Disney's 'Frozen' : Why I Wanted To Applaud (And Why I Didn't)

Before anything else, view this song -

Thank you. I have watched this video at least six times since I watched Disney's latest film, "Frozen" last Thursday. Right from this snow queen's uphill climb on a snowy peak, to her unfettered sprint up that dazzling staircase of her own making to her heart-stopping declaration of "Here I stand..." with that mighty stamp of her foot and then her architectural flourish when she builds her towering palace of icicles and... can you tell that this whole song and sequence left me breathless?

Disney, take a bow. Despite a few gaffes, missteps and tired tropes, you have made a feminist film. Thank you for growing up, thank you for finally being cool.

This is a film whose central plot is a love story between two sisters. There's a parallel love story with a man, yes, (because that's OK sometimes), but that's not at the heart or at the climax of the film. The two women - Queen Elsa and Princess Anna - rescue men as much as they allow a man to rescue them, sure, every now and then, but not in the end. Also, one of these men is a cuddly little snowman. You see what I mean?

"Frozen" cuts to the heart of this thing called sovereignty, a special kind of independence that I believe any woman can embrace, no matter her "relationship status." In fact, how awesome is the emergence of Queen Elsa's sovereign sexuality when she's up there by herself in her palace, delighting in her own appearance that isn't for the benefit of another's gaze (except for the film's viewers, but then she shuts the door on us. Damn.)

Oh, and this film doesn't do that sickeningly tacky thing that films like the Sandra Bullock starrers 'The Proposal' and 'The Heat' or that one with Gerard Butler, 'The Ugly Truth' have done. If I were waiting for misogyny to come waltzing in on this screen, it didn't. There was no showing the queen that although she has broken the glass ceiling, she really must break an icicle or two to let a man in.

I don't like animated films. In fact, if it hadn't been for the fact that my 18-year-old son, my supreme movie buddy for our once-a-week trip to the movies, has returned from his first semester at college, I probably wouldn't have agreed to this film as our first one together in three months. Hayayo Miyazaki's animated features can enchant me some and there was this film a few years ago called The Triplets of Belleville whose visual power mesmerized me, and I have liked the writing in the Toy Story movies, but I really do prefer to watch humans on the screen. "Trust me," my son said. "I have heard that this film is unlike any other of its kind." I trust him. Also, heh heh, I had read somewhere that this film has some sparkling, innovative writing. It does. Trust me.

So, given my general sense of blah about cartoon characters, imagine my surprise when I felt an overwhelming urge, the second this song ended, to stand up and applaud in the theater. I had tears streaming down my face. I didn't give in to my heart's desire, because, well, it's a Disney film, and my son is a snarky 18-year-old and I want him to come back from college again next semester, and, well, I didn't want to people in the theater to think I was either ridiculously mushy or fiercely feminist.  

I realize now, though, that these are the precise reasons why I should have stood up and applauded. If nothing else, my already feminist boy would have learned that sometimes, in the shadows of a movie theater, this is what a feminist looks like.