I’m not sure where to begin. Last November, Disney unleashed their latest blockbuster film Frozen. Since that premiere kids and adults everywhere have been captivated by both the fantastic music and positive message of the movie. My family was no exception. I took two of my kids to the midnight premiere. My mom took four of them to see it over Christmas break. All of them have seen it and love it. If I accidentally say the words “Let It Go” around my kids (including my 9 year old son) they spontaneously break out into song, belting out the lyrics at the top of their lungs. My kids have talked excitedly about pitching in together to buy the movie once it comes out on iTunes.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, earlier this week, I read a blog that claims Frozen is an attempt by the LGBT community to promote their gay agenda to unsuspecting children and their families by trying to normalize the gay lifestyle. This woman goes on and on for a couple of dozen paragraphs about how practically every part of the movie is not what it seems. What? WHAT? Did we see the same movie? I consider myself a reasonably smart person and didn’t get any of that message. And I even watched it with my kids again last night to see for myself if there was some gay undercurrent to the film. I still didn’t see it. While I will admit that I didn’t research this particular author, I did read some of the comments by her readers. Some agreed with her points while others blasted her. After reading her thoughts a second time I came away thinking that this blogger is delusional and hateful. It seems that she has a personal anti-gay agenda because her own daughter is (allegedly, according to commenters) gay and this was meant to put her down as well. Seems especially sad to me in that context. Besides, if her fear is that children are going to be adversely affected by the message of this movie she is wrong. My friend Aaron at Daddy Files wrote a satirical blog in response and I would encourage you to check it out (after you’re done with my blog). But I don’t want to focus any more on what that negative blogger wrote about the movie and instead consider some of the messages other Disney “princess” movies have promoted over the years and how they compare to Frozen.
As a stay at home dad of six (five girls!) for the last 13+ years I’ve seen and heard pretty much every Disney princess movie. Multiple times. To the point that I could probably recite an alarming amount of the dialog and musical lyrics. I’m not 100% certain, but I don’t believe that my daughters have shaped their lifestyles after any of the females in the movies. While maybe not the intent of the writers, I believe that most of the early Disney princess movies followed a pretty similar formula for the female character. Both Snow White and Cinderella feature a young girl whose father dies so she must live with her wicked step-mother who is abusive. Both depend on the “true love” of a prince to save them. The “true love” that comes from knowing someone for one dance (Cinderella) or a few chance musical interactions (Snow White). Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty is not much better as she falls in love with Prince Phillip after waltzing with him in the forest. And his kiss of “true love” overcomes the curse of Maleficent, much like the prince’s kiss saves Snow White. In each instance, the girl is powerless to save herself and must depend on the “true love” of a man. That’s not really a life message that I want for my girls in 2014. In addition, I’d like to think that my daughters, should they end of getting married, will take more time to really get to know their potential spouse than one dance. Frozen actually supports this message as Anna is chided a few times for getting engaged to someone she just met that day.
The Little Mermaid. Wow. What a complex movie. First you have the disobedient and rebellious main female character who isn’t satisfied with her life “Under the Sea” and wants to live on land despite the fact that she’s a mermaid. She becomes obsessed with Prince Eric, a guy she’s never met and who doesn’t even know she exists. She even has a treasure trove of human trinkets, complete with a statue of him that she sings to. Seriously. If that doesn’t scream STALKER I’m not sure what will. So, I want my daughter to never be content with what is provided for her at home but instead to desire something or someone else that she doesn’t even know? No thanks. Furthermore, Ariel has to literally change her body to “get” the object of her obsession. She has to trade her voice for a pair of human legs. Again, I would like my daughters to be happy and satisfied with who they are and find someone who would love them for who they are without having to change themselves. Frozen seems to tell us that we should remain true to ourselves and not worry so much about what society expects or wants for us. Let It Go!
Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite movies for the message that it sends girls to look beyond the hunky guys like Gaston and deeper into someone’s soul like the Beast. Disney left the old formula and ventured a little bit into the notion that a girl who reads and wants to travel could be attractive for those reasons. Interestingly, though, Belle is still quite physically beautiful and is the object of desire for Gaston. Pocahontas and Mulan both have very positive and strong female lead characters and I like them both a lot for that reason. But, like all the other “princess” movies, there is a romantic love interest that must be woven into the story to really draw us in and appeal to the girls. I do appreciate how both Pocahontas and Mulan are very strong characters who remain true to themselves despite familial and cultural pressures to change. In Frozen, Elsa is much a strong character like those two. But the positive twist is the power of the “true-love” of her sister is what changes/saves her, not a romantic interest.
If it seems like I’ve given this a lot of thought it’s because I have. Before I had an iPod or iPhone, we had a VCR/DVD player installed in our minivan to play movies from a flip-down screen, using the radio to play the sound. Which meant, of course, that I was literally a captive audience to the audio for the movies my kids watched during the long drives to visit family that lived in a different state than us. At least four hours each way. That’s a lot of movies. If it’s not obvious from what I wrote, I really enjoyed Frozen and the message it sends to our children. At any rate, I’d love to get your thoughts about what I’ve written here.
**Note: This was originally posted last week but somehow the link stopped working. Hope you enjoyed it (again).
I think you did a amazing job of bringing the character’s of these movie’s to light. As of yet we haven’t seen Frozen, I normally wait on the DVD release’s then go ahead and buy it. It’s cheaper than going to the theater and buying it lol, Yet with our recent move and trying to get the in law’s trailer ready for them to move into. I really haven’t had the time to sit down with the kid’s and watch any movie’s, And we are trying to wait to get settled in before we buy anymore. I think you hit the nail on the head with Cinderella and snow white. and i agree those messages are not something I want my daughter to gather from a movie. The little mermaid, agreed complete STALKER ! I mean come on if that were a merman they would have his butt locked up. I also think there may be a bit of obsessive compulsive behavior with her, but who am I to judge. I rinse out and save every glass jar and bottle I can get my hands on.Beauty and the Beast we are on the same page that has to be one of my favorite movies as far as the disney princesses go. Belle is a amazing girl and the story is awesome, like you said look past the outside and see the beauty in, now that is a message I want my daughter to walk away with. And with your last two Mulan and Pocahontas, I agree with what you said completely. But I would like to point out one movie you missed. Brave, I checked out the movie while the kids were asleep one night to see how it was. And it has a great message to it. I like the whole family structure in this movie and how they stay together and help each other. The message it deliver’s in my opinion is that there will be turbulent waters, things can be said and done that will be regretted but it CAN be fixed even if you turn your mother and brother’s into a bear. And you don’t have to have a man to become a great woman. Which i think it is the only princess movie that message is portrayed. I could be wrong though…
Ray-Thanks for the compliments. I’ve heard great things about Brave but have not seen that movie. I guess it’s the hole in my Disney experience. My daughters have told me wonderful things about it but, since I didn’t see it for myself, I didn’t want to comment on it in particular.
Great insights. My daughter has been singing all the songs for weeks now too. The only part I find actually troubling is the stanza which says “No right no wrong no rules for me, I’m free.” That’s not a healthy philosophy to pound into one’s brain, especially in the formative pre-teen years. There are right, wrong, and rules, and ignoring them generally leads to incarceration or emotional bondage, not freedom!
However the great highlight for me is the song ‘In Summer’, which is in my opinion as a songwriter the best musical comedy song since Wicked’s popular. The delivery is perfect on every note and nuance.
Thanks, Rick. I agree with you about that particular line in the song. I’ve tried to interpret that line to mean that we don’t need to conform to society’s definition of right and wrong because of the pressures and rules that others try to force on us. Of course, there are certainly some absolutes when it comes to right and wrong but also a lot of gray area left up for individual preferences that don’t have to be “right” or “wrong”.
I’d love to think what our kids watch has little to no impact on them. Yet my 2 and 5 year olds always pick up ‘something’ while watching TV. A song snippet. A phrase. A favorite character. I think it’s wrong to assume that companies spend millions on a 30 sec ad to impact our behavior yet watching hours and hours of TV will have no effect on our young ones. That doesn’t mean the ‘Frozen’ folks are right about the gay theme … it’s just that Dads must take care to consider what their kiddoes watch. Kudos to you for doing just that and being transparent about the process here.
Good points, Christian. I can only imagine the pressure the creative ad execs are under to come up with the next big hit as campaign. Makes me glad we don’t have a TV so my kids aren’t exposed to that as much.