Opinion: Why Elsa is Disney's First Lesbian Princess

The following is an analysis of Disney’s Frozen and contains spoilers. If you would like to read a spoiler-free review, please click this link.

All opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Her Campus Chatham.

In 2009, Disney brought their first African American princess to the big screen in The Princess and the Frog. Despite controversy surrounding its development, the final product was well-loved by audiences and was equally well-received by critics. However, many people – or at least those who are most vocal on the Internet – began to wonder what it might mean for the future of the Disney Company. Would this mean more diversity in the future selection of princesses, which had, so far, been slim?

Yes – Pocahontas, Mulan, and Jasmine were not white. However, only Mulan was considered to be a positive representative of her culture, as the films Pocahontas and Aladdin both drew criticism for incorporating stereotypes and being depicted from a Eurocentric standpoint, even blatantly and offensively rewriting history in the former.

To the disappointment of some fans, the answer seemed to be no. Tangled was pretty formulaic as far as Disney films go: a European-inspired story in which a fair-skinned girl meets a handsome white boy and they live happily ever after. Even so, it was well done, and even the most disgruntled seemed to overlook this perceived slight in exchange for the infectiously fun and uplifting story of Tangled.

Then came Disney/Pixar’s Brave. Europe again, some might have groaned. But then another interesting diversity argument rose from the ashes – what if this is Disney’s first lesbian princess? Sexual diversity is still a sensitive topic in the US. In fact, before The Princess and the Frog, the last Disney princess film came out five years prior to Lawrence vs. Texas case that broke open the floodgates for marriage equality.

Any argument that the fiery redheaded Merida might be more interested in other princesses rather than a prince was effectively shot down by critics and bloggers who accurately pointed out that the movie’s purpose was to show a more independent princess, whose preferences aren’t as significant as the fact that she doesn’t seem, and certainly does not need, a romantic relationship at all.

I argue that Frozen is a new kind of film and that Elsa can be seen as Disney’s first genuine lesbian princess. While it is not explicitly outlined whether she does want a princess or does not want a prince or is interested in marriage at all, Elsa’s own experience throughout the movie can easily be paralleled with the experience of closeted gay teenagers and adults.

Elsa’s powers, her dark and dangerous secret, are – at the beginning of the film – known by her sister, who does not see her sibling as strange or abnormal, but simply as a sister. Her parents, however, recognize Elsa as a danger to her family and country, and keep her – for the most part – locked away in her room, instilling self-hatred in the young princess, even going so far as to tell her “Conceal it, don’t feel it.”

This homophobia within the family and the self and its subsequent suppression leads to Elsa’s acceptance back into society after the family’s death. She is now of age and has learned to control her powers and appears to be a normal member of society. However, when she takes the throne, a fight with her sister Anna over the latter’s engagement sends her into a rage that reveals her secret.

This could be read as Elsa’s frustration that even an illogical marriage between Anna and Hans, who had just met, could be accepted by society, while her own lesbian desires are erased.  Additionally, the guests’ reaction to Queen Elsa and her powers – which they denounce as sorcery and deem her a monster – reflects a long history of societal homophobia in the West, which often related homosexuality to the devil and witchcraft.

Elsa’s escape from the palace and her “Let It Go” sequence, which empowered and inspired so many young viewers who watched the movie, is an effective coming out sequence in that she comes to accept who she is despite societal pressure, and appreciates and celebrates her own unique identity. What resonated most powerfully with audiences, however, is Anna’s acceptance of her sister.

When she rejoins her at the palace, she does not consider for a moment that she might be a dangerous threat (whether to the physical wellbeing of summery Arendelle or to its heterosexual family structures). Instead, she offers her companionship and her own aid to help her get through any struggles, reminding any LGBT audience member of their own relative or friend who they were able to come out to and be loved regardless of this – no more, no less.

Finally, the film’s answer to thawing Elsa’s frozen catastrophe, in which her fear leads to the endangerment of her kingdom, is love. The same approach has been used to fight ignorance and homophobia – if love, between lesbian and gay partners, between LGBT and straight allies, between human beings, can bring understanding and acceptance, then the issue will cease to be.

Because of all this, it is possible for LGBT audience members to finally connect to a princess who went through the same experience. Even so, Disney still has a long way to go – the best LGBT representation on-screen, of course, would be one that finally allows a romance between two princesses. However, the LGBT community is no longer simply defined by their sexuality, but – now – by their experience, one that Queen Elsa so strongly encapsulates for this century.

 

Cover Image: tribimg.com

Embedded Image: herocomplex.latimes.com