Gender Stereotypes and Performativity in Frozen Movie
Since it is holiday already, so I have more time to gather the data and publish this article, which is entitled Gender Stereotypes and Performativity in Frozen movie.
I analyzed this movie in order to complete the assignment given in Children literature class. But it turned out interesting! I focused only one theory; performativity from Judith Butler. Check out the analysis from my paper!
The writer analyzes Frozen movie by focusing only one theory; performativity from Judith Butler. In order to not broaden it into some theories that may be found in the plot, the writer thinks the misconstrued-performances of the main characters, Anna and Elsa are easily seen and become vast majority start from the beginning until the very end of the movie. But it doesn’t mean other theories are forgotten. Something that the writer immediately thought about when finishing the movie was that Frozen is perhaps the queerest animated film ever produced by Disney–queer as being a theoretical practice centered on the deconstruction of binaristic thinking (i.e. visualizing gray areas in between the black and the white), a rethinking of what constitutes and upholds performativity (especially in terms of identity), and even more so, and the disruption of unnecessary regulations that prevent people from achieving a livable life. The writer is not the only one who approaches this film as queer. There are a lot of discussions which deeply discuss this interpretation actually.
The exploration used by the writer;
Visit a library or watch a movie and browse through the collection of picture books intended for very young children. Can you evidence of a repeated interest in the “stylization of the body” in this books/movie?
I. GENDER STEREOTYPES
It is believed that once children know a story very well, they can stop reading just for plot and start doing some deeper thinking work. It goes exactly the same as the writer who thinks the same thing can be true of films too. Children can start going beyond their first impressions once they have seen a film once or 10 times, since kids like repetition. As for this movie, it is actually the first Disney animated feature directed by a woman — Jennifer Lee. Perhaps some of people were a little nervous about seeing this movie as there are some speculative articles which weren’t encouraging. Some people on internet even utter some disappointment in seeing a giant cardboard Snowman in a grass skirt playing a ukulele. As it can be seen from the trailer too, it features a goofy guy and his goofy moose. Some people, including the writer feel nothing about the marketing appealed to them, at all.
But the movie is exciting, adventurous, and nearly flawlessly feminist. Disney was no longer frozen in antiquated gender stereotypes (anti-feminist, e.g. Aurora). Ultimately, it is the feminist fairy-tale some people have been waiting for. It centralizes around sisterly love and not idolatry infatuation with a man, like its predecessors. Elsa also learns to trust in her own gifts and is brave enough to let them define her, even though they do not conform to the docile and meek perception of women held by the realm. The characters also mock the “Romeo and Juliet” perception of love at first sight, when Anna becomes engaged mere hours after meeting a suitor. Furthermore, there was no Prince Charming in sight! In his stead, was an unwashed manual-laborer with a reindeer as a perpetual buddy? Though the most fundamental feminist moment is when Anna delivers a fine right-swing punch to knock out the villain (Hans)! From start to finish, this movie broke Disney gender preconceptions. Yet the time-old “true love” is not missed, as the movie still smashed box office records. Frozen is definitely a win for the feminists.
Much has been made from the role of the two main characters, Princess Elsa and Princess Anna. Some praise Disney for finally breaking out of the traditional helpless-princess-waiting-for-her-prince stereotype, whereas others blast the film for teaching children (girls in particular) that heroines are always beautiful, helpless without a man, and mostly just out to find their prince. But it doesn’t happen to Anna! There are some mistakenly-taken Performativity. As for the Elsa, it has been said her gender is ambiguous. And yes, it is seen clearly enough in the movie. She is the only Princess without a Prince. While the love triangle between Hans, Anna and Kristoff, Elsa looks so cool that she doesn’t think about mingling with some guys. Some people might also notice the coolness she brought and the sparkle eyes of admiring towards Elsa from Anna when they reunited in the ball after Elsa’s coronation. The controversy makes this a great film to both look at how women are stereotyped (or not) and for children to form and defend their own opinions based on evidence. To get clearer understanding, here is the story with a clear gender disparity--say, Cinderella. Cinderella suggests some pretty crazy ideas about women, such as:
- women's role is domestic--cleaning, cooking, caring for the house
- the goal of a woman is to marry well (a prince if you can!)
- it takes an enchanted dress to catch said prince
- ugly on the outside = ugly on the inside (stepsisters and stepmother) and vice versa
Cinderella is about as anti-feminist a fairy tale as you can get. Then we look at a film that is one of the most feminist of the cartoons Disney has made—Mulan and later on followed by Merida from Brave. Here we have a heroine who:
- fights a war in disguise to save her father
- saves the hero, and leads the fight to take back the palace and save the emperor
- rejects the traditional role of subservient daughter whose main goal is to make a match
- Merida refuses Queen’s order, which is her mother, to get married young
- Merida rides a horse, climbs the waterfall, befriends with arrows and is good at archery.
- Merida defends her beliefs to be an independent woman who thinks she is not ready yet to have kids and get busy at kitchen
After using these three tales as models, let’s take a look at Frozen. There are some clips from the film and can be discussed whether these clips promoted gender stereotypes or subverted them.
Clips that promote stereotypes could be:
- Where Elsa sings "Let it Go and changes from a buttoned up, repressed princess to a sexy siren. Seriously--why does "letting go" involved sashaying hips, whipping free your long blond hair, and a slit up to the thigh on a sexy sparkling dress?
- Anna and Hans’ meeting and first song about true love. Sure, this is ultimately sort of a parody on Disney princess and love at first sight, but it doesn't negate the fact that one of Anna's main goals in life is to meet a man and get married. In these clips, Hans get mingled with Anna out of blue, all of sudden. Who would have thought that unconsciously Hans had hidden mission towards Anna. In the end he betrays and Anna becomes the puppet he used to get the throne of Arendelle. Anna shows the stereotype of a teenage girl, who is innocent and all she thinks is always about finding “the one”.
Clips that might support the idea that Frozen is a feminist film:
- when Anna goes in search of her sister alone, leaving the male (Hans) to watch the castle
- When Anna chooses to save her sister rather than run to her man (Kristoff) ultimately saving herself.
- Elsa saves Anna with true love's kiss-the love of a sister, not a man, being the important distinction.
It can be seen the elements that run through the whole movie--how this is a film where the two main characters are both female (pro-feminist) and how those female characters are both drawn in exaggerated proportions, where their eyes are bigger than their wrists and the fact that they're tiny compared to the men (pro-stereotype.) The important idea isn't whether or not Frozen is actually a feminist movie or promoting stereotypes, it's the idea that children can be noticing how the sexes are portrayed in films and then forming (and defending) their opinion.
II. PERFORMATIVITY EVIDENCES
Here are the evidences related to Performativity found in Frozen movie;
1. Anna is found running wildly, jumping here and there, and is quirky, playful, and a little bit awkward, in the most charming way. This is not, at any point, a story about a frail girl being saved by a noble man. Her attitudes and manners break traditional, antiquated female and princess gender role of Disney movies, after Merida. She also has no fear, which necessarily possessed by men. She is okay by jumping into a cliff, even jumps right before the male character (Kristoff).
2. Anna is found being so aggressive when asking for Elsa’s blessing. It is one of the examples of feminist, but it sure gives a new perceptive about gender role of females.
3. Anna is found cutting the rope when there is Kristoff at there. That is something that should be done by the man.
4. Anna has guts to go to the snowy mountain to search of Elsa and instead, leaves the castle on the hand of male (Hans). She is being so responsible and the male character seems don’t care about Anna’s safety. A snowy mountain, man, please act like one. Isn’t she afraid of wolves?
5. Anna is found buying stuff for Kristoff; rope, a sled, carrots and tools. Men buy women stuff (in reality).
6. Anna is found as double standard as she isn’t as reserved as people expect her to be. She really shows some masculinity through the way she thinks, her body language, and so on. It triggers misogyny towards her because of her clumsy, smartass-like-but-actually-don’t, reckless, careless, unlike other Princesses who are loveable and innocent. It is kind of destructive too, from the common plot used in other classic Disney movies like Snow White and Aurora.
7. Anna acts like a prince who needs to save his Princess (Elsa). She is bravely facing the sword swung by Hans in order to save Elsa.
8. Anna knows how to deal with wolves when she and Kristoff encountered some wolves during their sled-trip. She hits one of wolves with a bundle of fire. She also knows how to deal with rope (throwing the axe tied with rope to save Kristoff). It is so weird recalling to how she has been shut all the time.
1. Elsa has the unexplained-power in the movie and seems loving it. It can be seen from the beginning of the story. She eagerly wakes up when Anna mentioned about building a snowman so that she can use her power. It can be seen as hegemony perspective too, as she is controlled by the power.
2. Elsa has ambiguous sexuality. She seems don’t have any interest towards men. This thing questions about the gender of Elsa.
3. Queen Elsa is approached by some viewers as a queer or gay character, not only because she doesn’t engage in a romantic relationship in the film, but also because she is forced by her parents to suppress and hide the powers that she is born with. Although the movie implies that her parents desperately try to conceal Elsa’s powers because of the danger that they impose to herself and to others, this does not justify the degree to which they prevent Elsa from having any human contact whatsoever. Furthermore, the fact that Elsa’s parents view suppression and isolation as solutions further emphasizes notions of the infamous queer closet–rather than assisting Elsa in learning how to hone her powers, they teach her how to “conceal, not feel.” The writer thinks it’s also worthy to point out that Elsa’s treatment is also creepily reminiscent of practices that take place during the process of gay conversion therapy, in which subjects are conditioned through meditative and repetitive processes to suppress certain urges and desires that occur naturally.
4. After Elsa’s parents die, Elsa is expected to take over the crown. Although she tries to conceal her powers during her coronation ceremony–Anna’s provocation leads her to create ice in front of all the guests at the ceremony, inadvertently leading her to “come out” in front of the entire kingdom.
5. Elsa’s so-called failure to suppress her powers may have been a catalyst for many negative events; however, this failure influences her to escape the confines of the castle to let her non-normative identity thrive. Some argue that breaking away from family and forgetting family lineage becomes a way of starting fresh even though it entails a failure. Thus, although Elsa’s escape from the castle and her creation of an ice-queen-castle up in the mountains can be approached as a renunciation of her expectations as a ruler and as an upholder of the domestic sphere, it also becomes an opportunity for Elsa to realize not only who she is, but just how much she is capable of doing and creating.
6. After Elsa discovers and unleashes her “queer” identity, she is able to collapse the binaries that have regulated and haunted her life. Notice that once she returns to Arendelle after embracing her powers, she declares that the gates of the castle shall stay open to the entire community, thus obliterating the divide that was being upheld between the domesticity of the castle and the queerness of the outside world.