Queen Elsa’s Role as an Icon
The Fight for Diversity
There is absolutely no denying the division of beliefs on Elsa’s sexual orientation. The arguments come down to people who think there is only one definition of love and tradition, and the people who believe children of all backgrounds should have someone who represents one of the many forms of love.
For conservatives, they see love and marriage as only possible between a man and a woman – usually of the same ethnicity. They claim this to be tradition; however – homosexuality dates back centuries. During ancient Roman times, men would frequent deeper relationships with each other, and had wives to give them offspring only. Countless “traditions” have changed as time has gone on. It is no longer culturally acceptable to publicly shame someone for having relations before marriage. Interracial relationships have spurred up everywhere. The Walt Disney Company has been a cherished treasure for people all over the world, and have given children someone to look up to. To date, they have offered us a variety of life lessons.
In the beginning, there were only caucasian princesses and princes to look up to. After several decades, we were given an Arabian princess. Slowly, we are being given more culturally diverse princesses – and princesses with stronger personalities. Mulan taught little girls that they could be the hero. Anna showed us that trying to put your future solely into a significant other is not the way to get your happy ending. Rapunzel helped us gain confidence to chase our own dreams instead of waiting for them to just happen. When conservative beliefs were established, these women would have been ostracized or worse. In today’s world, where feminism is gaining more strength, these princesses are exactly what we need. The beauty of these characters is that they are not turning children into something they aren’t, they are showing children that it is more than okay to be who you are, chase your own dreams, and not let others define you.
All of these princesses are known for different aspects of their story. Snow White is the princess that ate the poison apple. Rapunzel is the one with the frying pan. Tiana is the one that turned into a frog and liked to cook. Queen Elsa is known for her ice powers. When children watch these films, they remember the princesses based on something they did. If Disney were to release a new princess for the sole purpose of having a lesbian princess that’s not Elsa, there is a probability she will be known by her lesbian identity as opposed to her actions in the film. Disney characters, just like people, should be known for their actions over their identities. Having Elsa identify as a lesbian will encourage and reinforce the larger lessons of the film: love comes in many forms, people should not apologize for being themselves, and true love accepts people as they are. With Elsa being such a powerful, independent character that showed us the power of family love, she gathered millions of fans. Her story wasn’t defined by finding a husband. Her story was about finding herself. Ultimately, isn’t that what life is like for those of us living in the real world? When Frozen hit screens with a character desperately trying to accept a part of herself and discover who she is, it is absolutely no wonder the LGBT community clung so fiercely to her.
“Coming out” is only one step in a process for LGBT people. Before figuring out how to tell people, there are so many more moments they have to live through. It all starts with them figuring out themselves. From there, life can be full of hate, fear, and other intense emotions – many of those internalized. For some people, living in hiding seems like a more appealing option. Watching Elsa live through those same moments can resonate deeply with a community, where nearly everyone has to go through them too. Unfortunately, we live in a society where LGBT people need to go through this, because being heterosexual is considered “the norm.” To date, no other Disney princess has had this strong of an internal struggle – especially not one that aligns with an entire minority. Her role as an icon to the LGBT community is not about sexualizing a cartoon character; it’s about a community with little representation in media finally discovering a character that understands what they are going through. For older LGBT people, seeing Elsa representing them provides them that same hope that heterosexual people get to have when they watch the countless other heterosexual love stories in Disney movies. For children, no matter their identity, seeing an LGBT character in the leading children’s movie company would be the greatest avenue for harvesting more open-minded future generations. Walt Disney said, himself, “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something, than educate people and hope they were entertained.”
Frozen has already proved to be entertaining, and Elsa is already a beloved character. The film certainly provided a number of invaluable life lessons for everyone: never apologize for being yourself, accept your children for who they are, love comes in different forms, etc.
The people who are strongly against Elsa straying from the constantly portrayed heterosexual relationship are not children; they are not of the more easily impressionable generations that still have a chance to open their minds and hearts to diversity. The children that love Elsa will continue to love Elsa and accept her for who she is. There are endless amounts of heterosexual characters for conservative parents to obsess over. LGBT people love Disney too. Why can’t they have just one? The entire film continued to circle back to the concept of loving someone for who they are. Anna loved Elsa even after she was faced with her death caused by the icicles of her sister’s powers. Kristoff helped Anna even though he knew she was with someone else. Olaf risked melting to be able to express his love for Anna. The trolls sang an entire song about loving people for who they are. They stated “that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange,” and that doesn’t make us want to change the people that we truly love. “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable” was a lesson we learned from Disney, himself. If the lesson truly placed itself in the hearts of viewers, they will love Elsa no matter what.
Walt Disney believed that “our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.” For the young viewers, seeing Elsa, a character they love, falling in love with another woman would just be another expression of love. People believing seeing two women in love in a Disney movie will “turn” children LGBT is incongruous. By that logic, there would probably be no LGBT people, because they all grew up watching heterosexual couples in Disney movies. People do not turn LGBT – it’s not a curse. Just like hair or skin color, it is something they are born with. It’s a part of who they are. The best and most relatable characters are not relatable because people want to turn into them, but because they can already identify with them. When children watch Tiana chasing her dream of owning a restaurant, they do not automatically decide to become a restaurateur. What they see is the normalization of working hard to make their dreams come true. Seeing Tiana fall in love with someone of a different race normalizes interracial couples. Seeing her oddball group of friends supporting and caring for each other normalizes compassion and diverse friendship. Allowing an inspirational Disney character to represent the LGBT community isn’t just for those that can personally relate. Frozen has an exceptionally high total gross, ranking up with Marvel films. With numbers that high, there is no arguing the widespread fandom Elsa and the Arendelle gang have acquired. If Elsa were to be given even just a girlfriend, not necessarily a wife, children all over the world would have a chance to see same-sex couples as something normal. Same-sex couples might be able to walk down the street with less disgusted or confused stares. Elsa could be the most influential LGBT character, a true step in the right direction.
The Walt Disney Company has been considered leaders in the family film industry for generations. People thought Walt Disney was crazy for wanting to create a feature-length animated film. Fast forward to today, and other companies all over the world are now creating feature-length animation. There has yet to be a company to release an animated character that has had a stronger connection with the LGBT community than Elsa has. If they were to embrace a the risk taking nature Walt Disney always had, it would be the beginning of inspiration for so many others. Not only would this lead to other companies wanting to create LGBT characters as inspirational as Elsa, but she would be inspiration for those people who will finally have someone in a Disney movie they can identify with on a deeper level. Too many people grew up with no genuine representation of the kind of love they would one day seek to have. 15 years ago, young LGBT girls and boys only have heterosexual Disney characters to watch. Seeing all of the magic, adventure, and true love in those movies happening to only heterosexual couples is as exclusive as seeing only caucasian princess. It provides a subconscious belief or fear that those good things can only happen to a girl and boy. Disney films are known to be wholesome, genuine, educational, and overall appropriate for children. When children begin to develop crushes or thoughts about the people around them, they seek out examples in media for how those things work and look. If “family films” are only providing examples of heterosexual relationships, these young people are forced to explore elsewhere, and do not necessarily find age appropriate material. Disney films take viewers to magical worlds, where everyone secretly (or not so secretly) wish to live, or to at least find the kind of connections they see there. Why do magical worlds, fairy tales, and happy endings exclude LGBT people?
Exclusion is too easy a solution for handling differences. If the little girl in the wheelchair cannot easily play the game the other children want to play, then she simply will not play with them. If the new boy in class has never been taught how to swim, he will just have to miss the field trip. If the new girl in class is shy, she will not be given any stage time for the play. For the outspoken children not in the wheelchair that know how to swim, those seem like perfectly fine solutions… Because they are not the ones being excluded. This way of thinking is the reason society has the term, “minority.” Instead of being embracing and accepting in the fact that every single person is different, many people take note in how those differences can create groups of people.
“Let it Go” is an expression of accepting differences and being yourself. “No right, no wrong. No rules for me. I’m free.” is a beautifully liberalizing line. When it comes to identities, there truly is no right or wrong. One of the benefits of being human is the ability to think more deeply than other creatures, and gain a level of self-awareness not present in many species. There are no rules – only beliefs certain groups of people have for how others should live. As humans, we are capable to have our own beliefs, but there is a sense of freedom in everyone living as whom they choose. An individual human’s life span is quite short in comparison to the existence of humans as a species. Few things span through generations, and many beliefs and ways of living are constantly changing and evolving. Walt Disney movies have come a great distance from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. There are no longer princesses that constantly need to be rescued and/or defined by men. There are no longer male protagonists devoid of a range of emotions. “Timeless” is a word often used to define a plethora of Walt Disney films. Fifty years from now, people could think back to how ridiculous it was for there to be no LGBT protagonists in animated films. They could. In order for that to be in the future, there has to be the beginning of LGBT protagonists in the present. Children today are fortunate to have Disney protagonists that are not all caucasian. The next generation could have Disney protagonists that are not all heterosexual. Walt Disney inspired many by saying and believing that “the way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Allowing Elsa to be the first LGBT protagonist in a Disney film would blast open the door of opportunities for that to happen. Creating another princess for the sole purpose of making her LGBT would make the door slightly ajar, but it would also be “[educating] people and [hoping] they were entertained.”
Walt Disney took many large risks in his career, and the company would not be where it is today, if it were not for those risks. He found the fun in doing the impossible, and pushed us to “keep moving forward.” His dreams became a reality that fostered infinite dreams in others. Should those dreams be exclusive to what one group of people consider “traditional” living?
“First, think. Second, believe. Third, dream. And finally, dare.”
– Walt Disney