I think we all know that the Disney movies have an amazing effect on children worldwide, being some of the most influential sources of gender role images for the little ones, given their popularity. These films, especially their portrayal of princes and princesses, have been analyzed for their gendered content. Young girls and boys aspire to be like their counterparts and take their messages to heart. Different movies, such as The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Brave, and Frozen are all being discussed on multiple forums; in the hundreds of blogs, articles, and websites that I have found in my personal research, I saw how every viewer has a strong different opinion.               An interesting fact is that the Disney princesses in the 21st century are different from the princesses of the 20th century. Many researchers, bloggers, and journalists argue that these women reject stereotypical feminine behaviors from the past. For example, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog goes beyond the notion of simply working as a waitress and desires a career in which she owns her own restaurant, which breaks the traditional female gender role. There seems to be a progressive movement that focuses on independence and empowerment. The root of this is the critical theory of feminism. The First Wave of feminism started in the late 19th and early 20th century and was focused on equal political rights for women, as they did not have the right to vote or to own property. The Second Wave of feminism was centered on “social issues including a woman’s right to enter the workforce and receive equal pay, and reproductive issues such as access to birth control. Many of these issues, including abortion and birth control rights, are still being discussed today.” (Morrison , 4)  In time, feminism has grown into a critical thory. It focuses essentially on diversity of voices, points of view, and it is mainly about freedom from the patriarchal gender norms and also freedom from discrimination for all human beings. Feminism concentrates on the deconstruction of the binary woman/man, implicitily the binaries know/unknown, reason/feeling, and consciousness/uncounsciousness. (Class material)                “The idea of a man and woman, prince and princess are beginning to change in children’s films and are becoming a direct reflection of where society is heading with gender expression, women’s rights, and the LGBT campaign for equality. The characters’ respective gender expressions are less restricting, accepted and seen as positive and better than those before.” (Caldwell ,35)               The majority of Disney princess series “follow a similar format, including a plot centered on finding romantic love, a princess in need of rescuing from some physical or emotional danger, and a brave handsome prince.” (Morrison , 2) One film that faces up the traditional pattern and offers a new perspective is Frozen, movie which appeared in 2013. It “shatters all previous of gender role limitations” by incorporating for the first time two strong female leads, Princess Anna and Queen Elsa. (Garabedian ,24)                Anna and Elsa are the heirs to the kingdom of Arendelle, and shortly after the film’s beginning, Princess Elsa becomes Queen Elsa as their parents die. However, Elsa has a big secret that she has been forced to keep hidden from everyone, including her sister. Elsa has magic within her that makes the world freeze around her when she is upset, or scared. Initially, she believes that she must conceal her powers in order to keep her little sister safe. However, this tactic has the opposite effect later. Elsa accidentally hurts Anna, freezing the younger princess’s heart in a moment of panic. Anna finds out that the only way to melt a frozen heart is with true love. In a stereotypical Disney moment, Anna believes that “true love’s kiss” is the solution to her problem. Rather than a fairy godmother, or a handsome prince arriving to save the day, Anna saves herself. With her heart nearly completely frozen, she struggles to reach Kristoff, the film’s leading male, in the midst of a blizzard caused by Elsa. As the snow becomes denser, Hans corners Elsa. Hans is convinced that the only way to end the eternal winter is to kill the snow queen. Anna turns away from true love’s kiss in order to jump between Hans’s sword and her sister. In the process, Elsa is protected, as Anna turns to ice. Initially, it appears that it is too late, but few moments later Anna comes back to life. The love between sisters is expressed as the strongest and most powerful bond of all. (Saladino ,131-132)               In terms of their physical appearance, in the beginning they both fit the typical princess standards of being beautiful, thin, having small waists, long hair, and large blue eyes. Elsa is portrayed as a strong and powerful woman. She goes from being a princess to becoming queen and ruling alone over the entire kingdom, being equal with a man. This is ” the first time we see a Disney princess who become the highest authority figure” (Johnson , 24) and reign throughout the whole film. It should be noticed that Elsa’s appearance changes dramatically when she leaves the kingdom and comes into her own ice palace. We can see how her dress is much more revealing, she has on heavier make-up, and her hair is worn down. Even the way her body moves as she walks appears more passionate compared to how it was before. The extreme power that she possesses leads to her being hidden away in her room. This alludes to the stereotypical belief that women of power are threatening. She is seen as “a frigid ice queen who is totally devoid of emotions” (O’Rourke ,web). Elsa, however, fights this perception by embracing her magical gifts as a part of her identity. She learns to accept herself as she is and moves over other people’s opinions, which is immortalized in the famous song Let it Go1. The inhabitants of the town gradually change from seeing her as something to be feared of into a woman they respect and value. Elsa integrates masculine characteristics into her femininity as she proves strength and takes an active role in her duties as a ruler.

               “Anna
is another princess who pushes gender role boundaries.” (Johnson ,25) She is exceptionally
courageous and goes to save her sister. 
I noticed from the first time that she does not wait for a man to rescue
Elsa , she chooses to go after her alone, risking her own life. Even though she
travels with three male companions: Kristoff, Olaf the snowman, and Sven the
reindeer, she does not depend on them . Anna’s performance of true love in the
ned saves her rather than her love for a male , it makes her “the enlightened
hero that Disney has been progressing toward for nearly 80 years”. (Garabedian , 24) She stands up to
Hans at the end of the film and shows physical strength by punching him. (Johnson , 25) In Frozen females are not saved or progress only through the help of men,
so patriarchy is left away. The
patriarchal ideologies displayed in many Disney princess films can become problematic
 when viewed by young children in today’s
society. In his book Cinderella Ate My
Daughter Author Peggy Orenstein discusses the negative messages found in
Disney films in the context of raising young girls in American society. He points
to the concern that they will embrace patriarchal ideology and miss out on the
opportunities for personal advancement as a result. (Saladino ,10)

               Regarding the Queer studies, there
exists the potential for main character Elsa to be coded as queer (Greydanus,
2014, web ). Originally centered on LGBT history and literary theory, the field
of Queer Studies which is “the study of issues relating to sexual orientation
and gender identity” “has expanded to include the academic study of issues
raised in raised in biology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, …
and other fields by an examination of the identity, lives, history, and
perception of queer people.” (Wikipedia , web) With her great powers,
Elsa is different from other people. “Born this way or cursed?” asks the troll
king in the movie, and her parents confirm that she was born that way (Buck and Lee ,
0:06:49-0:06:53).
Incorrectly, her parents teach her to hide it, not to feel . This repression of
her true nature leads to isolation, anxiety, fear and finally a meltdown at
Elsa’s coronation,  when she reveals her
ice powers to all. Seen with terror and repulsion by the others, Elsa challenge
the unjust restrictions imposed by her parents, as well as the society that has
refused her, celebrating the acceptance of her true identity in the powerful
song Let it Go 2(Caldwell , 24) .There is no more ”
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see /Be the good girl you always have to be/conceal,
don’t feel, don’t let them know”(Disney UK, 0:48-1:00) ; now she sings: ” Let
it go, let it go, Can’t hold it back anymore/ I don’t care what they’re going
to say. Let the storm rage on / The cold never bothered me anyway.”(Disney UK, 1:05-1:32) She
also says in this song that ” the perfect girl is gone / No right, no wrong, no rules
for me/ I’m free !” ( Disney
UK, 1:58-2:05)

               Some
people have drawn parallels between the kingdom’s rejection of the magical
powers of Elsa, and nowadays society’s rejection of homosexuality. Watching her
struggle to keep up her mask of normality is heart breaking. She wears gloves
all the time, being afraid to touch people or the things around her . Many connect
the film’s most recognisable song, Let it
Go, with the experience of coming out and accepting one’s sexual orientation.
(Kierran , web)

All in all, I
think that creating female characters who are more diverse could help combat
stereotypical views that exist when it comes to the critical notions of gender
roles, perception of women and queer studies. It would also allow girls and
boys alike to have characters they can relate to and have healthier
representations of women in the media. In order to serve as appropriate role
models and examples for children. (Johnson , 32)

I believe that
all characters from children movies should be complex and realistic to depict the
true situation in present-day society. As Garabedian says, the contemporary
audiences need to see strong female leads who can stand alongside their male counterparts.
By doing so, it encourages the idea of equality between genders and helps to build
a universal acceptance of the concept of defining oneself not just by how one
is born, but by his or her own actions.

1 Official
Disney UK song performed by Idina Menzel https://youtu.be/L0MK7qz13bU

2 Official
Disney UK song performed by Idina Menzel https://youtu.be/L0MK7qz13bU