Feminism And Sexuality In “Frozen”

By Kristin Urban

I love the movie “Frozen.” When I first heard that it was supposedly the best Disney film since “The Lion King,” I scoffed at the silly idea. As a huge Disney fan, I knew I would at least like the new movie, for one reason or another. Besides, based off of the recent Princess movies Disney has come out with, I figured it would be a good one. But I was completely blown away by the wonderland of the  “Frozen.” I love the songs, the animation, and the strong characters.

But I absolutely love “Frozen” because of one particular song, even just because of one minute within the whole movie. That would be the brazen, beautiful moment when the character Elsa lets loose and asserts her independence and sexual freedom as a woman.

Just in case anyone is confused about when this happens, let me clarify. (Or even worse – you haven’t seen the movie! In which case, go and watch it right now! Right now!) During the mesmerizing “Let it Go” song, Queen Elsa accepts who she is and embraces her powers. During the last minute of the song, Elsa lets her hair down into a loose braid and swaps out her high collared dress for a shimmery and sheer one, with one of the longest slits ever seen on a dress. She then sashays towards the audience, ending the song by making direct eye contact with the viewer. Within this minute, Elsa proudly marks herself as a sexual being and by making eye contact, she makes it clear that she is aware of her capabilities (both magical and sexual) and is in command of them.

frozen elsa

Sure, its not like the other Princesses aren’t sexy. In fact all of them are some pretty hot ladies, and Disney has not been afraid of showing off their bods and using strong sexual appeal in movies meant for children. Who can really blame John Smith for staring in stunned silence at the scantily clad, beautiful teenager standing before him in waterfall mist? Remember, this is after he spent four months on a ship with no one but big Englishmen and a little bulldog for company. It seems that Pocahontas was not aware of her sexual attractions. Rather, Disney used the physique of Pocahontas to appeal to the male gaze (Smith and viewers), as they have done with many of their female characters. In fact, before “Frozen,” the only Princess who actually employed her sexual prowess was Princess Jasmine. This happened when Jasmine exhibited an ultra stereotypical, and a western man’s dream of the seductive Middle-Eastern woman while she distracted Jafar. I believe that the Princesses have always been aware that they are pretty – but sexual? For the vast majority of Disney movies, the Prince or leading man have been given the task to arouse the sexual feelings within the Princesses.

But Elsa? A bombshell of sexiness, she departs from the other Disney Princesses because she is actually aware of her sexual physicality and power, as she is the one who discovers it. What’s more, she embraces her sexual prowess and she is the one in control, as we know from her engaging in eye contact with the viewer. Even more interesting, Disney wants the audience to notice how Elsa has changed. When Anna sees Elsa for the first time after Elsa swaps out her costume, Anna tells her big sis that she looks “different” – “good different”. Here is Disney making sure their audiences gets the message that Elsa underwent a physical change, and that it looks good to be confident. Disney has even been able to depict Elsa as a sexual woman by not overstating the allure. Her sexual charms are not her dominating features, but they are still apparent.

I was raised on Disney movies and I love them. The Princess movies were never my absolute favorites, with “101 Dalmatians” and “Fox and the Hound” traditionally being my first picks. But I would always love to watch “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Pocahontas” and any other Disney movies available to me as a little girl. It’s not like I was exclusively watched Disney- not by far. But, with a certain affinity for the studio and growing up in Orlando, Florida while visiting Disney World at least twice a year, Disney always has had an enchanting appeal to me. So ultimately, the Disney Princesses were prominent female leads in my movie experiences as a girl. I’m willing to guess that the Disney Princesses have also had a fairly large role in the early lives of many a twenty-something woman today.

As I grew older, I began to realize the serious shortcomings and restrictions Disney had put on their Princesses. Going into college and being exposed to the Vagina Monologues, engaging in feminist theory arguments and conversation, I even became a bit abashed at my affinity for Disney movies littered with their passive women. So when I saw “Frozen,” it was like a breath of some very, very needed fresh air. The fact that Disney has been stepping up to the plate in recent years has been encouraging, but hasn’t been enough. But with “Frozen,” Disney has produced what can actually be called a progressive film, which is something I am proud of.

Since I’ve been ranting about how awesome Elsa is, I feel like it’s time to briefly discuss the other sexually assertive woman in the film: Anna. Although she didn’t have a big transformation where she got comfortable with herself and her body like Elsa did, it’s clear that Anna is in fact a confident young woman. Anna is certainly aware of her sexual power and isn’t afraid to make the first move. What with calling Hans gorgeous and kissing Kristoff, she is evidently an assertive woman.

Even though both Anna and Elsa have sexual freedom, what’s most important about the movie is how both sisters grow and evolve as very human characters. Elsa learns to love herself for who she is and realizes that it is okay to love other people as well; there is no need to hide. Realizing that she is a sexual woman is part of her self-discovery. Anna learns to use better judgment while also gaining her sister back as a friend.

This movie is certainly not free of sexism or racism and unrealistic expectations for female beauty, but it is a huge step for Disney. With gay themes, two strong female leads and a modern man in the form of Kristoff, Disney has broken free from many faults seen in other films. I first thought it was a laughable idea to think “Frozen” could be better than “The Lion King.” I still love “The Lion King” and it is definitely high on my list, but “Frozen” does outstrip it, at least for me. The story and witty characters, the beautiful songs, and the gorgeous animation of “Frozen” all caused me to love the film. But being able to watch Elsa’s transformation into a powerful and sexual woman was jaw – dropping the first time I watched it (I’ve seen “Frozen” three times now), and this was the cherry on top to a movie I absolutely, positively love.



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About Kristin


Watching too many Disney movies growing up coupled with an unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter, Kristin looks for magic everywhere around her.

While she eats chocolate and drinks tea, if you see her concentrating on a pencil, she’s probably trying to make it move with her mind. A not-so-very-recent college graduate, she is still trying to find the use for her useful liberal arts degree. A Florida native confused in Oregon, she loves going to the beach, reading good books, hanging in her hammy and snuggling her black lab while watching Downton Abbey.

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