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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Frozen Review: When Your Greatest Disability is Your Greatest Strength--Or Why Little Girls and Big Boys Love Disney's Frozen

Okay, I have a little one. And she wanted to be Elsa from Frozen for Halloween. Of course. Not that she's a sheep or a fool. When we went to a local production of Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, she chose to be the only glamorous witch, her black velvet standing out in a sea of pink sparkly princesses with tiaras.

So, when I told her, hey, every little kid will be Elsa this year, she asked for another, more feisty princess, and wound up wearing a generic, yet elegant number that we found on sale at a Thrift store after last Halloween.

Still, I don't think the reason for her interest in Elsa, is because Elsa is glamorous, though she is the only Disney heroine I have yet seen who gets to be overtly sensual--Note the way that Elsa, when she is freed, slinks along with the panther walk that they teach models for the runway. (Also note the bedroom hair, and the hip flung out a la bumps and grinds.)

No, I think the lure of Elsa is that she is different, even one would say disabled, and though she at first fights fiercely to fit in and be ordinary, she ultimately comes to embrace her disability with a "to hell with all of you ordinary folk," before she finally comes to a more mature and loving acceptance--even a celebration--of the fact that her worst limitations and her greatest gifts are the exact same thing.

Now, as a parent, I love the fact Frozen turns the idea of Instant True Love on it's head--the Love At First Sight Prince Charming turns out to be a manipulative bad guy, just like on all those adult TV shows where the spunky heroine is threatened with death by the man she thought she loved.

And as a parent, I also love that the biggest love story is between siblings, and that the young man Anna works well with turns out to be the young man she should and does truly love.

Of course, as a parent, I don't particularly like the fact that Anna and Else are orphaned, though I do appreciate that for once, Disney killed both parents, instead of just the mother. (Oh, all right, it was the father who dies in The Princess And The Frog, but that's one out of what, thirty films?)

But I not only saw Frozen with my little one, our party also included a teenaged boy with serious disabilities. As I watched the story unfold, I prayed that he would find in it a metaphor for himself and his limitations. And yes, he did--he saw himself in Elsa. In fact, she proved such a powerful metaphor that even when I, stupidly, made his subtext text, by pointing all this out, he still identified with this female character and this is a boy who is emphatically not gay.

Though the truth is, Elsa could also easily provide the same metaphor for a gay boy or girl growing up in a culture that says their sexuality is a disability.

Or for a child who is not disabled, who wants to be confident enough to wear a black witch's dress to Cinderella when literally every other little girl there is dressed in pink or powder blue, wearing sparkles and a tiara.

And that's the point of fairytales, isn't it? To provide children with the metaphors--the subtext they need to someday find a healthy way into the complicated world of adulthood.

I never thought I'd say it, but thanks, Disney. A powerful metaphor. Well done.

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