Date of Graduation

5-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

Communication

Advisor

Schulte, Stephanie

Reader

DeCarvalho, Lauren

Second Reader

Jolliffe, David

Third Reader

Davidson, Fiona

Abstract

Disney’s Frozen shows cultural advancement well beyond traditional Disney princess films. Other recent Disney films (Tangled, Brave, The Princess and the Frog) portray lead female characters more progressively than previous Disney movies. Issues such as sibling dynamics, cohesiveness within a kingdom, and the isolation of a major character are explored. Frozen develops these explorations and brings new twists to the typical character tropes for a princess. These progressive developments are especially evinced in the portrayal of dynamics between the sister princesses, Elsa and Anna. Significantly, Elsa is portrayed as a misunderstood character who is villainized for powerful abilities that she struggles to control. Anna is seen to perpetuate some traditional tropes yet shatters others by being active in controlling her destiny and having her prince turn out to be the villain. These notable developments in depiction suggest a change in Disney’s cultural messages which may be based on audience expectations. I explore the notion that Frozen is a feminist film and gauge the progressiveness of the movie in the context of its depiction of the female leads, showing how Frozen represents women as multi-dimensional characters, and importantly, as driving their own stories. I engage feminist media studies scholarship as a lens through which to critique the film. In addition, I use a generic analysis to show media’s influence on society’s beliefs, attitudes, and values. Even though, Anna and Elsa are better developed characters than usual, the way their bodies are illustrated remains idealized, unrealistic, and linked to marketing strategies. Disney animation could still improve by realistically depicting the bodies of its leading ladies. Frozen is important because Anna and Elsa open new representational space for rethinking our cultural definitions of what it means to be a girl.

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