I saw a post arguing why Frozen is sexist, racist and ableist. It was slammed down by the fandom because in all honesty, the arguments were not solid.
Rather than respond to a gigantic damn post, I decided to erect a new one. So here are some alternate arguments as to why elements of sexism, racism, and ableism are unequivocally present in this oscar-winning, smash hit film.
This will be long. And if you want to conflate level-headed, comprehensive critique of media with “hate,” then please skip this. <3
I would not focus too heavily on the forced romance between Kristoff and Anna specifically. Rather, I would draw attention to the pattern of Anna’s behavior and the consequences she experiences (or just completely skirts) from it.
Every decision she makes on her own results in utter disaster. Every decision is ill-informed, unadvised, and ends terribly, yet this is a character applauded for her independent decisions. Apparently the actual demonstration of efficacy is unnecessary to win the title of “feminist character.”
Not to mention, every mistake Anna makes is solved by a man.
She decides to go after her sister alone - she loses her horse and cloak - VERY LUCKILY a man with a business HAPPENS to be nearby to help her out (also she happens to be able to afford her new gear).
She demands that she and Kristoff leave on his sled NOW, right now when the light appears not to be good, without eating or resting to restore strength first - the sled is pursued by wolves which they can barely see due to the poor light (which admittedly is probably at least in part because it’s a thick woods), and a major conflict ensues which might have been nice to be rested for, aaand the sled gets demolished - luckily Kristoff and Sven save the day, even though she does take SOME part in rescuing Kristoff. She is almost certainly responsible for the loss of their transportation, with only a cutesy apology to say for herself for wrecking one of an impoverished individual’s only belongings.
She insists that Elsa would never hurt her, completely ignoring her sister begging her to back away, protect herself before something happens - and something sure fucking happens, which almost gets Anna killed and renders her nigh helpless for the rest of the movie - luckily Kristoff carries her off on his reindeer though, imagine if she didn’t have transportation or someone to heave her along?
She throws herself into the arms of the man she believes she loves, and he just leaves her to die - LUCKILY a talking fucking snow MAN helps her warm up at his own expense.
The only major thing she does that actually accomplishes something? Is getting herself killed.
The only major accomplishment of this “strong woman” is sacrificing herself. And not that sacrifice is not perfectly noble, in context of all that she almost achieves, almost manages by herself - traversing an unforgiving terrain, easing her sister’s emotional turmoil, negotiating with strangers and maturely turning down a love interest. She does not manage to do any of these things. Men do it for her. I mean, she punches Hans, sure, in the most flippant and unbelievable manner possible, and she breaks her own curse through sheer dumb fucking luck, and inspires her sister to miraculously be all better now.
Oh, and also regarding individuality of character choices, the trolls have no respect for Anna’s choice in romantic partners, and the audience is largely meant to agree with them. Because they’re right. She is completely empty-headed when it comes to relationships. They all know her mind better than she does. Silly girl.
And we have no evidence that Anna learned any kind of lesson from all her mishaps except not to marry a man she just met. That’s it. The simplest, stupidest most obvious lesson. She gets involved with a man she just met. That’s just fine. And while yeah, he asks to kiss her and is non presumptive and sweet and all, there is no clear indication that she demonstrates such restraint or maturity.
There is no evidence that the pitifully naive worldview that got Anna almost killed, disrupted lives, spurred her sister to uncontrollable violence, has changed at all. She still is hopelessly convinced that love will fix all things, just now in a platonic way. Still not a wise or comprehensive way.
Not to mention Elsa’s development is utter shit, but I’ll get to that in ableism.
Lastly, I find Elsa’s and Anna’s character designs inherently sexist, for one because of the efforts put in to lessen “unflattering” stretching of their features between frames. For two because even for Disney, these designs are kind of incredibly processed and commercial, and especially when paired with the fact that this design has been and is still being recycled consistently in Disney movies, it definitely sends the message that only ONE type of female is worthy of being the hero of a story - white, size 1, round face and huge light-hued eyes, light-ish hair, ZERO blemishes, POUNDS OF MAKE UP…
(And do NOT give me the whole, Rapunzel looks nothing like Anna/Elsa bull shit. Yes, there are differences. There are also differences between the color “pink” and the color “hot pink.” It’s kind of unimaginative to only vary along a single hue such as pink, when an entire spectrum of colors exist to choose from. So it goes for character designs.)
The scene in which Anna wakes up has always been heinous to me. It’s cute, yes. But it is hailed as so “realistic” and “relatable.” The actions of the scene may be, sure.
But her face is completely done up. This gives the implication that when someone wakes up, the MINIMUM standard of beauty that can be expected of them, UNTOUCHED, is this blemlishless face with perfectly shaped eyelashes, just the right amount of (unnatural) colors over her eyelids and on her cheeks and lips…
Pretty much all movies do this, I’ll completely grant that. That doesn’t mean any instance of it is harmless, in particular in a family movie, where little children are learning already that when they wake up, THIS is the perfect face they should have. If they don’t have it (which NO ONE does, not by this cosmetic standard), they have to take time and energy and money to meet that standard with cosmetics.
Pretending make up doesn’t exist, and piling on the eye-shadow and gloss, is heinous. It subtly tricks viewers into believing a cosmetic appearance is natural. It isn’t wrong, but it certainly is not naturally occurring, not to the degrees the media and this movie hold to.
The first point in regards to race is the ONLY poc being tiny, line-less background characters. No characters of significance, certainly none with lines, or even a close up.
And yeah, I know it’s in some Nordic-ish area. I know there’s not a fuckton of diversity, now or in the given era.
But for one, IT’S NOT LIKE THERE’S ZERODIVERSITY. The argument that the lack of diversity only represents reality is simply an excuse to justify all-white casts.
Especially when semblance to reality is NOT a significant factor in a fucking Disney movie with magic and interesting physics and spontaneous bursts of song.
For two, The Saami people.
Apparently Kristoff is intended to be of this heritage.
And some people have complained that he’s white, while others have rightfully pointed out that the Saami people are sometimes white too.
What these people are conveniently ignoring are the features of the Saami people. They tend to not resemble Caucasian facial features.
Kristoff has a solidly Aryan face.
Not to mention his representation includes a number of prevalent and untrue stereotypes of the Saami, like riding reindeer. While perhaps not extensively malicious stereotypes, it’s still total neglect to respect a living, current, underrepresented group of people for the sake of Disney aesthetic and fun.
Additionally, his family are trolls, removing any look into culture and heritage Kristoff as a character may otherwise offer in relation to the Saami people.
One Saami guy, completely white not simply in tone but in features, with mostly inaccurate garb anyway, perpetuating known stereotypes about a marginalized people.
Defending this is complicated at best.
Elsa very obviously symbolizes those with mental or emotional disorders or disabilities. Elements of how she behaves, and the beautiful imagery of her losing control in a magical sense mirroring her emotional state, are compelling and relatable for those with these kinds of issues.
What is outright offensive and despicable is her development, and the apparent overall message of the film.
First, we have the EXTREME of Elsa staying in her room for literally over a decade. Isolation in the most LITERAL sense, also making the relationship with her sister a little weird since they only really knew each other as babies then… but still BFFLs apparently.
Then she undergoes the crisis of the first act, which I personally thought was really well done, all the way up to her crowning number, Let It Go.
I do think her sudden glee was a tad rushed, but it made sense to me given that the primary catalyst of her fear, people around to hurt, was removed for the first time in her life. And she could finally breathe.
I like to think of Let It Go the way I think of Love Is An Open Door. The latter has the semblance of a cute love song, in tone and lyrics all, but the song’s true meaning in the context of the full story and in relation to the characters is completely opposite to what it at first suggests. It’s a song about denial, naivety, which ingeniously reveals not even a hint of the dire consequences to result from the blissful ignorance involved in the scene. Without context of the rest of the story, we are as blindly jolly as Anna.
Just as we are blindly proud and joyful as Elsa when she sings her power anthem. Because her anthem is also about denial and naivety - she believes running away from her problem solves it, that if she can simply strut and say she’s fine, then that’ll make her fine.
But it isn’t that simple. Her sister’s fantasy is romance with a stranger, Elsa’s is independence and strength without actually addressing her problem.
Except the song is sold as a power house song touting individuality… and the movie ultimately doesn’t contradict that interpretation.
Because while Elsa almost faces the consequences of running from her fear, of shutting out the people who love her?
She doesn’t really, because Anna is A-Okay at the end. Nobody was seriously hurt or died from her ice. No consequences.
And what really digs the last nail in any attempt to be remotely NOT ableist, is her resolution.
Elsa goes directly from point A to point C, with no B to speak of in between. She never faces her fears. She simply cowers before them, then suddenly is over them.
It’s the worst part of the entire film, something that would have DRASTICALLY helped it if changed even a little.
Elsa all of the fucking sudden going from engulfing an entire kingdom in a devastating blizzard, to care-bears singalong mode?
I understand her sister’s sacrifice was inspirational.
But recovery is slow.
Recovery takes WORK.
Recovery cannot happen with the snap of the damn fingers.
And that is exactly what occurred in this movie.
She threw out her arms, said, “Love!" and was suddenly healed completely of her intense psychological scars.
What’s awful about this is that PEOPLE REALLY THINK THIS IS HOW YOU RECOVER. PEOPLE REALLY GET IT INTO YOUR HEAD THAT YOU CAN JUST “SNAP OUT OF IT.”
This movie’s resolution perpetuates horribly damaging misconceptions about recovery and management for mental and emotional disorders and disabilities.
Also, it implies that Anna was never in fact in the wrong. It suggests it was on Elsa to simply accept Anna’s love, rather than on Anna to respect what her sister is telling her.
While it is possible that the intention is to assert they’re both in the wrong, as stated earlier, it’s never made clear that Anna has learned anything. It would seem that her childish worldview is still in tact, in fact praised for saving the day.
Love saved the day. But RESPECT had nothing to do with it.
And in real life, love is powerful, yes.
But respect is vital.
You MUST RESPECT when someone tells you how they feel.
If they say they are afraid they will hurt you, you can get seriously hurt if you decide they just need a fucking hug.
If they say they feel depressed, anxious, hurt, anything, and you say, no you’re not, you’re fine, then you are ignoring legitimate feelings and only worsening matters.
The notion that love fucking cured Elsa, completely, immediately, while the same person who love-healed her also utterly disrespected her feelings and wishes… sends a very, very complicated message about those with disabilities.
Sexism, racism, ableism - all very real components of the movie, Frozen.