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Lake Charles, Louisiana, United States
Hello, and welcome to my blog! I like to write about children's literature, fairy tales, feminism, and pop culture in general. I've recently earned my Ph.D. in children's literature at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. I also review children's and young adult books for Kirkus and teach English at Sowela Technical Community College. Oh, and I like cats! [Banner image artwork by Yuki Midorikawa]

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Disney kneeling at the alter of boys and their parents with "Frozen"


Poor Disney – on the fast track to angering its consumer base yet again.

Ever since the perceived “flop” of The Princess and the Frog, Disney has sworn off fairy tales forever. (It must be sobering to realize you’ve constructed an empire for girls, only to realize that now only girls will watch your movies.) Naturally, this swearing off was rapidly followed by the supposedly more boy-friendly release of the re-titled Tangled, Brave, and now, coming this November, Frozen.

Tumblr is already abuzz about the protagonist Anna’s appearance. (Some artists have even taken matters into their own hands.) But not only have Disney yet again shied away from creating a princess of color, they’ve also even decided that the distinctly Scandinavian-sounding name of “Gerda” isn’t generically white enough. (Though it seems odd that when your predecessors are named Mulan, Merida, and Tiana, your own producers find it prudent to dub you “Anna.”)

And that’s not all. Take a look at the film’s IMDB record and you’ll notice a rather surprising number of male voice actors. Anyone familiar with Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” knows that it’s chalk full of female characters, including a female crow, a robber girl, and a princess who insists on marrying a man her equal in intelligence.

These characters seem to have been replaced with others named Olaf, Kristoff, and Hans.

So Disney takes one of Andersen’s genuinely feminist tales and replaces its cast with men.

Okay, Disney. We get it. You screwed up with the whole princess thing. You want boys to start watching your movies again. And you know girls (or the parents of girls) don’t mind watching movies that allegedly appeal to boys.

Do you think if we complain enough they’ll change it the way they changed Tangled back in 2010? If you do want to protest, just remember to do so with your wallet. It’s the only language they’re capable of speaking.

And on a related note, there was all the recent hubbub about Merida finally being accepted in to the pantheon of Disney Princesses.

But not before she underwent a makeover, of course.

Oh, Disney.

2 comments:

  1. The only similarities I can see so far between the Snow Queen and the upcoming Frozen are the existence of a Snow Queen and a quest to find her. All the personal story and motivations seem to be different (as far as I remember, anyway. It has been awhile since I read the fairy tale) No Kai character, no shards of mirror, ect. If the one is based on the other, it's a very loose interpretation and I wouldn't expect much to be the same.

    Come to think of it, Tangled didn't really tell the Rapunzel story either (which makes sense as the basic story wouldn't make a very exciting movie. There's not enough action). The Snow Queen, however, could work well as a more faithful adaptation.

    In general, I think I mind the movies themselves less than the marketing that goes with them, although I do think it would be nice to see more girl characters in American animated movies in general. Even Brave had way more male characters than female, despite Merida and her mother being important parts of the plot. I loved Merida, and was very annoyed at the way they managed her incorporation into the Disney Pricess brand.

    Thinking of the movies themselves, and the way Disney's fairy tale movies have changed over time, I begin to wonder to what extent movies are a reflection of the culture they're in as opposed to shaping the culture. It's a mix of both, of course. You would never have seen Merida in a Disney movie in the mid-1900s, for example. At the same time, the Disney Princess brand has played a large part in shaping girls' identities since it came into existence. In my opinion, the best people can do is push for what they want to see and support it with what they choose to watch or buy, and trust that eventually if there's enough of a cultural change, movies will catch up and begin to reflect it.

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  2. I agree -- art is both a reflector and a shaper of culture.

    I think a lot of people noticed that about Brave. Despite it being quite the feminist tale (it's even rather non-linear), there are literally only three female characters in the entire film: Merida, Elinor, and the witch. Well, I think there may have been a maid or two.

    I know mothers who are frustrated by the effect princess culture has had on the daughters, and mothers who are proud of daughters who love princesses AND pirates. There is definitely a desire for more feminist narratives for kids. You'd think a savvy company like Disney would pick up on that. (But I think they are still confused by the poor earnings of The Princess and the Frog.)

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