Frozen’s Fan Art: A ‘Fixer Upper’?

Two days ago Ace and I finally joined the rest of the world and saw Frozen in theaters. With all the criticism surrounding the film, combined with the fact that about ninety percent of it is available on Tumblr in gif form, I didn’t exactly think it was worth my time to spend the money to see it. Yet, now that I’ve returned from the magical land of overpriced snacks I realize that I was entirely incorrect.

As a general note before I go into this post proper, I would always recommend viewing a piece of media yourself before closing the book on it; you never know what viewpoints may change once you see the media with your own eyes. I will admit that most of the opinions I held before seeing the film did stay the same—the film was terribly white and the romance was unnecessary—but this post isn’t directly about the film, but more about the precedent it sets for the fandom. The latter part of this concerns me more.

Frozen Anna Elsa Banner

As I mentioned, before actually seeing Frozen, I was exposed through Tumblr to many of the important aspects of the film. Though after the twentieth round of reblogs I started to skip over the gif sets, something I never got tired of was the fan art. Frozen’s fan art on the whole is gorgeous, mirroring how completely gorgeous the film itself is.

However, I began to notice a worrying trend. As with any series, fans take it upon themselves to place the characters in many ‘what if’ scenarios, one of the most common ones being genderbending (otherwise known as rule 63). In theory there’s nothing wrong with this: it gives artists a chance to play with different designs for the characters as well as a potentially entirely new set of conflicts and prejudices for the characters to deal with. All of this can be interesting and compelling. However, the issue I’m seeing is an issue with imbalance. That is to say, about four-fifths of the genderbent art I see focuses entirely on turning Anna and Elsa into handsome boys, but the female versions of Hans and Kristoff are sadly MIA.

This is not a problem that is unique to the Frozen fandom, but it leaves me wondering if fans didn’t understand or care about the intended themes of the movie. As I stated before, I do not have a problem with genderbending, but I will admit that morphing the main characters of a film that is female-centric in theory into dudes irks me. But that’s not the brunt of the problem. The problem is when you remove all traces of women being the film in the first place. By giving Elsa and Anna a new male-ness while at the same time omitting Hans’s and Kristoff’s female-ness, the message is that the presence of women is unimportant to the film. Obviously, as Frozen is a movie about sisterly love, that is not true.

Can we have more art like this, please? (Art by pinkyapple @ DeviantArt)

Can we have more art like this, please?
(Art by pinkyapple @ DeviantArt)

On this blog, we’ve previously discussed the possible reasons for discrepancy between fanfic authors who write dude-slash as opposed to femslash, and I’m willing to believe some of the same reasons from that study are also mirrored in fan art. But why is it so readily available from Frozen fans? Following this hypothesis, Brave—another Disney film featuring a relationship between two women, this time a mother and daughtershould have just as much genderbent art. Yet I barely saw any at all. I think I have an answer for my question, however, and it leads me to blame not the audience itself, but rather Disney’s values. That is to say, the movie’s focus on romance forces attention away from the women.

Did we really need this character?

Did we really need this character?

Full disclosure, I think the twist in Frozen concerning the romance is fantastic, and if this film absolutely had to have a romance plot, I’m glad it was done like this. But at the same time, by having two love interests for Anna as well as a kingdom predominantly filled with males—did any of the secondary characters of royal women have substantial speaking parts? I don’t think so—sets up a message that maybe the women themselves aren’t so important. Anna and Elsa by themselves are strong, compelling female characters, yet all the actions they take are very heavily influenced by the men around them. Anna is completely played by Hans and wouldn’t have made it to Elsa if not for Kristoff. Elsa was driven out by the Duke of Weselton and her entire character arc is instigated by her father. Arguably, there would not have been a movie without the men, and for a film that is supposedly focusing on the importance of a relationship between girls that’s terrible. Straight-up terrible. With male characters taking the agency that (in this narrative) they didn’t deserve to have, is it any wonder that it’s so easy to genderbend one way, but not the other?

Doing a Google image search presents a slightly more optimistic outlook on this situation: there are more designs for fem!Kristoff and even a couple for fem!Hans. Despite the sorry state of my Tumblr dash, it’s nice to be reminded that some fans are thinking about this. I just wish that they seemed as excited for a burly, stand-offish woman who talks to her reindeer as they are for a shiny, sassy ice king.

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About Tsunderin

Greetings and salutations! Feel free to just call me Rin—we’re all friends here, or nemeses who just haven’t gotten to know each other well enough. I’m a video game lover from the womb to the tomb, and Bioware enthusiast until the day they stop making games with amazing characters that I cry over. And while I don’t partake as often as I used to, don’t be surprised to find me poking around an anime or manga every once in a while either. A personal interest for me is characterization in media and how women in particular have been portrayed, are being portrayed, and will be portrayed in the future. I’m not going to mince words about my opinion either.

4 thoughts on “Frozen’s Fan Art: A ‘Fixer Upper’?

  1. This is really thought-provoking. I took my kids (7 yo girl and 6 yo boy) to see this movie and was mostly pleased with the lack of SAVE ME! going on. And while you’re right that she wouldn’t have made it to Elsa without Hans, she had the wherewithal to go out after her sister on her own to begin with, refusing to turn back when it got difficult.
    Elsa (and really how messed UP would you be if you’d grown up afraid of yourself, locked in a room?) throws off those chains and exalts in herself, even as she tries to protect those she loves through her own isolation. Sure, it all starts with the actions of men, but these are sisters essentially doing it for themselves. And the act of true love at the end was SUCH a welcome change of pace from the typical romantic ending, I was giddy.
    The lack of secondary female characters was disappointing, you’re right. The girls’ mother – did she get to speak at all?
    So, while I don’t agree with you entirely, I appreciate the food for thought. And I’d love to see a burly Henrietta talking to her reindeer!

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  4. With the exception of the comment about the Duke – I could provide a number of reasons why he was necessary, and as a fan of his, I’ve done that a lot – you make a very good point. However, I don’t think it’s just Disney to blame. In just about every fandom I’ve been in, this one included, the romance does get a lot of attention. It doesn’t mean the fans haven’t picked up on the movie’s message; it just means they prefer to focus on the romantic side. (Personally, I don’t find it that interesting. But still…)
    I’m with you on the lack of female secondary characters, though. That was disappointing.

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