Okay, this will be one of the weirder blogs I post here, but bear with me. As I was logging on to Twitter earlier today (while simultaneously wondering why I still have a Twitter), I saw a featured tweet claiming that many people are insisting that Disney should give Elsa, the elder royal sister from their beloved film Frozen, a girlfriend in Frozen’s eventual sequel, as a means to “give the LGBT community someone to look up to as well.”
Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea (lord knows if you aren’t entirely politically correct these days people will write you off as a fascist and vilify you for life), I have absolutely no problems with the idea of Disney introducing a gay princess to their character lineup. In fact I think it would be interesting to see. But it shouldn’t be Elsa for two reasons: One pertaining to the social issue, and one pertaining to Frozen itself.
The first reason is that retroactively deciding to make the character gay would ultimately end up making the issue feel forced, and subsequently, meaningless. You never want to go the bait-and-switch route with fictional characters, but it’s a route people go all too often with homosexual characters. J.K. Rowling revealed that the character of Dumbledore in her Harry Potter series was gay, but conveniently only did so several months after the last book in the series had been published. Similarly, video game developer Naughty Dog, when creating the DLC for their critically praised title The Last of Us, decided to make the character of Ellie gay, even though any indication of sexuality was never previously brought up with the character.
I’m not saying these authors don’t have good intentions. But to me anyway, if you’re trying to bring up some social issue or diversity, you should probably do so from the get-go. Otherwise, it feels like they’re just throwing it in there to give themselves a pat on the back. Almost as a means for them to say “look at us! Aren’t we so great? Look at how we’re representing diversity!” If you really want to make a statement, you don’t wait until after you’re in the safe zone to do so. If Disney just decided to up and make Elsa gay now, it would just feel like another instance of “hey, look at us!”
The second reason, which deals with Frozen itself, is one of artistic integrity (I know, shame on me for caring more about artistic integrity than political correctness with movies). One of the reasons Frozen worked so well is that it’s one of the few (if not the only) non-Pixar Disney animated film that manages to successfully integrate allegory and interpretive elements into its narrative. Yes, it’s still a fun movie where princesses sing songs and talking snowmen make jokes, but there’s a stronger sense of subtext to it than in other Disney fare. And a large reason for that is Elsa herself.
It’s true, many people have interpreted Elsa’s situation of being a misunderstood outcast because of her magic to being an allegory for homosexuality. And if people interpret it that way, then more power to them. But Elsa has also been interpreted in other ways as well, with some (including myself) making comparisons to mental illness and depression, among many other interpretations.
If Disney were to simply decide to make Elsa gay, it would negate what the filmmakers accomplished with the character narratively. By deciding to overtly acknowledge one interpretation as the correct one, it would undo much of the depth of the character and story. And yes, it would even demean the interpretations of homosexuality with the character to begin with. Personally, I think keeping the character asexual makes her more interesting and universally relatable.
One of the things that makes Frozen special, and yes, one of the reasons I think it’s remained such an unparalleled success, is that it employs subtleties in its narrative, characters, and themes. It helps it to break age and cultural barriers even more so than most other animated films. If Disney were to simply have Elsa come out as gay, it would diminish the film’s themes and even the desired social statement.
Yes, it would be interesting to see Disney add a gay princess to their lineup. But it’s not something that should just be forced (again, a forced social statement is not a social statement at all). And it shouldn’t be Elsa. If Disney can come up with a great story to introduce a gay princess, then that’s awesome. But making it a retroactive thing would ultimately be cheap and meaningless. If you’re going to do it, do it right.
Elsa being asexual never bothered me, anyway.