The Truth About True Love (#dontGiveElsaAGirlfriend)

 

So lately there’s been this thing going around the internets trying to convince Disney to make Elsa a lesbian (or bisexual) and give her a girlfriend.  The argument goes that doing so would be encouraging and supportive to girls who really are lesbians or bisexual because they would have representation in what is probably the most lucrative and successful line of girl-oriented (and usually romance-centered) media and merchandising: Disney Princesses.  As the father of a five year old girl I must say that I am strongly against this but not for the same reasons a lot of other people are.  Unlike many others my reasons are not about politics, morality or religion.  It is much simpler than that.  My reason?  The original Frozen movie showed that not all love stories, or all Disney princess movies, have to be about romance.

I understand the arguments for inclusion and wouldn’t have any problem with Disney making movies with such characters and same-sex romance stories.  Also, I wouldn’t have any problem with my daughter watching such a movie.  But I just really don’t think the Frozen sequel should be that movie.  I think by giving Elsa any kind of romantic relationship in the second movie would negate one of the strongest messages that was in the original film.  For most of the movie it seemed like there was going to be a typical Disney love story between Anna and Hans.  When Kristoff was told that only an act of “true love” could save Anna everyone, Kristoff and the trolls included, automatically assumed that it would be a romantic thing like a kiss.  After Hans revealed his true nature the typical Disney princess theme continued with Olaf assuming that it was a kiss from Kristoff that would save Anna.  Finally, Anna was forced to make a choice: pursue Kristoff for a kiss to save her or sacrifice herself to save her sister.  In the end it was the act of self-sacrifice for her sister that was the “act of true love” that saved her.  Unless someone had been told what would happen after she chose her sister over Kristoff it would have seemed that Anna gave up her chance to save herself by giving up what was assumed to be the act of true love she needed which was a kiss.

While in the end Anna and Kristoff did kiss their romance was not the main focus of the story.  In fact the movie went out of the way to mock everything related with the typical Disney-ish idea of “true love.” Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and even Snow White seemed to be made fun of repeatedly in the movie.  Also, unlike Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Anna wasn’t willing to give up something special for a romantic relationship with someone she didn’t really know. Ariel gave up her voice to be with a prince.  Anna’s sister was more important to her than anything or anyone including a prince or even her own safety.  This is what set Frozen apart the most from all previous Disney princess movies.  Disney seems to understand this since even now, more than two years after the movie’s original release, they have kept Frozen merchandise branded as Frozen and not Disney Princesses.  The two previous films, Tangled and Brave, barely lasted a year before being rebranded.

Frozen was not the first Disney Princess movie to downplay the role of romance.  Brave beautifully mocked romance by making Merida a headstrong and independent teenage girl who had no obvious interest in such things.  The same thing that is going on with Elsa now also happened with her: she had no male love interest so obviously she’s not interested in males (or at least not exclusively).  When people take this point of view it seems that they’ve missed the point entirely.  Elsa, Anna, and Merida were all strong willed women who didn’t need a man to make themselves whole.  Yes, Anna did have typical Disney princess desires for a dreamy prince to come and save her but once she set out to save her sister she was fully willing to go on her own.  Anna only asked a man to help because it was clear that he could help her find her sister.  Had she never ran into Kristoff she would have still went back into the cold to find her sister on her own.  In the end, she didn’t need a man to save her.  The point is not that they are or are not interested in men the point is they don’t have to be interested in anyone.  The love story in both Frozen and Brave was about family.

This is why I think that the idea of the whole “give Elsa a girlfriend” thing is wrongheaded.  I think it is more important for girls to see strong female characters that don’t need a romantic relationship to make themselves whole.  My daughter is only five so the whole sexual orientation thing hasn’t really come into play yet (she has had a serious thing for a boy in her class though).  However, if I did have a daughter who was older and was either a lesbian or bisexual I would still feel the same way.  By making Elsa have a girlfriend you’re sending the same message to girls who are not straight that Disney has been sending straight girls for decades.  How is that an improvement over the “someday my prince will come” mentality?  Regardless of what gender(s) someone is into showing that you don’t need someone else to complete you is a far better message to send.  Besides, the best act of true love is leaning to love yourself as is.

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