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Fairy Tales have played a role in the upbringing of the children of our world, it has single-handedly taught society’s children the morals in which they are expected to live by to get by. These lessons have come at the expense of the main character displacement. Fairy Tails are the cautionary tale of “You have to be lost, to find purpose”. In life, personal growth comes during the journey that we call life and the challenges that it brings; Fairy Tales follow this exact concept with a more focused intent. This has been apparent in people favorites like Cinderella, The Little Mermaid & Pocahontas in which the protagonist is placed in a foreign environment and ultimately finds a better version of themselves in this new world.
These storylines have usually centered around the male character as he brings this superior new world onto the female characters feet. Recently Disney’s Films have changed the concept of displacement to focus on the female’s characters identity. There are two ways in which fairy tales displaces their characters: 1)”Traveler between worlds” in which the character is displaced to a foreign world that unlike their magical reality, is more grounded in everyday reality like Pocahontas, Little Mermaid and Enchanted (2007) and 2) when the protagonist travels just beyond their threshold to an unknown world or circumstance that challenges their very being like in films Mulan and Frozen(2014).
How it works
Enchanted and Frozen have displaced their female characters so they can be exposed to their own wants and needs as a person, not a princess but while keeping some of its traditional rules. Frozen and Enchanted both challenge the ideals of the old fairy tales the world grew up watching and reading.
Enchanted, a film about a princess who finds herself lost in the real world of New York City as she looks for her Prince Charming. This film is an unexpected revision of fairy tales as it places Giselle in a world where magic doesn’t exist and the rules are very different. Throughout the film, the role of the princess is challenged constantly as Giselle learns through this new world the agency she has to choose and question the options before her. She is put in a weird position when all the obligations and responsibilities of a Disney princess is questioned by the film’s realist, Lawyer Robert.
This challenges Giselle to really question the patriarchal rules she has been following her whole life. Enchanted uses displacement to redefine Giselle’s identity as a woman and transform her from the na??ve princess to the heroin. At the end of the film, Enchanted switches the roles as Robert is taken by the dragon and Giselle is left to rescue him. The male protagonist is thrown to the side as the princess thinks and solves problems for herself. However, the film still keeps its traditional roots in which there is never a doubt that the female protagonist will end up with a man at the end of the story.
Frozen on the other hand completely re-invents the wheel in which Disney uses to recreate fairy tales. Frozen follows the same structure as precious female-led movies like Mulan, Brave, & Tangled, where their displacement comes from the protagonist leaving their familiar, safe and secure home and traveling beyond the threshold into the unknown. They do not travel into a different world per say but into the unknown of their world where magical things did happen.
Journey’s like these implies exploration and interactions with the environment that seem to always challenge and teach the protagonist in many ways. In Frozen, Anna travels into the wild with only her ambition and determination, not many skills, but she was put to the test countless of time in which she came out of top. With these challenges, we found Anna to be more competent than the average Disney Princess. Frozen is the first Disney animated film where the female characters are not influenced by the male presence in any way.
Unlike Enchanted, Anna and Elsa identity isn’t bound by only the social norms of their gender but by their blood. This is a story about sisters who each have to overcome the inner demons to become better leaders and better sisters (i.e Elsa’s Powers and Anna’s Blind Love for Elsa). This film explores the theme of acceptance as Elsa suppresses herself because she, as a powerful woman, is told to by the outside forces in her life. Anna, who brings the romantic aspects of fairy tales with her blind love for the prince but even that takes a backseat to the sisters bond which is ultimately is the driving force of Frozen. Anna still holds the undying dream of finding her true love.
She meets a charming prince, sings a duet with him and accepts his marriage proposal, all in like twenty minutes. It’s ridiculous. But unlike the Disney princesses before this, Frozen knows this. It uses Anna very fast engagement to show how this cliche is unrealistic and absurd when the charming prince turns out to be the villain of the film. In the end, Anna blind love for her sister is what saves the day.
Fairy tales have often used displacement to ensure an adventure that changes the identity of our protagonist and shows growth. Disney’s Fairy Tales redefine masculinity and femininity and how it should look according to the men of Disney. But in these films the female characters who are lost work to find themselves as women, princesses, sisters and what that means to them. Often times in these stories, the women of these stories are displaced to only find their solution as true love with “a perfect man”.
It’s like the only way for female characters to gain power is to find the perfect man or be the perfect man(I.e Mulan). In Frozen, Elsa and Anna are not tomboys, they are not knights, they are not warriors, they’re princesses who used their own power to save the day. One by one, Disney damaging tropes are presented and debunked from “love’s at first sight” to “damsels in distress”. Frozen dares the system in a way that Enchanted did not do.
Both Enchanted and Frozen changed the way they show female characters and their true love. In both films, the princesses (Anna and Giselle) are placed in the infamous sleeping curse that can only be broken with a true love’s kiss. Enchanted challenges the idea of blind love that Disney princess have with Giselle and her relationship to the Prince. After being poisoned, the Prince kisses her in attempt to wake her but nothing happens.
It was only after Robert, the man she has gotten to know throughout the whole film kisses her that she awakens from her curse. It shows that love is more than just destiny and fate but actually getting to know the person you love. In Frozen’s climax, when Anna is frozen we’re tricked into thinking that Kristoff would be the one to break the curse with his “love” for her but instead, the love between Anna and Elsa is what breaks it. The love between these two sisters is what the film recognizes as “true love”.
Enchanted did a good job in rattling the patriarchy cage that a female protagonist is put in while Frozen broke it all together. These films are not tales of helpless princesses sitting around waiting to be saved by a prince. They have opened up the door for so many films like Moana, Wreck it Ralph and many more that came after it.
The steps taken by Enchanted and Frozen takes to make its heroines stronger than the princess that came before are small by real-life standards. But within the narrow scope of Disney, the idea of a girl having a story outside of the male characters of the story is new. Enchanted and Frozen are films that tell little girls that true love doesn’t have to involve marrying a prince or being rescued. It’s a step in the right direction.
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