I was pleased to see today that the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen is up for an Oscar. Deservedly so; I was listening to it again today (I went to see the film over Christmas with my little girl so I’m aware I might be wearing the old rose-tinted glasses) and it really is stunning. The film reminded me on first watch of Wicked, before I even realised Idina Menzel was in it midway through her big showcase song (“It’s Elphaba! I’m sure it’s Elphaba!” I squeaked at my husband). But listening again, I think “Let It Go” is better than “Defying Gravity” - and in general Frozen’s score is stronger. And that is high praise indeed.
Frozen, for me, felt more like a musical than a typical Disney story. I remember feeling a little surprised - I’d expected Tangled with snow. But everything - from the cinematography to the story to the leads’ singing voices was so much stronger. Again, no criticism of Tangled - a superb Disney film. Just that Frozen was that good.
When I think back to the pitiful female role models Disney have provided in the past: princesses mooching about waiting for a man to rescue them; princesses whose biggest worry was getting a really nice dress to wear for a party to snag a bloke; a princess who was more than happy to abandon her family, friends and home for a chap she’d only just clapped eyes on (seriously, Ariel? Get a grip!) Don’t get me wrong, I like them all and I love watching Disney classics. But they’re a bit… dependent, aren’t they? Apart from the hard-as-nails Mulan, there wasn’t much to admire. But between Ana and Elsa, and Brave’s Merida, my little girl is spoilt for choice, and moreover Disney’s exploration of female relationships has never been better. As a daughter who can look back at my relationship with my mother - times we both got it wrong and our constant attempts to get it right - and a mother of a little girl growing up too fast, I felt like I really GOT Brave, appreciated it in a way I know not all critics did. When The Thing happens to the mother, my own daughter cuddled up to me in the cinema, worried. And I think the film WAS brave to make that mother-daughter relationship so central, when so many Disney princess films focus on a romantic relationship instead. It was different, interesting and emotional. And it was pleasing to see Frozen put a strong female relationship at the heart of the story too. I hesitate to use the word feminist, because who even knows what that means? But if I was to call a film feminist, I think Frozen (and Brave before it) would qualify.
I seem to have rambled off into the distance. What was I saying? Oh yes. I hope “Let It Go” does win in its category, and although I admit I haven’t seen any of the competition, I’d be pleased to see the film win best animated. I think such a powerful representation of sisterhood deserves to have “Oscar-winning” slapped on its DVD case.