another question in the air.

I see some who claim that it’s the first feminist movie of its kind and think, well, there are precedents, depending on what you’re looking for. A colleague of mine from Washington University, Rebecca Wanzo, would cite MULAN. If we look at the long history, here, I would argue that THE SECRET OF N.I.M.H., a personal favorite, has a fairly strong female character–Mrs. Brisby. Yes, her goals are tied to motherhood, not to desire (or release of desire) alone, but desire does enter the fray. I considered her quite an amazing “single-mom” heroine when I was young. 

In the end, though, I would argue that the recent shift–the recent sequence in 3-D animation of true female heroism and plotting structured around two female characters that connect–begins with BRAVE. This is NOT to say that BRAVE achieves what FROZEN does. I grant that. FROZEN actively subverts the love’s-first-kiss trope, and gives us much fuller and stronger and emotionally rich and active characters, and, on the flip side, BRAVE is a little too modest in terms of Merida’s traits and development.

Still, BRAVE showed something: that the central love interest–the one that drives the shape of the entire plot–can be two women characters. On that score, BRAVE is not to be dismissed as quickly as some critics have. At times, the flow of history simply must encourage re-evaluation.