As one might expect, Children’s films are usually silly and childish, but Disney’s Frozen (2013) stands out for its quality. Unlike many children’s films, Frozen does not lack believability in the manner that most children’s films do; it is indeed compelling. Children’s films can also contain implicit morals and meanings. Frozen is interesting in a cerebral sense for its allegories, aesthetic, and therefore implicit meaning. After looking at and studying these things, I have come to see the implicit meaning of Frozen as a feminist interpretation of gender relations. Thus, in this essay, I will show the feminist allegories and the collective implicit meaning of the film.
The aesthetic of Frozen is emblematic of the European ideal. The story is set in the fictional city of Arendelle, which sounds almost like a word of Tolkien’s Elvish. The city is set between luminesque snowy mountains and a calm warm body of water. It could as well be a city in Switzerland. The Arendelle landscape seems to express both pure warmth and pure coldness. Although they are opposites, warm and cold are also unified in this juxtaposition as one, just as body and mind are unified in the human being. The human being’s body and mind are metaphysically his or her passion and reason. Without either, the human being would be less than human, and Arendelle likewise would not be Arendelle without both warmth and coldness.
In an early scene, there are foreign dignitaries and Arendellean citizens gathered in the city. We overhear parts of conversations betwixt the parties of people; all of whom are speaking English, in accents that include French, English, Irish, and German. The characters include a prince, two princesses, trolls, a magic snowman, and a talking snowman. The characters have names like Christof, Hans, Sven, et cetera. Such characters have blue eyes, brown eyes, blonde hair, red hair, brown hair, and all have pale skin. It is obvious, then, that Arendelle is a European city that is lived in by Europeans and surrounded by other European lands and cultures. Thus, Frozens’ aesthetic is European and bewitchingly Nordic.
Allegory of Ice
The name of the film begs the question—what is frozen?—to which the answer obviously is ice. Since ice is so innate to the film, it is part and parcel of the film, so it would be a mistake to think or talk about the film without doing the same for the ice. The first two scenes involve ice intimately, although that is not explicitly mentioned. The first scene is set deep in Arendelle’s mountains. Tough-looking men with masculine voices sing as an opening song the Frozen Heart:
Ice has a magic,
can’t be controlled.
Stronger than one, stronger than ten,
stronger than a hundred men! Ho!
Born of cold and winter air
and mountain rain combining.
This icy force both foul and fair
has a frozen heart worth mining.
Cut through the heart, cold and clear.
Strike for love and strike for fear.
There’s beauty and there’s danger here
Split the ice apart
Beware the frozen heart.
The Frozen Heart obviously has particular relevance to the scene, wherein men are cutting ice, but that is not its only purpose; if it were, it would make little sense. The Frozen Heart sets up the allegory of ice that can be seen throughout the film. It is beautiful, dangerous, can’t be controlled, and superior to men, but men still try to control or “mine” it. It is effectively an allegory of female nature in accordance of how feminists view male/female interaction. Moreover, the allegory mirrors the following plot as an anti-male moral lesson.
The second scene shows us the princesses Elsa and Anna. Elsa makes the snow and ice magically while Anna plays. The contrast of these two scenes is clear: women create but men destroy. It is never explained why or how Elsa has such power, except that she is female. It is a long running trope of literature and film that women are metaphysically superior to men, so no explanation is needed. But, then, Elsa accidentally injures Anna by casting ice onto Anna’s head. For that, Anna is cured by magic trolls, but her memory of it is erased. The princess’ prototypically patriarchal father instructs Elsa that she must never use her magical gift again but, instead, learn to control her magical gift as a secret. Elsa must be a “good girl,” her father instructs. “Good girl” is important because it is a loaded term that is associated with Cultural Conservatism. Being a “good girl,” Elsa follows these instructions, but both Elsa and Anna become miserable. Thus, the lesson is to obey patriarchal authority is to be miserable.
Of that, the film also teaches its contrapositive. At Elsa’s engagement, after she hears of Anna’s engagement to a foreign prince (Hans), Elsa loses control of her magic again. Elsa is humiliated and afraid, so she escapes to the mountains. In the mountains, Elsa builds a castle of ice for herself with her magic powers. Again, it is never explained how with no training or experience Elsa is able to build a castle for herself, except that vaginas are magic! Elsa sings her character song, then, celebrating her escape from patriarchal authority:
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know!
Let it go, let it go
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
Suddenly, from her stoic and miserable demeanor, Elsa appears smiling with long braided blonde hair and wearing a long blue dress. We see the lesson, once more, to be to escape patriarchal authority is to be happy and beautiful.
The use of archetypes is also important in understanding the elevation of women and delegitimization of male power. Such use of archetypes seems quant at first, but then it becomes apparent that these are used to deconstruct and discredit them within the plot. And, further, the plot works to inverse the archetypes by the end of the plot.
In the film, the princess Anna has two love interests: Hans and Christof. Hans and Christof are a juxtaposition of male character in both their actions and appearance. Hans is a foreign prince, visiting Arendelle for the princess Elsa’s coronation into queen. He is very handsome in classically masculine manner and even resembles the Princesses’ aforementioned father. His reddish-brown hair, long jaw, bright eyes, and sideburns give him a distinctly aristocratic Victorian look. It is evident that Hans is the archetype of the handsome prince to whom the beautiful princess is married, and they live happily ever after—blah, blah, blah. Following the archetype, Hans does propose marriage to Anna who accepts, but it is revealed later than Hans also plans to kill both princesses in varying capacities and take the throne of Arendelle throne for his lonesome.
But Christof, however, is a negation of that archetype because he is a negation of how men have traditionally looked and acted in such stories. He has no family other than a proxy family of magical trolls who raised him as a child, for which the reason is never explained. He lives in the mountains, where he cuts and sells ice, but he has no contact with the people to whom he sells that ice. His only friend is Sven the reindeer to who he seems to be able to talk, but then again the high altitudes and isolation might have just driven him a bit mad. Whether it is madness or telepathic ability, he sings to his reindeer:
Reindeers are better than people
Sven, don’t you think that’s true?
Yeah, people will beat you
And curse you and cheat you
Every one of them’s bad except you
That is, in so many words, Christof hates the world because he hates people. He is a nihilist and rejects the world for either his own madness or the companionship of his reindeer. Juxtaposing Hans and Christof juxtaposes the traditional male archetype with a self-loathing nihilist; between whom, the film’s good character is the nihilist. Thus, the film teaches us, to be noble is to reject traditional masculinity.
Again, Frozen reaches a climax when Elsa injures Anna with her magic, hitting her with ice in the heart. Unlike Elsa’s earlier injury of Anna, it is a fatal injury and will kill Anna. Hans intends to use that injury to execute Elsa for treason who has been captured and meanwhile simply allow Anna to die of her injury, so the throne of Arendelle will be all his. Moreover, it is only an act of true love that can save Anna from her deathly fate. Her other romantic interest (Christof) rushes to save her, but before he can do so, Elsa sacrifices herself for Anna and therefore save both Anna and herself. That act is the inverse of the mythos of a heterosexual “act of true love,” continuing the trope of female metaphysical superiority. Further, it implies that female-female love is superior to male-female love in an act of allegorical Lesbianism.
Overall, Frozen is a very high quality film. Something interesting about Frozen is it is contradictory in the sense that it is aesthetically positive but morally negative. In contrast to the negroizing of classic stories, Frozen boasts a splendid Nordic aesthetic in a European setting and culture that is complimentary to European Identitarianism. Frozen could be a good choice for white parents to watch with their children for that reason. And yet, it also seeks to deconstruct the archetypes that are associated with that aesthetic. Such traditional archetypes are introduced to the story and then destroyed, and in their place, a vague sense of Nihilism is erected. Beyond pure destruction, the only moral lesson that is given is the perpetuation of the trope that women are metaphysically superior to men. But relations can’t exist where there is not first respect, and that trope destroys the basis for respect between men and women. Accordingly, male-female relationships in society are damaged to the point of deterioration. Since society starts with the family, society is also destroyed by that loss of respect between men and women.
Vecho, P. D. (Producer), Buck, C. and Lee, J. (Director). (2013). Frozen [Motion Picture]. USA: Walt Disney Pictures.