All across the Internet, people are debating about the subtext in Disney’s latest animated feature, Frozen. On one side of the debate you have conservatives chastising the movie as pro-homosexual propaganda. On the other side, LGBTQIAP supporters and activists have been debating the finer points of pro-homosexual themes within the movie.
If you haven’t heard about this debate, and you want more information from both sides, you should check out the following information.
Please note that I personally do not promote the hateful speech used by the conservatives. I do believe in free speech, however, so I cannot stop them from blogging their opinions. I also believe in critical thinking, which is why I include links to both sides of the argument.
Pastor Kevin Swanson and Kathryn Skaggs are two of the loudest haters of the movie.
Swanson argues that the movie is subversive and “really, really really evil,” since it uses pretty songs and beautiful colors to distract young children and, as he claims, supplants subliminal messages into the minds of these children to someday make them homosexual.
Skaggs believes it is her place to enlighten Christian parents about the blatant gay agenda within the film, since she feels that most Christians do not see the hidden message, and she dislikes how Christians are embracing the movie in spite of what she finds immoral themes.
There are far too many blog posts and websites that advocate the pro-homosexual messages within Frozen, so I cannot possibly list all of them here. I would like to include two links, though.
Felicity Morse’s article, “Disney’s Frozen is ‘evil pro-homosexual propaganda’? Well, it’s about time somebody taught LGBT sex education,” provides a response to Swanson’s accusation. Furthermore, Morse points out the much harsher homophobic censoring in the U.K., and how up until 2003 educators in Great Britain would be penalized for “‘intentionally promoting’ homosexuality in lessons.”
In her article, Morse points out that if schools refuse to teach students about non-heterosexual lifestyle choices, then it falls on parents to educate their children. Since discussing sexuality can be an uncomfortable and difficult topic, Morse argues that movies with more subtle pro-homosexual themes, such as Frozen, may be helpful tools to assist in teaching children about the LGBTQIAP culture and lifestyle.
Aja Romano’s article on The Daily Dot, “LGBTQ reading of ‘Frozen’ prompts fiery debate on Tumblr,” provides an excellent summary of the main arguments being brought up on this social network.
In a nutshell, the Tumblr peeps started out by arguing whether or not there are potential pro-homosexual themes throughout the movie, (clearly, the movie could be read as such. Moving on). From that point, Frozen follower started to discuss whether Disney’s choice to create pro-homosexual themes was too exclusive, (because use of only heterosexual themes with predominantly white characters isn’t exclusive at all!). Next was the debate concerning whether sexuality should be the focus for an animated movie that children will watch, (which implies that 1. animated movies are only for children and not for everyone, which is false, and 2. sexuality in children’s movies is only okay if girls want to kiss boys).
My Focus Points
I’m not writing this article to discuss the morality of homosexuality. Obviously by my comments above, I am a supporter of the LGBTQIAP community; I find love between consenting adults to be a beautiful and powerful gift.
What I would like to discuss includes some of the finer points Romano’s article brings up, but does not fully explore. Those points are as follows:
- Coming out doesn’t always have to be focused on sexuality.
- The implications of a presumed lesbian being a “frigid ice queen.”
- The assumption that the gay/straight binary is the only way to read the story.
It’s Not All about Sex
I agree that the movie’s main song, “Let It Go,” can be interpreted as an anthem for coming out of the closet. Nevertheless, I don’t think that that is the only way to interpret the song’s meaning.
From early on in the story, Elsa is identified as different, as Other. She has powers that she was born with, not cursed with, and while those powers could be wondrous, like everything else, they can also be dangerous. Her parents love Elsa deeply and want to protect her, but their misguided methods of protection lead to Elsa feeling ashamed and isolated. For instance, her father creates the motto “conceal, don’t feel” to encourage Elsa to continue hiding her powers. When Elsa’s powers are discovered, she runs away from society and finds her own place to be herself outside of society’s close-minded perspectives.
Elsa’s kingdom, Erindale, does not appear to have any humans with magic other than herself. The only magical creatures besides Elsa include the trolls, but these trolls are hidden deep in the mountains away from the kingdom, and few humans know they exist. The spatial location of the trolls is a significant factor. When young Elsa accidentally hurts her younger sister, Anna, with her ice powers, Elsa’s father takes the family outside of known civilization to seek magical aid. Therefore, from early on in the story, it’s made clear that magic, that Otherness, can exist in secret in the borderlands, but not within the walls of society. If Elsa wishes to remain within the walls and with her family, she cannot let anyone see her use her powers.
Through this interpretation, her magic and her Otherness has very little to do with sexuality. In some ways, it has more to do with a type of spiritualism.
Elsa has a power she was born with, and yet because no one else she knows possesses similar powers, she has to hide or risk ostracism. The more she hides her powers and ignores her true self, though, the less she is able to control her power, which makes her more dangerous. In this case, fear and ignorance bring on her suffering. Had her parents had the courage to challenge social norms – they were the rulers and sovereigns of the land, after all – they could’ve addressed the kingdom and explained that their daughter was different and that they needed help to teach her about control. Instead, they chose the easier method of hiding the truth and making their daughter live in shame.
Ice Queen, Yes. Frigid, No Way!
Look at the following two pictures. The first picture is Elsa before everyone finds out about her secret. The second is after everyone discovers the truth about her powers.
Now, according to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of frigid is as follows:
“1a. Lacking friendliness or enthusiasm; 1b. dull, insipid; 1c. chilling, depressing.”
Just by looking at the pictures, Elsa appears far more frigid when she pretends to be normal. In fact, to avoid any emotions, and to avoid the possibility of using her powers, she makes every attempt to appear uninteresting and extremely dull so that no one suspects her of being different.
In regards to the concept of being frigid, there was an interesting point brought up in Aja Romano’s article that discussed how displaying an openly lesbian character as a frigid ice queen was potentially more homophobic than anything else.
First of all, I understand the feminist perspective that labeling women as frigid or sexually unresponsive is a way to assume power over women and belittle them. Essentially, creating the label/diagnosis of frigidness can be viewed as the patriarchy’s way of controlling women by saying that if they are not welcoming to the advances of men that fridgid women are therefore broken and should be placed in seclusion.
All that aside, I think people are missing the point.
Although the element of ice is normally associated with frigidness, it is only when Elsa accepts her powers that she can make the solid element of ice flow, grow, and move in any direction that she chooses. Her power to move an ordinarily solid medium could also imply that she has the power to bring about great change, assuming she can learn to control her powers and believe in herself.
If you only look at the surface, (i.e., potential lesbian character with ice powers), I can see how some people might misconstrue the meaning to be derogatory. Nevertheless, if you actually watch the show and understand the meaning, I think you’ll find the juxtaposition of a freethinking woman with the power to move solid ice to be quite beautiful and inspiring.
Get over the Binaries, People!
If we interpret Frozen to be a movie that challenges the heteronormative paradigm, why should we limit ourselves by trying to force Elsa into the binary of being either gay or straight? Besides Hans’ offhand comment that Elsa didn’t seem really receptive to other suitors, there is nothing within the movie to indicate Elsa’s sexual preferences.
Furthermore, before we even get into Elsa’s sexuality, I think there is a bigger issue at hand. Due to how her parents cloistered her away, and how she was afraid to have physical contact with anyone, I think it’s clear that Elsa has major intimacy problems. Being intimate with anyone, platonically or sexually, means emotions, and Elsa has spent so many years avoiding her emotions that she really doesn’t have the experience or the training to deal with those feelings.
If she is too afraid to be intimate with anyone because she fears she might hurt them, I’m not sure how she would even know about her own sexuality.
For that matter, even though she may not have the words to describe it, Elsa may even prefer to identify as asexual. Of course, since she’s never trusted herself to be intimate with anyone, trying to label her as asexual seems unfair to her and almost insulting to the asexual community.
Basically, I think it is bigoted to immediately label Elsa as a lesbian. Until she deals with her intimacy issues and all the rest of her baggage, I don’t think she can really deal with the concept of sexual preferences. And when she does finally feel mentally stable enough to even make those type of choices, there’s no reason for her to be limited to identify as either only straight or only gay. She could be bisexual, pansexual, or even asexual, just to name a few options. There simply isn’t enough information or evidence to show her going in any one direction, so we shouldn’t assume that a big coming-out ballad and lack of boyfriends instantly equals lesbian.