Fire Beats Iron, Ice Beats… Lion?

I know some of you may be sick of talking about women in the media or The Hunger Games, but, hey, the default picture on this blog is me in period dress holding Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince aloft like the Holy Grail so you knew what you were getting into.

You’ve probably seen more than a few articles about Catching Fire and Frozen’s domination of the box office.  However, according to this article from The Mary Sue, Frozen’s success has continued, having the best box office weekend of any film in its sixth week. It’s even poised to overtake The Lion King for highest grossing Disney animated film of all time.

Just to be clear (and to remind you of your own mortality), might I point out that that record has been held for nearly 20 years? And remember, in 1994 there was no Netflix or RedBox or Amazon Instant Video or OnDemand or surly housemate with questionably legal movie procurement skills. Not to mention TVs were smaller and tickets were far cheaper. To have this level of success in this day and age is more than a bit impressive.

Meanwhile, Catching Fire has overtaken Iron Man 3 as the highest grossing film (domestic box office wise) of 2013. The last time a female-led film did this was The Sound of Music in 1959. That’s about 55 years. While that is actually rather depressing, perhaps the success of these films will finally convince the film industry to change (even if it’s a glacially slow crawl towards change).

While some may say a female-led Disney film is hardly unique, make no mistake, Frozen ain’t your momma’s Disney princess tale (or yours for that matter). Female relationships in Disney are often non-existent (Aladdin et al), catty (The Little Mermaid, Cinderella), or toxic (Tangled, Snow White), in part due to the nature of the fairy tales they draw from, full of evil queens trying to kill younger sexual rivals. However, Frozen offers us a (comparatively) healthy, loving, positive female relationship, where the success of one sister does not detract from the other.

Romance, though present, also takes a backseat to the more important female relationship. Sisterly love even trumps true love by breaking a curse. What’s more, it’s the main character’s own sacrifice that breaks it, giving her far more agency than your average Disney leading lady (although I maintain that Jasmine is the most politically savvy/successful Disney princess).

Throw into the mix that Elsa is an unmarried queen running her own country and the movie had the cajones to (SPOILER) make Prince Charming into the villain, and Frozen becomes downright radical, taking Disney’s deconstruction of its own mythos, seen previously in Enchanted and Tangled, to the next level. Oh, and did I mention that Frozen features loving, well-intentioned parents who are unilaterally incorrect (leaving their children emotionally damaged shut-ins) while still being good people? Looks like Disney put on its edgy pants with this one.

Whether you like warm-hearted princesses, cold and distant snow queens, or war-haunted archers, this was a good year for the goddesses of the silver screen. Shout outs to Philomena, Gravity, The Book Thief, and all of the other female-driven films of 2013. May there be many more to follow in your footsteps.

Oh, and I am totally kicking myself for using the “A Song of Ice and Fire” pun already. I knew I should have saved that. Bugger. Oh well. Looks like the King of the Jungle may just lose his throne to the Snow Queen while The Girl Who Was On Fire tempers Iron Man’s ego.

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About boundandgaggedbooks

Shannon is a freelance writer and folklore buff. She has a degree from Hampshire College in Creative Writing/Mythology & Religion, with an emphasis on epic/oral traditions, their anthropological implications, and their modern counterparts. Her work can be found in Fabulously Feminist, Wolf Wariors: The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Anthology, The Concord Monitor, Redhead Magazine, and The Climax.

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