Thursday, April 3, 2014

Frozen and the Female Psyche

Along with most of America, we bought FROZEN on DVD a couple weeks ago. Once at-home viewing was possible, a lot more men (dads) were seeing this movie, and many of them took to the internet to express their displeasure.

I'm pretty sure I know the reason: They aren't women.

Stay with me, this isn't a "girls like sparkly dresses and cutesy songs" thing. It's a lot deeper than that, and Disney deserves a lot of credit for finally tapping into the thing they've tapped into here.

In case you're part of the tiny population who doesn't know, I'll give you the short version (Spoilers... just in case): Elsa has a magical power to create snow and ice with her hands. She's young and can't control it, but she's told to hide it at all costs. Literally, all costs. She locks herself in her room, never speaking to anyone or doing anything because she's terrified of letting anyone see who she is or what she's capable of.

Eventually she cracks, putting on a dazzling display of power, creating life (sound familiar?), and proclaiming that she doesn't care what others are going to say.

Here's why I think men don't really see the power of this metaphor:

These men have never been told to pretend to be incapable.*

They've never been told that they'll be more attractive if they are helpless.

They've never been told that being smart is intimidating and nobody will want to date them if they're too smart.

They've never been told that their feelings are completely irrational and should be hidden at all costs. Yes, men are encouraged to appear "strong" and keep their "girly" feelings hidden... but that in and of itself should say something: Hide your girly feelings. Girly feelings are bad. Imagine if all your feelings are girly. 

I've heard all these things. I've done all these things.

I've pretended not to know things because I didn't want to appear contrary, even though the guy I was talking to was so stupidly, epically wrong, it took actual physical self-control to restrain myself.

I've pretended to be totally helpless because I could tell the guy felt good about being able to "teach" me how to use a Dremel. I wanted him to associate good feeling with being with me, and so I pretended not to know what I was doing.

I've pretended not to know my way around a gym, a music store, or a mosh pit (I was an expert in all three).

I've pretended to be weaker, stupider and more vapid than you can imagine.

And it worked.

Every time, it worked. Every time I pretended to be weaker than I was, it drew more men to me**. Not creepy, rapey sort of men. Nice guys, the kind of guys you're willing to take home to mom. Every time I pretended to be stupid, people liked me more. Men and women both are much, much nicer whenever I pretend to not know answers and say "I just don't get it" or "I don't understand."

This is why FROZEN speaks to women on a level that most men can't understand. The lyrics to "Let it Go" speak very specifically to our experiences and every one of us has to have Elsa's breakthrough at some point. We all have to actively decide that we are going to be strong, smart, and not care if that means we're alone.

This is what Disney finally tapped into and this is why women are reacting to this movie more strongly than men are.

* I know this won't apply to all men, but that it applies to those who don't "get" FROZEN. 

**I'm very lucky. My husband is not one of these guys. He knows what I'm capable of and he loves me for it. He knows how smart I am, how much I value learning, and he encourages me and is my partner in this. He's wickedly smart in his own right and isn't the slightest bit intimidated by a woman knowing the answer to a question he asks. 

Click the picture to be taken to the artist's site.


  1. i like your view on the movie. The way you found the gender sense is thought provoking.

    for me, its like when I see certain movies I see women in them overreacting on certain things and i think- God!Why they show women like that in movies but (not ashamed to accept) yes, we women have a training in tears. When we are over emotional, we are near to perfect women! Phew.

    About the movie, what I like is how she discovers that her power is not just supposed to destroy people around her but she can also bring happiness and lives to people. Many of us men and women for more or less in their lives keep on carrying the guilt and burden only sometimes or never realizing that they are capable of so much more!


  2. You hit the nail on the head here. Totally agree. And I know your kids are all boys, so I'm glad to hear they like Frozen!

  3. Love this. I loved Frozen, like a lot of women, but I honestly hadn't even considered the implications of the "be dumb and helpless to be liked" message and how it ties into what Elsa was told and how she was forced to act. And like a* mentioned, I love that what Elsa ultimately learns is that her power isn't a bad thing — that being who she is, magical powers and all, is good and wonderful and can help people, which is something most women, especially strong ones, need to recognize — that your knowledge, your strength, your passion is not a bad thing, but, in fact, can do so much good.

  4. very insightful. I liked that the sistership was the strongest love, instead of the typical Disney story of the prince/princess theme.