Letting gendered spaces go: striving toward gender and nature balance through bonding in Disney's Frozen and Maleficent
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From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to more contemporary releases such as Brave (2012), scholars have extensively examined the portrayal of gender in the Disney Princess films. A significant shift in representation started to occur in the 21st century with a greater portrayal—albeit still problematic—of gender roles. Two recent films, Disney's animated Frozen (2013) and live-action Maleficent (2014), significantly illustrate how society's views of women have shifted, causing Disney to adjust its Princesses so as to mirror contemporary, more egalitarian ideals. In this thesis, I will demonstrate how the depiction of sisterly love in Frozen and the portrayal of motherhood in Maleficent as more important than romantic love establishes a deviation from Disney's prior portrayal of female characters while parodying “traditional” gender depictions. Although both films still lack diversity, patriarchy and gender roles are challenged by female bonding and the desegregation of gendered spaces.
Due to the impact of space or location on gender roles and familial relationships, change must take place at a private and public level to be truly effective. Dualisms—gendered respectively in the masculine and feminine—are present but eventually challenged by Elsa and Anna in Frozen, as well as Maleficent and Aurora in Maleficent: these characters destabilize the spatially connected patriarchal structures by utilizing personal and political power in both public and private spheres. Therefore, Frozen and Maleficent, through the emphasis on familial, female bonding and desegregation of gendered locations, depart from previous Disney depictions of gender roles, dualistic spaces, and the notion of “happily ever after” as achieved through heterosexual romance and marriage.