I haven’t even seen ‘Frozen’ yet, and already I am torn about how I feel about it. ‘Frozen’ is supposedly based on Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’, my favourite Andersen fairy tale. I have been avidly reading all the pre-release marketing, and the more I read, the more my heart sinks.
Now, we all know that Disney has a terrible track record when it comes to sticking to the plot of an original fairy story. In the original stories, we know Ariel dies when her prince marries another, and become a wind spirit; Rapunzel was the daughter of ordinary people, and only became a princess through marriage; and so forth. I was pretty annoyed with ‘The Little Mermaid’ for changing the ending, but I tend to allow them some artistic licence with their animated movies.
Then I read some of the teasers for ‘Frozen’. So I did some more investigating and…
I don’t know if any of you have read the original ‘The Snow Queen’. It is told in seven chapters:
- About the Mirror and its Pieces
- A Little Boy and a Little Girl (Kai and Gerda)
- The Flower Garden of the Woman Who Knew Magic
- The Prince and Princess
- The Little Robber Girl
- The Lapp Woman and the Finn Woman
- What Happened at the Snow Queen’s Palace and What happened Afterwards
Now, you can see from the chapter headings how many women are central to the plot. Apart from the heroic Gerda, my favourite was and still is the fickle Little Robber Girl, who loved Gerda enough to give her up. And yet, now that I am older, I also love and appreciate Kai’s grandmother and her wisdom. There are ambiguous women in the story, like the Woman Who Knew Magic, who loves Gerda and wants to keep her as her own child, against Gerda’s wishes. Even the villain is a woman; the beautiful icy Snow Queen who steals away Kai.
It is the boy, Kai, who is need of rescue, not Gerda. Gerda is the central, active protagonist, helped along by strong and powerful female characters. It is a story that really passes the Bechdel Test.
Then look at the ‘Frozen’ plot summary from the Walt Disney website: Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio behind “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” presents “Frozen,” a stunning big-screen comedy adventure. Fearless optimist Anna sets off on an epic journey—teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven—to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom.
I can live with Gerda’s name change to Anna, since Gerda isn’t a common name these days. At least Anna is fearless and optimistic, as I imagined Gerda. However … where is Kai? Kai has been removed completely, if that plot summary is anything to go by. The Snow Queen is the one who is being rescued? What the hell? And who the crap is Kristoff? Since he supplies the reindeer, is he the replacement for the Prince and the Princess? Or worse, is Kristoff the replacement for Kai, and so he is no longer in need of rescue – since the Snow Queen is no longer a villain but a cursed sister. Instead of Gerda winning through by her own strength and resourcefulness, do we now have a male hero to do all the scary adventurous stuff? AND … where are all the other female characters? Don’t even get me started on Olaf … another male character making a sudden appearance.
There appears to be nothing, NOTHING, left of the original story, including most of the key female characters. And that is why I am so disappointed. I was expecting Disney to change the story somewhat … I expected a minimum of a comedic sidekick and I knew some cute animals were bound to show up. But to change it this much? Here was an opportunity to have a story that was all about an empowered, independent girl aided or hindered by empowered women, and there is nothing but rags left.
As well, Disney has ‘white-washed’ the fairy tale. I always imagined the Little Robber Girl as being of a Sámi extraction (because of the reindeer, not because she was a bandit), but it looks like she is gone from the story, and of course the Lapp Woman and the Finn Woman are gone as well. So much for multi-culturalism.
I should have guessed this would happen after I saw how the Disney franchise ruined the characterization of Merida when they transformed her into a Disney Princess.
And so ends my rant. Disney really has the power to annoy and delight me.