Elsa might be queen for most of Frozen, but until Disney have confirmed the next lineup in the Disney Princess franchise it’s safe to say that there’s much speculation over whether Elsa will be joining them. Considering many fans are already are already including her, I’m going to touch on Elsa this week,
With the huge phenomenon that is Frozen, Elsa has soared to the top of the princess popularity chart through managing to toe the line between looking fabulous whilst going through self doubt and growth. Out of the two Arendelle sisters, its easy to see why Elsa is the more popular one. She’s got the powerhouse song and has the cool powers. Whist Anna goes through some self revelation in the film, we by and large remain focused on the issues which surround the elder sister, and therefore the elder sister herself.
Is she a character worth all the hype, however? There have naturally been several criticisms levelled at Elsa: her whiter than whiteness and her still extraordinarily skinny waist. But let’s not forget the good here. Elsa is a Queen in her own right, young and inexperienced but no less desperate to do the right thing. Without her parents she’s been down a lonely road for many years, but she’s never succumbed to pressure to marry. Aside from Merida, she’s one of the few Disney heroines – let alone Princesses – to not have any kind of love interest. This is a significant move away from the Disney idea that happy endings only come from romantic relationships, or that romantic relationships are the only significant moments where we learn more about ourselves. To some people this might seem late in the coming, but given that Disney is trying to cater to everyone, better late than never.
Whilst some people might characterise Elsa’s struggles as unrealistic or out of touch for most children (because let’s face it, none of us have ice powers), Elsa’s internal struggles speak to many people that aren’t just in minorities but struggle with a huge part of themselves. It’s telling that what saves Elsa is not just the love of her family (Anna), but also reaching a point of self love within herself. If we view the film from this point of view, Hans and Kristoff are no more than enablers. It reduces their strength of characterisation for sure, but I find it interesting that they’ve flipped the Jasmine role on its head. Anna and Elsa are the necessary characters this time round and not merely plot devices.
However, Elsa’s characterisation is not as strong as the original Hans Christian Andersen Snow Queen. I almost feel unfair comparing it, because the original story has obviously been changed and edited a great deal before it got to the product Frozen was today. That being said, she is more relatable to the masses. A company like Disney can only express change through metaphor and very slight hints in order not to offend anyone. A case in point would be how Elsa still has a pretty dress, high heels and purple eyeshadow. They want a strong female character that still looks ‘nice’ enough for girls to want to be her. It’s a testament to the strength of her message that she’s so popular and that’s nothing but a good thing, but I hope it doesn’t lead to people setting her as the benchmark of princess characters. Context, as ever, is still important here.
With those points in mind, next week I’ll be touching on Princess Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck-it-Ralph as I start the section of unofficial princesses and go back in time to review some of the heroines I feel should be in the lineup.