When it comes to Disney princess movies there is a recipe to follow. Start with one cup of crisis–it could be anything from being forced to constantly cook and clean at the hands of an evil stepmother while wearing dresses made by woodland creatures to choosing a bad apple (literally). Add another cup of admirable qualities. Pocahontas sees people as they are and not just the color of their skin? Belle reads? Gasp! Finish the recipe with one cup of happy ending. This usually requires a prince or true love’s kiss. Add a dash of abnormally large eyes on a pretty face, and you’ve got yourself a true Disney princess movie.
In Disney’s defense, the company has come a long way since Snow White and Cinderella. Snow White has to wait for a man to save her, and Cinderella is too clumsy to even get home with both of her shoes on. Should’ve stopped at that first drink, Cindy. Ariel presented a princess able to finish the movie by making her own decisions. One of those decisions involved giving up part of her identity to be with a man, but it was what she wanted to do. She wanted to see the world with her own two (new) feet, so she did. Disney makes some progress here. More recent princesses like Mulan and Merida defied social norms Disney had never confronted before. Mulan risked her life to save her father by fighting in a war, and Merida did everything she could to keep others from taming her fiery red hair and more importantly her personality.
Then there’s “Frozen.” For readers who have not seen the film, some spoilers may be ahead. Two sisters, Elsa and Anna, grow up in different ways. Elsa tries to cope with her uncontrollable magical powers involving ice and snow, while Anna simply longs for acceptance from her sister after a childhood accident. Elsa is strong and powerful like most girls want to be. Anna is insecure and awkward like most girls actually are. The sisters play off of each other throughout the film, but Anna is the character many millennial girls love.
Anna says things at inappropriate times. She falls for a guy with perfect hair and nice eyes. She plunges into situations too fast and gets engaged to someone she just met. She desires to see the world and experience new things. She is motivated by love to protect her family and friends. All of these qualities are familiar to the female 20-something. Millennial women feel a million emotions every day. Their problems range from figuring out what groceries to buy to figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives. They achieve. They struggle. They win. They lose. All of that is okay because Anna does, too.
There are obviously differences between the Disney character and female viewers. Anna’s villain tried to take over Elsa’s kingdom. A normal millennial girl’s villain might just ignore her texts. Anna’s problem involves risking her life for someone else. A typical problem for today’s females is trying to look like Selena Gomez or Jennifer Lawrence on the cover of every magazine. The 10-inch waists and perfectly shaped eyebrows of the cartoons are still there, but there is some comfort knowing that the Disney princess can recover from falling for the bad guy with a winning smile and save the day without the help of true love’s kiss.
With “Frozen,” Disney shook up its Disney princess movie recipe. It has a crisis and a happy ending. It definitely has the abnormally large eyes, but it changes it up by using more relatable qualities for the princess. Anna is strong and brave, but she has an awkward streak in her. She lets viewers know that princesses do not have to be elegant and graceful. They can be clumsy and stuff their faces with chocolate from time to time. Millennial women have been looking for the answer to one question for a long time: Can a klutzy and confused young woman who still doesn’t quite have it all together save the day and get the guy? According to Disney and its influential princess power, the answer is yes.