Pop Culture Fix: Frozen Fans Dream Big With Lesbian Disney Princess Campaign and Other Stories

feature image by Bekwo via deviantart

Welcome to your weekly pop culture fix, an in-depth look at everything you need to know about queer soda pop, queer popcorn, queer pick-up games of Hop on Pop, and Pop Chips.


WHY AREN’T WE GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOUR MOVIES

GLAAD’s fourth annual Studio Responsibility Index, which ranks LGBTQ representation in film, found 17.5% of 2015’s 126 major studio releases included LGBT characters. This percentage is up zero points from last year. It will surprise literally not one single solitary soul that the majority of these LGBTQ characters were white gay cis men.

Only one transgender character appeared in a major studio film in 2015, Warner Brothers’ Hot Pursuit, and “her brief appearance served as a punchline to laugh at when her identity is revealed.” “Brief appearance” is a good descriptor for most of the major studio films’ LGBT characters —  73% clocked in less than ten minutes of screen time. Racial diversity remains dismal and saw a seven-percentage point drop. Furthermore, “there was a noticeable resurgence of outright offensive depictions of LGBT people, which relied on gay panic and defamatory stereotypes for cheap laughs.”

It was also a landmark year for the Vito Russo Test in which major studios hit an all-time low of 36%. To pass the test, the film must contain an identifiably LGBT character who is: 1. Not soley/predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity, and 2. Tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect, meaning “they are not there to simply provide colorful commentary, paint urban authenticity, or (perhaps most commonly) set up a punchline.” In other words, “The character should “matter.””

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via glaad

Of course, independent films have always been more likely to feature LGBTQ characters, and GLAAD looked at four smaller art-house-geared studios associated with larger companies — Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Roadside Attractions and Sony Pictures Classics. They found 22% of the releases from those four studios to be LGBT-inclusive, an increase from last year’s 10.6%.

A lot of our favorite queer movies of 2015 didn’t come from those smaller studios or the major ones they’re affiliated with, though, but rather from distributors like IFC, Gravitas Ventures, Magnolia, Wolfe, Strand Releasing, The Weinstein Company, Open Road Films and Film Movement. Films from those distributors aren’t part of GLAAD’s statistical analysis, although they were discussed in the back of the report. These films include Tangerine, Carol, Appropriate Behavior, Addicted to Fresno, Dope and The Duke of Burgundy.

Walt Disney’s epic failure in the Studio Index — 0% of their films were LGBT-inclusive — has inspired perhaps the internet’s most ambitious representation campaign of all time: Frozen fans are pushing for Elsa to be a lesbian. Alexis Isabel Moncanda wrote on MTV about why she started the #GiveElsaAGirlfriend hashtag on on April 30th, recalling how growing up she “never saw a princess fall in love with another princess,” although she did see princesses fall in love with beasts and ogres. The campaign caught on quick, even inspiring tweets at Disney from the actors who voice the characters and coverage from multiple news outlets. It was a great moment for fan art, too:

This campaign has also inspired super-cool dudes like this guy to write funny things like, “We have seen how Disney’s militant progressive ideology is applied to sports through ESPN. It is also applied to the fairy tales used to entertain innocent children. Now cultural Marxist social justice warriors are pushing for Disney’s first lesbian princess:”

But honestly… as awesome as this idea is and as great as LGBT representation in Disney films would be and as much as I honestly believe that Disneyworld is the happiest place on earth, I’m not holding my breath for a Disney princess to go gay any time soon. Disney still hasn’t even figured out how to not be terrible at racial diversity.

According to Elite Daily, the truth of the matter is that most big studio films, including action movies like Star Wars and The Avengers and Disney cartoons like Frozen and The Lion King, also rely on revenue from international releases, including countries that aren’t remotely accepting of LGBT people. (Not to mention the significant percentage of Americans who still aren’t fans of the LGBTs.) Frozen is one of the top-grossing films of all time, and 68.6% of that gross came from overseas. Disney, specifically, also makes a huge chunk of cash through merchandising and licensing, as well as through revenue generated by its family-focused Disney Parks & Resorts, which include a new park in Shanghai, Hong Kong Disneyland and an increasingly sprawling mass of parks in Florida. In fact, Disney Parks & Resorts actually generate more revenue for the company than their films or merchandise. (And, of course Conservative Christian groups have been freaking out at Disney since 1991 for unofficially hosting “Gay Days” at its park.) We’ve made huge strides in LGBTQ representation in youth culture over the past two years with shows like Steven Universe, but I’d be very surprised if this campaign succeeds.

That being said, despite these international markets, the Russo Brothers have told Collider that when it comes to the Marvel universe, an LGBT character may very well come sooner rather than later. So who knows!

Beatrice Frasl at Newsweek thinks making Elsa a lesbian would be a weak compromise:

Other than “giving Elsa a girlfriend” retrospectively, queers deserve a film featuring an other-than-straight or other-than-cisgender character from the start, and no less than a main character in no less than a major film. They deserve this protagonist to be visibly out and proud on screen, not as a post scriptum addition to an already existing, self-contained heteronormative narrative. They deserve this protagonist to be represented in cinema as undoubtedly and unapologetically queer—not only in the form of subtextual codification or in the form of allusions to camp sensibility, like Disney frequently does in its portrayal of villains or comic relief characters; not only in the form of more or less subtly connoting coming-out narratives; and not only in a sequel.


Sense8

New pictures from the set of Sense8 feature some very suggestive poses involving two attractive females…

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…and also Nomi! But no Amanita? IMDB has yet to update with word on which actors are staying through the second season, set to debut in December. Sigh.

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Bad Moms Though

This trailer for Bad Moms looks amazing and also includes women kissing other women… and, believe it or not, there is not ONE — not-a-one! — adult male in the entire video. Not one!


Also:

Orphan Black and trans representation: Can They Fix Tony Sawicki?

+ Look, we’ve all asked ourselves this at one time or another: “how do you make a tasteful biopic about a lesbian mass murderer?”

+ We’ve added two more names to the list of Dead Lesbian and Bisexual Characters.

+ Kristen Stewart is directing a short for Refinery29.

+ Top ten landmarks in gay & lesbian literature

+ Johnny Bravo is a lesbian

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2689 articles for us.

61 Comments

  1. The #GiveElseAGirlfriend campaign is super interesting to me! And I didn’t know anything about it in depth before this coverage. So thanks Riese.

    I think, more realistically, I’d be fine with “DONT give Elsa a boyfriend”. The best part of her story is that’s she’s a Disney Princess who didn’t need a man to save her. If they just leave that core as it is, then people can at least put what they want in the character- like a blank slate for your own representation, however you made need it?

    I dunno. I’m mostly just thinking outloud here. I would love to hear others’ thoughts on the campaign of anyone else cares to share!

    • Not giving her a boyfriend would be cool, though they’ve already done that with Brave (and the first Frozen movie). They have not done queer representation!

      And I just really want to see Elsa get romantic with a pretty princess with fire powers. All the fanart has created a strong need for it to happen.

  2. You know what? I would be over-the-top happy if they would just keep Elsa single. A Disney princess who grows up to be single and happy would be revolutionary.

    My head-cannon is that she’s gay, but there’s no way they’re going to do that, and if they did there’s even less of a chance they’d do a good job of it. Keeping her single wouldn’t exclude her being queer, but it also would be relatable for an even wider bunch of girls to see a princess whose life story doesn’t include falling in love with a man in order to live happily ever after.

    I think Merida might fall into this category already, but even better to have more than one way to not end up with a man.

    • Seconded! I identified way to hard with him as a kid. In my mid 20s I had a bleached blonde pomp and dressed almost exactly like him without even realising it… Way too big an influence. Haha.

  3. Everytime someone talks about how the reason Big Production Company hasn’t featured gay characters yet is because of international markets, I always feel like I have to apologize for being from one of those pesky homophobic countries. Sorry we’re ruining your fun!

  4. Gay Men = 77%
    Lesbians = 23%
    Bisexuals = 9%

    Gay Men + Lesbians + Bisexuals = 109%

    Dear GLAAD, I think you counted bisexuals twice. That’s not what the “bi” in bisexual means.

  5. My 100% favorite thing about those dudes who call people SJWs is that they picked the phrase ‘social justice warrior’ to be a ‘negative’ epithet in the first place

    Like what could be more amazing than truly being a warrior for social justice

    Every single one of my idols could be affectionately described as such

    • Right? I’ve thought this so many times. All three of those words have entirely positive connotations on their own. So all of those placing themselves in opposition to SJWs are basically admitting that they are antisocial unjustified wimps.

      Same goes for “politically correct” – when you break the words down to their basic meaning, you get something like “concerned with being civil towards other people”. Also known as “kindness”. Oh, you want a license to be offensive because you are a person who objects to basic decency and kindness? No kidding, I never would have guessed.

      • SJW is defnitely a badge of pride, and it’s so obvious by listening to the words. I don’t see “correctness” as entirely positive though, because the word itself has connotations of following norms or rules and doing what is considered correct. But being called PC usually means you try to be respectful and kind, yes.

  6. i found frasl’s criticism of queer elsa really heterocentric. starting from scratch with a new character and making sure they are seen as gay before all other personality traits is my LEAST favourite kind of representation. i think even if you don’t count that elsa is coded as queer through subtext, there is nothing–ZERO–that codes her as hetero. super weird to argue that she is a heteronormative character. i think revealing that a character has been queer all along in a sequel is the perfect way for disney to dip their toes into queer rep.

    that said, i’ll be happy if she just remains single. asexual disney princess/queen would actually be the perfect foray into non-straight characters, and it might not offend international markets as much as if she got a gf.

      • I feel like social conservatives and queer people are usually on the same page when it comes to identifying queer content in movies. Like:

        Conservative censorship group: OMG THIS MOVIE IS SO GAY!! 😮
        Most people: Calm down, it’s a fun movie about friendship.
        Me: OMG THIS MOVIE IS SO GAY!! 😀

    • Yeah, her criticism made me wonder if she had even seen Frozen. Elsa shows zero interest in men throughout the film and even conservative Christian types have complained that the movie is already gay propaganda. I also see nothing wrong with revealing that a character is queer in the sequel. In fact, I think it would be kind of brilliant. Straight people already adore this character. It would be like heterobaiting. We’ve been queerbaited enough. It’s their turn!

      But yeah, I’d also just be happy if she stayed single.

    • “there is nothing–ZERO–that codes her as hetero” EXACTLY. Her comments really annoyed the hell out of me too. I don’t mind a story about a person’s sexuality, but having a character be fleshed out before we know they’re sexuality is also great.

  7. So what we have here, is a great illustration of how our beloved capitalism, the fix for all the world’s problems according to it’s zealots, is actually PREVENTING progress from happening and is keeping our pop culture stuck well behind the values of the majority of our population.

  8. I went to high school with the girl who started the hash tag and it’s so weird to think someone I just casually knew has this much influence.
    Either way, it’s a great movement.

  9. I don’t want Disney to give Elsa a girlfriend. We so need more representation in movies of women who aren’t defined by their romantic relationships and Elsa’s powerful character does that well. It was amazing that Disney had such a strong non-romance plotline for a female character and it would be even better if they didn’t resort to a romantic plot for her in a sequel. My head-cannon would be fine with her dating women, but my head-cannon doesn’t see her ever settling down with someone.

  10. Excuse me while I take issue with lesbian princess.

    Elsa is a QUEEN, she had a coronation and everything.
    I know that us USian have a hard time attaching that title to someone not Beyonce or Elizabeth, but say it with me: Elsa Lesbian Queen
    Q-U-E-E-N.

    It’s one letter away from queer making her title that much more perfect.
    AMIRITE?

  11. DISNEY should just grab a lesbian from the old myths and history and make a new princess out of her.

    Seriously. Queen Christina of Sweden. So much material can you be used for a Disney film.

    Or if they’re looking for something ‘magical’, then look to Asian and Polynesian, even African myths and legends about lesbian goddesses. Theres so much material to tap into.

  12. I think the people saying Elsa needs a girlfriend missed the point of the movie, which was about family and sisters. Why can’t that just be enough? I agree that in a dream world, it would be nice to have a queer Disney character, but just not Elsa. That’s just not her character or the plot of the movie. I like it when movies value relationships that aren’t romantic-like sisters and friendships.

    • They did that and gave Anna a boyfriend though.

      I didn’t miss the point of the movie at all. It’s great that it focused on the relationship between two sisters. The sequel should do that too, like the first one did – but also show that Elsa is gay. That’s what I want.

      • I just really want there to be movies where characters are single without it being a plot point. Like, in Brave, there was all of the “she doesn’t need a man!” which is totally fine…but wouldn’t it be better if being single wasn’t portrayed as rebellious? What if there was a children’s princess movie where someone’s relationship status just never even came up?

  13. I definitely disagree with Frasl’s criticisms. I had always read “Let It Go” as a coming out song.

    Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried!

    Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
    Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
    Well, now they know!

    Let it go, let it go
    Can’t hold it back anymore
    I don’t care
    What they’re going to say

    It’s funny how some distance
    Makes everything seem small
    And the fears that once controlled me
    Can’t get to me at all!

    To me, it easily reads as a queer person previously living in a conservative community who leaves for a more progressive university and finding out that there’s more to the world outside.

    Whether the audience reads it as a coming out song exclusively for fantastical ice powers or as a parallel for more realistic types of coming-out is up to the individual, but Elsa’s narrative has never been remotely heteronormative. I dislike the reductive practice of instantly shoving queer characters’ sexualities into the audience’s face. I continue to long for the day where I can watch a movie that happens to have a lesbian lead in it, instead of watching a “lesbian movie”.

    As with the comments above me, the most realistic possibility I see at this point is to leave Elsa alone and not foist any romantic subplots on her. Even if it pains me greatly and even if I would love to see her paired up with the WoC love interest with fire powers.

  14. I announce a kickstarter campaign for hiring a hitman in case anything happens to Amanita.

    But on the serious note, hive orgies won’t involve her, and the piccy doesn’t look like it’s in meatspace.

  15. Can’t we just make Elsa the straight supportive friend and make a new lesbian princess. Seriously, can’t we use the opportunity to not only represent us but also teach kids on how to be supportive and accepting of others. Kids have all these examples of being a good friend to all walks of life except gays and transgender folks. Besides I think merida would make a better lesbian character mostly because I never watched Frozen, nor do I intend to in the future. I finally got my niece to stop singing that damn song!

  16. I am loving the Johnny Bravo is a lesbian article because I’ve been trying to make “[straight male character] is a butch lesbian” happen for aGES. My favourite interpretations of who should be lesbians are Han Solo and Mulder from X-files. (Also, apparently Ellen Page was going to play Han Solo in a stage production? Does anyone know more about this?)

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