Women in Fiction: Frozen

Happy 2014! I know it’s been 2014 for a couple days now, but I wanted to make sure to acknowledge the new year before I go on my little rant about female characters. Did you make any resolutions? Have you followed through with them yet? I’m personally working on reading at least one more book than I did last year.

Have you read any good books lately? Any good female protagonists? I’ve noticed a reassuring trend toward popular young adult fiction with female protagonists—in the Divergent series, the Hunger Games series, the Uglies and Matched series; and even in the realm beyond dystopian young adult fiction, with John Green’s bestselling The Fault In Our Stars. With The Fault In Our Stars in the post-production path toward becoming its own movie (and with Hunger Games and Divergent movies already out), it’s easy to take the discussion of female characters in fiction from the realm of books to the realm of cinema.

Which brings me to what I really want to talk about: Frozen. Yes, I realize the Disney movie came out last year. Around Thanksgiving, even. But belatedness is this blog’s leitmotif. And I didn’t get around to seeing the movie until Christmas, so it’s not really that belated for me.

Anyway, Frozen is a great movie. But when I excitedly told my sister how great it was and that she needs to see it, she was confused. Why should she, a young woman who just turned 27, be interested in a children’s movie? And why was I not the first person to make this strange recommendation to her? What’s so great about this wintery Disney musical?

Well, there’s the soundtrack. And there’s the beautiful animation of ice and snow. And the little bucktoothed snowman, which I begrudgingly came to accept as adorable. But what’s really exciting, to me, about the movie is the fact that it passes The Bechdel Test.

The movie, which is about two royal sisters, introduces its main characters with a test-passing scene: the two female characters talk about playing in the snow with no mention of men or romance. And this trend of portraying a real, non-man-obsessed female relationship continues throughout the movie. The sisters’ relationship with one another is more important with their romantic entanglements. And, without spoiling anything, I think I can say that even the self-righteously feminist scholar in me approves of these romantic entanglements (plural!). Mostly due to the way that marriage is not the be-all-and-end-all of the plot.

I saw Disney reaching toward this sort of female empowerment in Tangled, and doing an even better job (insofar as marriage is no longer a part of the happy ending) in Brave. But I think Frozen represents a more successful manifestation of strong female characters, with young women who have lives independent of their roles as romantic interests and as mothers. And I think this trend toward more empowered representations of young women in the narratives we create for young people bodes well for the future that these young people will grow up in. And that makes me quite optimistic about 2014.

What do you think? Did you see Frozen? Do you think it represents part of a trend of positive portrayals of women in fiction? Do you disagree with my feminist perspective, or think I’m reading too much into fiction for children? Did you catch that link to my undergraduate thesis?

Let me know! And may you have a productive and happy new year.

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