Yes, I went there.
I know that this Disney film has taken on a status as a movie phenomenon mainly due to its song “Let it go” and Queen Elsa’s characterisation as endowed with magical powers that allow her to create sparkly ice/snow. And yes, given the hype of it all, when it came out on DVD I sat and watched it with my (at the time) 3.5 year old daughter, J. After watching it, I admit, I sat in wonderment, enthralled by this simple tale that placed the love between two sisters at its centre (rather than a princess in love with a prince as is so often the case). And of course, the song! I was singing it for days.
And then J requested we watch it every time we went to her grandmother’s house. I left the DVD there, not wanting to bring it home.
After about the second time my English teacher skills of analysis started kicking in, and by the seventh time that we’d been forced to watch it, I was convinced that I needed to ban it.
For those who have been living under a rock, or don’t have children, ‘Frozen’ is a film that follows two sisters who are princesses. The eldest has magical powers where she can shoot snow and ice from her fingertips, and the second daughter Ana is, well, normal. One day when they are smaller, they spend the night rebelliously playing rather than sleeping, with Elsa creating a magical snow playground for her sister. Things get out of hand and she injures her sister. The parents rush to some magical trolls for advice, who tell them that Elsa’s powers must be controlled, as they will only get stronger as she gets older, and also advise to wipe Ana’s memory of her sisters powers.
The parents taking the troll’s advice literally, by isolating Elsa from her sister Ana, and basically the rest of society, to cover up her secret powers. Elsa, inevitably, grows up feeling very alone, and unable to “be her true self”. The parents die in a shipwreck and the daughters, rather than grow close as a result, are even further isolated.
Elsa is eventually crowned queen, and on her coronation day Ana meets a charming prince from another country and of course, falls in love with him. She rushes to her sister (that evening mind you) to tell her that she is engaged to this prince, upon which Elsa replies, “you cannot fall in love with someone you just met”, essentially turning Disney on itself for the first time. Arguing ensues between the sisters, Elsa loses her temper and shoots icy shards from her fingertips creating a physical barrier between herself and everyone else. Her secret revealed, Elsa flees and Ana is left in shock.
From here, Elsa flees up a snowy mountain and sings her iconic “Let it Go” song. It’s the scene that convinces me more than any other element of the film that this is a problematic movie. She goes from being a prim, proper, closed off Queen, dressed literally up to her neck and to her fingertips (she wears gloves), to an “empowered” woman who casts off her cape, her crown, and re-dresses herself in an undeniably sexy, glittering gown complete with off the shoulder sheer neckline, a thigh-high split, high heels and makeup that would rival a beauty Instagrammer’s before and after shots.
Before… demure, hair up, covered up Queen.
After… Sexy, makeup, hair loose, wearing sheer clothing with THAT split= EMPOWERED WOMAN
Oh and here are some of the lyrics to that song that all our children are repeatedly singing:
“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”
“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
“Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway”
“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”
Basically she’s telling children to disregard rules and limits, to “break free” from them and be who they really want to be. That there is “no right and no wrong”.
Is that really what we want our children to be repeating in their minds? To be singing over and over, day in day out?
I’m pretty sure that as parents, our responsibility is to teach our children that there is a right and there is a wrong. Such as in the way that we treat our elders, our siblings, our parents and our friends. In how we choose to clothe ourselves, the type of food we should be eating, how to treat the environment, in not choosing to become murderers, FOR EXAMPLE.
‘Let it go’ literally sounds like something a teenager would scream to her parents in the height of her angsty phase when they just want to do what they want to do, to “be” who they want to be, and damn, these parents just keep enforcing rules and limits.
Look, forget the weird plot line, and the strange snowman who comes to life, the strange relationship with the parents and the bad parenting tactics, the crux of the problem with ‘Frozen’ is that it is teaching our children that they can “be anything they want to be”, and that they should “disregard rules and established norms” just to get there. It creates a character who was essentially sheltered from society because her parents were “ashamed” of her powers, they were afraid that she could hurt people. And Elsa, frustrated by this, when given the chance, feels the need to break free of everything.
I do not subscribe to this notion that we can “be anything we want to be.” It sets up our children for disappointment that hey, no, you can’t be a fairy or a princess when you grow up. IT’S JUST NOT POSSIBLE. Well, a princess maybe. A fairy? No.
Our children these days suffer from a sense of entitlement, as we parents and teachers have constantly told them that they can be whoever they want to be, and do whatever they want to do, without actually giving them a dose of reality and grounding them to seek careers that reflect their skills, their characters, that will make them useful people. To actually prioritise the development of their characters.
Our children are suffering from the freedom of choice. They have so much to choose from that they ultimately don’t know what to do with themselves. They haven’t experienced hardship or discipline to be real with themselves, to appreciate what they do have to funnel that into a useful role in society for themselves.
I have banned my kids from watching ‘Frozen’, and I’m not apologising for it. I do not want my daughters to be subliminally told that they need to ‘break free of rules’, that they can be who they want to be, and yet what this ultimately looks like is a skinny, blond-haired, blue-eyed, white-skinned girl with tons of makeup in a sheer, sexy gown.
Thanks, but no thanks Disney.
Another issue I have with ‘Frozen’? The scary way that children, boys and girls, become addicted to this film, the way in which they idolise the characters, particularly Elsa, and the ensuing madness of purchasing merchandise with anything ‘Frozen’ slapped onto it. Go to the playground and you will see both boys and girls wearing t-shirts, shoes, dresses, hats, bags with Elsa’s face across it. I think it conditions children to idolise ‘celebrity’ figures. Today it’s Elsa, tomorrow its Miley Cyrus.
I do not want my daughter to idolise a Disney character. I do not want her self to be shaped by this character. I want her mind to be stimulated by intelligent and strong women of all backgrounds, women who contribute to society, who dedicate themselves to serving the less fortunate, women who prioritise their intellect, their firmness, their character above their appearance. Women who strive to nurture their relationship with their Creator.
3 thoughts on “The problem with ‘Frozen’”
What an articulate and peaceful way to express a topic I’m sure will spark controversy especially amongst mothers. Very well written. I don’t have any children so I’m not sure how I will want to raise them exactly but I do agree that I want my future daughters to ‘idolise’ strong and powerful women of all backgrounds.
By far the most eloquent and relevant article I have read. Completely ties in with what I’m currently learning at uni… I also felt the same way about a lot of Disney films and songs being subliminal messages to dictate the social interactions of children and their personal identity. How they take on the image of Disney characters and celebrities as a way of expressing their identity. It’s scary to know how much we are and have been influenced by these “liberal” ideologies. Hard to escape unfortunately. I take my hat off to the mums that keep their children occupied with more stimulating and morally sound activities. ✊🏽
Love this article, Sal! It’s amazing how motherhood highlights so many problematic norms one would previously gloss over – speaking as someone with many nieces and nephews but no kids. Kudos to you for speaking out against the monolith of Disney. I actually did a presentation on representations of Arabs and Muslims in the media where I included Aladdin as a seriously-underrated-Orientalist-showbag. An opening scene where the lyrics say something to the effect of: ‘where they cut off your hand…it’s barbaric but hey it’s home!’ is really not something you want to bring into your house or have your kids be used to.