Frozen’s world full of men

LE Frozen Dolls

LE Frozen Dolls (Photo credit: pullip_junk)

I love Frozen. I really, really love Frozen. I’ve watched the film… more than one time… subjected people to god-knows-how-many different versions of Let It Go, and the soundtrack to the film is the new soundtrack to my apartment.

I think that the message about true love is wonderful. I love how the primary relationship in the film is between two sisters, no matter how many others try to distract from it. I love that one of the major points the film makes is that even with the best intentions and a pure desire to care for and protect others, with the wrong perspective you can still mess things up horribly. And I love that the arc is all about figuring out who you are, embracing that, and learning how to temper the destructive aspects of your nature while bringing out the creative and powerful. I even adore Olaf- that walking, singing proof that underneath all of Elsa’s pain is someone warm and loving.

There’s just one small problem. Aside from Anna and Elsa, how many named speaking characters in the film are.. women?

I counted. Of the other (wonderful!) characters in the film, almost all are (snow/troll)men. There’s the loveable, grumpy Kristoff, sun-loving snowman Olaf, the obligatory prince Hans, the Duke of Weselton (who I only realised yesterday was played by Alan Tudyk!), Grand Pabbie the Troll King, canon-queer-character and shop owner Oaken, and the loving but misguided King of Arendelle. That’s seven, by the way.

Named female characters? There’s Elsa and Anna’s mum, the Queen of Arandelle. And there’s the troll Bulda. I can’t think of anymore, and neither can Wikipedia. Of those two, only one- Bulda- has a personality or lines that I can actually remember. As for the Queen? I had to watch it again, because I couldn’t remember a thing but knew she must have said something since Jennifer Lee’s down as playing her. I found three words: “She’s ice cold!”, but throughout the intro to the film, it’s the King who takes centre stage. He knows where to go to heal Anna. He speaks to the trolls- who, by the way, upon seeing the family simply say, “It’s the King!”, and never exchange words with the Queen. He shuts the castle down, and helps Elsa learn to conceal her powers. The Queen.. holds onto Anna and has some facial expressions.

Bulda, of course, is awesome. Even if she technically takes second fiddle to the Grand Pabbie when it comes to dialogue, Fixer-Upper is all Bulda. And let’s face it- it’s the songs, not the dialogue, that you’re going to be humming along to for the next few months.

That’s all. Aside from Anna and Elsa, the only women we hear from are their mum (who says three words in the entire film and is dead by the end of the second song), and Kristoff’s (delightful) adoptive mum. In this film all about the relationship between two sisters, men get to be princes, kings, fathers, dastardly dukes, snowmen, shop owners, ice traders, and even reindeer. Women? Women can be princesses and mothers.

It’s sad that even in a film like Frozen, with its wonderfully positive story based on two very different women, two-thirds of the characters we see are men. It’s also sad that it this is such an ordinary thing that I didn’t notice it for weeks after watching it for the first time.

I wonder why the world of Frozen is so overpopulated with men? Is it because the writers felt that people wouldn’t watch a film, even one primarily about women, without a background full of male characters? That the only way to get men and boys to watch a film is to have the majority of people in it be men? Or was it far less deliberate- simply that the default for any character is male, and without a good reason to do something else, that’s how they’ll stay? Either way, it’s sad. Not just because of Frozen- this is just one story after all, and it would be ludicrous to expect every story we write to have precisely proportionate numbers of people from every group we come from. It’s more because this is one small drop in an ocean where we are so used to half the world being grossly underrepresented both in numbers and variety that we don’t even notice it happening anymore. Even in a story that’s all about that half of the world.

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3 thoughts on “Frozen’s world full of men

  1. We love Frozen. Simply adore it. And I love this post.

    You’re absolutely right. Disney’s track record for women in their films is abysmal. Brave (Disney’s “first” film about a self resquing princess — Mulan doesn’t count because she’s not a princess :P) has three (queen, princess, witch) — and the men are all silly, soppy, comedic relief…as if men and boys couldn’t possibly identify with Brave herself. So lets give them something fun to watch while all the girls swoon over Merida.

    But a simple look back at all of Disney’s films quickly shows how few women they have in every film. I think the only film with more than three main female characters is Hercules — and that’s just because they needed a chorus to sing the narration.

    Sad indeed!

  2. I’d like to propose an extension to the Bechdel test, which I’ll call the Representation Index (or perhaps the Bechdel Index).

    In any film, book, office, etc., the Representation Index of a given privilege is U – P, where:

    U = the number of people who lack a given privilege, who speak to at least one other such person, about something other than a person who has the given privilege.
    P = the number of people who have a given privilege, who speak to at least one other such person, about something other than a person who lacks the given privilege.

    Zero or more is probably a decent result in most cases. For example, I think Gravity’s representation index for women is zero (even though it fails the Bechdel test). Though if I recall rightly, its representation index is distinctly negative for non-binary genders, non-straight sexualities, trans* people, people of colour…

    Totally off-topic, but I guess you’d also be pleased to hear that the UKRDA has ratified a policy that explicitly includes trans* people:

  3. Pingback: Link Love (2014-04-20) | Becky's Kaleidoscope

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