itsnotmymind (itsnotmymind) wrote,

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Article Comparing Little Mermaid to Frozen

One of the many interesting articles I have found in my wanderings on the internet is this piece comparing Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid to Anna from Frozen. I think it's interesting, but ultimately very flawed.

I had better state my bias (the opposite of that of the article writer) up front: I never liked Disney's The Little Mermaid much. I was too young to remember when I first saw it, and I never connected with it. The Little Mermaid was my sister's scene, not mine. By contrast I've seen Frozen once, as an adult, and I quite enjoyed it and connected to it.

So acknowledging that, here are some issues I had with this article:

For starters, the writer of the article elides the fact that that objection to Erik isn't just the Erik's a guy, but that he's a guy Ariel has barely met. Of course, this trope is explicitly criticized in Frozen. I am not an expert in the best methods for escaping dysfunctional families, but I have seen many example of women marrying men they barely knew to escape their families, and finding themselves out of the frying pan and into the fire. And once you have children with someone (or, you know, replace your fins with legs), the spouse is in your life in one form or another forever. I certainly don't want female character to be punished for marrying strangers, but it shouldn't romanticized, either. It's a highly dangerous method of escaping a dysfunctional situation.

Another odd element of the article is the writer's argument - almost assumption - that feminists don't place enough value in romantic relationships, especially where teenage girls are concerned. I don't want to deny her experience, but I've never encountered that, either in the culture at large or feminist subcultures. The writer reaches the territory of outright offensiveness when she states: Not only does rejecting infatuation create social problems (goodbye, teenage girls, your problems matter no more), but the existence of uncontroversial female characters who don’t make mistakes, experiment with love, and aren’t obnoxiously demanding risks veering into Mary Sue territory. In fact, many teenage girls do not have romantic infatuation high on their list of problems, and many people who are not teenage girls do have it as a problem. As a teenage girl who would have been far better off if society put less weight on teenage girl's romantic relationships, I find that statement both sexist and stunningly ignorant.

(Also, Anna makes mistakes)

The writer falls into a trap that I often see in fannish criticism, as portraying her own interests as edgier than those of others, with poor supporting arguments. She states she was "instructed" to enjoy Frozen, as if the creators of Little Mermaid were hoping to appeal only to weird alternative subcultures. She claims that Ariel was in danger while Anna never was, at no point communicating clearly what she means by that (in fact, both characters are endangered throughout their respective films, and both, as Disney heroines, end up just fine). She ignores that fact the Disney's The Little Mermaid is an extreme whitewash of a dark fairy tale. At one point, she argues that The Little Mermaid is "darker" because it is more sexual - contradicting her own arguments that the sexuality of teenage girls should not be vilified.

Ultimately, though, the part that bothers me most is her dismissal of Anna as a character. She describes Anna as a "parent-approved role model". At one point in her article, she complains about how people often caricaturize the meaning of strength and reconstitute feminism as a rigid set of rules instead of an analytical category with emancipatory possibilities. What of Virigina Woolf, who declared that “a feminist is any woman who is honest about her life?” Yet in this writer's world, Anna is too family-friend to be a feminist character.

I want to look at this on a Watsonian level. Ariel is the child of a single father, and the youngest of a great many sisters. Her father is abusive (I think destroying your daughter's possessions in rage qualifies as abusive), leaving her with little option but to rebel. Anna, but contrast, is the second of two daughters. Her parents seem to be loving. Anna's older sister doesn't leave her room for most of their lives, likely leaving Anna at times the defacto oldest child. Despite her goofy personality, Anna has a lot of responsibility. Ariel's sisters don't seem to need her emotional support. Elsa needs Anna desperately, and likely their parents did, too. Arial has a greater need to rebel, but she also has more ability to do so. Her family doesn't need her. Anna's family does. Anna's sister needs her. Her kingdom needs her. She can't afford to spend the movie rebelling and getting into trouble. To say that makes Anna less of a feminist character is horrendously unfair.

One points I agree with in the article is that Hans being evil is a cop-out. It would have been far more interesting if Anna had been forced to make a choice.
Tags: frozen, the little mermaid

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