When we think of Disney Princesses, we usually conjure up the classic princesses who are delicate, pretty and obsessed with finding their prince, who usually comes in the shape of a man in the peak of physical fitness, toned up, with flowing hair and handsome features. Disney's latest venture, Frozen, certainly stays true to the classic Walt Disney Princess stories but has updated the story to reflect modern times.
For those that haven't seen this film, Frozen tells the story of two orphaned sisters, Queen Elsa and Princess Anna. Anna doesn't know that her sister has the magical powers of being able to create snow and ice from her hands; a power she struggles to control. On the day of Elsa's coronation, her secret is revealed and she flees the kingdom of Arendelle, leaving it in a state of eternal winter. Anna sets out to bring her sister back, meeting a ice selling mountain man, Kristoff and talking snowman, Olaf.
At first glance, this is another classic love story between Anna and Kristoff. Just as I thought the movie was about to steer in the very predictable direction of the-handsome-man-saves-helpless-princesses-territory, the movie completely turned around, much to my delight. This time, Disney have decided that the love between the two sisters should take precedence over any man, which is amazing. I am so glad that Disney decided to explore the territory of sisterly love for the first time.
I have a sister myself so it was really easy to relate to Anna and Elsa's relationship and clear love for each other. Even better, the Scandinavian princesses are both very real characters; independent, strong-willed, capable, witty and smart. And what's more, they aren't apologetic for what they are, (Elsa learns this lesson in the duration of the film and comes into her own and embraces her powers as a part of who she is.) Anna remains true to who she is, and doesn't downplay her intelligence or quick witted humour for the sake of the male protagonist of the film. These traits make the characters very relatable and remind girls that they should always remain true to themselves, and that there is more to life than waiting for your prince to sweep you off your feet.
Some say that Disney's classic movies give girls unrealistic expectations of men. It is true that male princes play a sizable role in the earlier Disney movies like Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid, but I don't think that's the main focus of Disney movies. Many people choose only to see the romantic aspect of the films, and focus their attention on the men, but we must not forget the female co-stars, as Frozen has reminded us.
In fact, if we scrutinized the Disney Princesses beyond complaining how thin and helplessly romantic they are, we would find ourselves surprised at the positive traits that the princesses teach young girls. Cinderella embodies hard work, hope and remaining true to yourself. Snow White represents purity, innocence and being loving and open minded. Belle is loyal and very intelligent. Jasmine is incredibly sharp witted and Ariel reminds girls that they should have their own mind, even when their opinions aren't popular.
Many are questioning whether Frozen is the first feminist Disney movie but, to me, Disney has never been anti-feminist in previous films. Disney films were made to prove to young girls that women can stand for something and be successful and that, should they find their Prince Charming, he is found through hard work, dedication, patience and persistence. What we really need to do what we watch these films, be it the classic era or the new, is not to complain that there are no real men like that but to take a closer look at the co-stars of these princes and learn from them.