Welp. You asked for it. Please note, rampant opinions below. Your Mileage May Vary. Extremely long response below the cut.
I always loved “The Snow Queen” fairy tale growing up. I was born in December, loved winter, loved snow, loved the idea of female heroes, and am a pale and freckled girl who in her youth had light blonde hair —
these days, it’s a shade of brown novelists like to describe as mousy, because fuck you novel-reading childhood for equating any medium brown hair with rodents. So yes, little ElfGrove identified with Gerda, typically depicted as blonde with freckles.
This is an entirely separate rant I should go about writing one day, but part of why I so love fairy tales and myths is that about 50% of the time it actually is the woman doing the ultimate rescuing. A lot of the females in fairy tales (and the males too) do the rescuing by being clever, loyal, and pure of heart — not brute strength. Despite popular belief — that seems to stem mostly from Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella — even the “Disney Princess” popularized fairy tales (although pop culture tends to gloss over this) the ladies are often the ones breaking the curses and defeating the villains (see: Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Mulan, Enchanted, The Princess and the Frog, Brave) or they play a large and active part in the defeat of the bad guys (see: Aladdin, Atlantis: The Lost Empire). Disney’s other Princess~y Films don’t exactly have weak-willed lady protagonists just waiting to be rescued either (see: The Black Cauldron, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Tarzan, Tangled). Not really the best ratio, but the balance of personality-less placeholder to strong character is better than they’re usually given credit for. — But that’s getting pretty tangential.
So Disney doing another princess/fairy tale themed film with a strong female in the leading role isn’t unique in and of itself. What could potentially make Frozen unique in it’s Disney class is that Gerda traditionally does not have a male companion. In fact, the majority of the prominent characters (and all of the clever characters) in “The Snow Queen” are female. Also, most interpretations of “The Snow Queen” make your primary antagonist, the Snow Queen herself, not evil. She is an inhuman creature and whether the broken mirror was a foul trick of an object given to her or just one of her own tools — it breaking is most often portrayed as an accident and she is trying to gather up the pieces of the magical artifact before they infect unwary humans. Kai/Kay is infected and there are very limited ways to remove the shards, most involve Kay wanting to be cleansed of them, and until they are gone Kay would actually be a danger to (or at least extremely unpleasant to be around) for fellow humans. Gerda’s love and pure heart allows her to pass tests provided by the Snow Queen before she is allowed to see Kay and also causes the curing of Kay’s affliction. — It has the potential to be unique amongst Disney Princess tales as the men in the story are there purely as asides or as the one in need of rescue and without making any female in the story a true villain. I would love to see that story on the big screen.
However, Disney’s current “Frozen” plot synopsis is as follows:
A prophecy trapping a kingdom in eternal winter. Anna must team up with Kristoff, a daring mountain man, on the grandest of journeys to find the Snow Queen and put an end to the icy spell. Encountering Everest-like extremes, mystical creatures and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.
This doesn’t seem to relate to the traditional “The Snow Queen” except in the vaguest sense. The leading male’s name starts with the letter “K”, there is a Snow Queen with power over winter, and the leading female must make an arduous journey. Past that? There’s a pretty tremendous disconnect.
I’m worried that Kristoff is going to kind of steal the spotlight in what really ought to be a female-centric coming of age, hero’s journey story. It takes away from the tale of her traveling alone and overcoming everything to have Kristoff helping her every step of the way. I’m concerned that The Old Sorceress/Witch, The Clever Princess, and The Robber Girl will be dropped from the story entirely. I always particularly loved those last two, and their loss or a gender swap would be a shame. It doesn’t help that the supposed “Frozen” concept art I’ve seen of side character seems to primarily show male animals and a wizard instead of a witch.
Because, WTF is this shit? That section of the tale is called “The Flower Garden of/and the Woman Who Knew Magic”.
I also worry that this change to the plot is going to make the Snow Queen evil. Because we have enough damn stories where a beautiful female in power must be corrupt/evil (see: Maleficent, the evil queens, stepsisters, etc). We really need Hollywood to stop sending that message home to impressionable young men and women. The message that powerful women —especially independent and beautiful powerful women— are most likely evil.
I’m really hoping they keep to the Snow Queen as not evil, but only that she has an inhuman culture and understanding of things, and to be honest, I hope Kristoff gets kidnapped to be our Dude In Distress before the halfway point of the film.
Of course, I can’t be on Tumblr and not also make a mention of the fact that — while yes, “The Snow Queen” is traditionally a very Northern European-centric story — once again a Disney princess film is going with an (it looks like at least) an all white cast. The argument that the story is traditionally Slavic doesn’t really hold water when it’s already veered so far off the original tale and it’s fantasy fer cripes sakes. You could set it anywhere with snow and/or completely ignore what the stereotyped ethnicities are for your target real world region to mirror in the movie. There have been Mongol and Inuit based re-tellings of this story with no harm done. *sigh*
They have announced some of the staff for “Frozen”.
- Kristen Bell as Anna
- Idina Menzel as Elsa the Snow Queen
- Directed by Chris Buck (Tarzan, Surf’s Up)
- Produced by Peter Del Vecho (Winnie the Pooh, The Princess and the Frog)
- Original songs by Broadway’s Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon, Avenue Q) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (In Transit, Winnie the Pooh (2011), a stage version of Finding Nemo)
I’ve gotta say, personal bias, I’m excited at the prospect of Menzel. I love her singing voice and I enjoyed her in “Enchanted”. If we go through another Disney film which includes Menzel but does not take advantage of her singing voice, I will be full of over-dramatic fan tears.
I am a little concerned that one of the songwriters is coming from mostly parody/satire and dark humor work. If I want to watch a mockery of the fairy tale genre for being sincere and trying to teach life lessons, I’ll pick up one of the Dreamworks’ films. They’ve got that formula pretty well in hand. (Not that I particularly dislike Dreamworks, but if I want something that at least feigns to like the inspiration fairy tale material, they’re not my first stop.)
The rumors bounce back and forth as to if we’ll be seeing this in 2D or CG animation rages on, but that’s not really a deciding factor for me.
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- kurozukin said: Thanks for writing all this out. I had pretty much the same concerns when I read that plot synopsis. And I’ve worried that they would make the Snow Queen eeee-vil since they first announced the movie.
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- asatira said: I had written a response but it looks like Tumblr ate it. Short version: I think the changes made may wind up in a film where they play things too safe and be predictable. Will have to see when more info comes out.
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