Having spent last night watching Disney’s latest additions to their lineup of princesses, I’m starting to see something there that want there before. I mean, I thought I saw it in the strong, wilful, funny princess Merida – she didn’t care much for the duties of a princess. She’d go riding through the forest shooting arrows into the sunset like it was no man’s buisiness – Snowhite on the other hand, she rode off into the sunset with a man she hardly knew.
Anyways, Disney pretty much destroyed the good impression I had of Merida as they made her conform to the princess mold, claiming she wanted to put on makeup and glitters. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a bit of maquillaje, but the Merida we know couldn’t care less – unless perhaps there was a boy she’liked, but I’m still waiting for the sequel in which we see that romance play out.
That discussion aside, I love the way the new installment doesn’t focus on the beauty of the characters, inner or outer, but rather their personal struggles, emancipation and independence.
It’s not that Disney haven’t had strong female characters before. Ariel, Jasmine and Pocahontas all rebelled against their fathers, but they pretty much all fell for the first guy they laid eyes on, and don’t get me started on Belle and the Stockholm syndrome. And of course there’s Cinderella and Aurora, the lot of ’em crooning lovesongs in a duet with Prince Charming. That guy must have a very rich divorce lawyer by now, and I’m quite content to see he’s taking a backseat – letting the ladies shine in their own rights – and not as one half of a starstruck lovers duo.
Perhaps the Rapunzel of Tangled was a step in the right direction – you’ve got to give her credit for actually leaving the tower herself after um.. condemning a guide for herself, and getting to know the guy before declaring it a happily ever after. And she knew how to handle a frying-pan.
But then we saw Merida and Brave – the only romantic theme is that of her parents, whereas she struggles to get her wishes heard – unlike Jasmine who runs away – and getting to choose a man for herself at the time she chooses if she so chooses, and in the meantime remaining free to be herself. Not only that, she demands the right for the princes to choose to court whomever they please as well, instead of submitting to marriages of convenience. In the end, there’s no wedding, no kiss in the sunset, just improved relations altoghether. And she got to remain single.
I won’t take you through all of the story of Frozen, but it starts with Princess Elsa accidentally hurting her sister, Anna while playing in the snow she magically created, and as a result she grows to fear her powers and locks herself away from the rest of the world. The day comes, however, when it’s time for her to ascend the throne. Obviously, you can’t have a crowning without a party, so they throw a ball. By this time the younger princess, Anna, is starving for the company of others and dreams of meeting her one true love at the ball. She meets prince Hans, who proposes the very same night – because this is LOVE – she accepts, and they go to ask Elsa’s blessing. No such luck, though. Elsa finds the idea preposterous and downright irresponsible, after all, they’ve only just met.
One thing leads to another, the sisters argue, the secret of Elsa’s magic’s out and she runs off to build a castle of ice in the mountains where she won’t hurt anybody, and at the same time reveals herself a more confident young woman now that she’s no longer confined by the norms of society.
But by now the country’s covered in what is implied to be an everlasting winter, so Anna runs after her, and on the way meets the reindeer Sven and the troll-raised human Kristoff, who also happens to think the idea of marrying of marrying someone you’ve just met ridiculous. They also meet Olaf the snowman, but that’s besides the point. Anna finds Elsa who refuses to return, they argue again, and Elsa once more injures Anna, but this time freezes her heart, and as we’re to learn, only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart. And so begins the race to reach Hans in order for him to save Anna by true love’s kiss.
Classic cure for any princess-ailment. It’s like the advice a friend got from another sled dog racer – If the dogs won’t eat, have them pull the sled. If they had sore paws, have ’em pull the sled. If they had stomach problems? Pull the sled. True love’s kiss can cure anything. Right?
That’s what they want you to think.
Now, as a long-time Disney movie lover, and a reader of fantasti litterature I’ve learned to make mental notes of careful phrasings such as this one, and suspected a lovely little twist. And in spite of all my little digressions, we’re finally getting to the core of things.
You see, what I really really enjoyed about this movie was the way it points out the ridiculousness of running off with some guy you’ve just met and think this will be your happily ever after, and as it turns out, Hans was only in it for the money. So to speak. But another thing I loved about it, more than the comical addition of Olaf, or the relationship between a man and his reindeer, was the exact phrase “An act of true love”.
Eventually neither Hans or Kristoff, with whom Anna had an obvious romantic connection, saves her. Instead, she rescues herself as she selflessly steps inbetween her sister Elsa and a blade just as she’s turning into a statue of ice while Kristoff is running towards her in order to save her with his kiss. She casts away her chance of being rescued herself because she truly loves her sister.
And they all lived happily ever after.
Did I just miss this earlier, or are we seeing stronger female characters with more than just an independent streak? Thank you very much, but I’ll rescue myself now, if you please?