Let me start off by saying that just because characters in the media can be diverse doesn’t mean they should be forced to be so.
I’m a social progressive. I have no issues with people calling for reform in the areas of race, gender, and, in this case, sexual identity and preferences. I’m a supporter of the LGBT community and have several friends who are apart of this as well. I was ecstatic to hear about the United States court decision that nationally legalized marriage between same sex couples and have lashed out on social media when it comes to the new “LGBT Jim Crow” laws popping up in states like South Carolina and Mississippi. I know that while the LGBT community has come far, that does not mean they have achieved total acceptance and should continue to press towards that equal treatment they ask for and deserve.
However, a recent movement has sprung from the deepest darkest pit of hell, sorry, I mean Tumblr, and Twitter that has spurred me to write this article, and that is the #GiveElsaAGirlfriend movement.
If you don’t know, Frozen is a 2013 Disney animated picture based on the Snow Queen fairy tale that was a commercial and critical smash, thanks to tons of merchandise sales and the monster smash single from the film “Let It Go”. In the film, the Snow Queen Elsa is born with ice powers and thanks to being sheltered physically and mentally by her accidental abusive parents for most of her life, runs away and declares a permanent winter in their country. Elsa’s sister, Anna, must then travel to her to get her back and show the power of true family love and all that good Disney stuff. Personally, I liked the film, if you discount the absolutely godawful first third, and while it isn’t my favorite Disney animated film (Princess and the Frog and Jungle Book are tied for that spot, btw) it’s still pretty good. However, most people absolutely adored it, calling it one of the greatest animated movies, if not greatest movie in Disney history.
I can understand where they come from, in that Frozen does subvert and twist some of the familiar aspects of fairy tails, in that (spoilers) a dashing man doesn’t save the day, the romantic interest turns out to be a douchenozzle, and there is no wedding as the ending. It’s for these and other bits and pieces that people hail the movie for, and while that’s all fine and good, I feel like it’s going a step too far with the aforementioned #GiveElsaAGirlfriend.
The hashtag has been spread around like wildfire and has people clamoring for the idea that Elsa should come out in the announced sequel, Frozen 2, as a homosexual and should have a girlfriend. The basis for this? All I can gather is that it stems from the notion that Elsa didn’t get together with a guy in the first film and that “Let it Go” has become sort of a LGBT anthem for “coming out of the closet” and publicly admitting their sexual identity.
All fine and good, but do we NEED a lesbian Elsa? My answer: no.
Am I saying that kids should not be exposed to anything in regards to the LGBT community? Absolutely not. My favorite show on right now, Steven Universe takes the themes of same-sex love, gender identity, and sex and makes them not only kid friendly but also incredibly thought provoking. Hell, Paranorman had one hell of a twist near the end in regards to this that I will absolutely not spoil here and I thought that that was a great subversion of tropes and was a great moment for LGBT characters in film. We can’t keep kids sheltered from this for long, and while I know that people do have the fear it will cause their kids to go on Tumblr and become otherkin and things like that, while I sympathize, the sooner we help show kids that this is acceptable in our society the better off we are as a society. So no, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have LGBT representation in children’s media. If anything, it should increase a bit.
So why am I against Elsa coming out as a lesbian? Well, because it isn’t needed. Reading tweets that used the hashtag, I’ve come to the conclusion that most people want Elsa to come out as gay not for the sake of her character, but for the sake of presenting a member of the LGBT community in a positive role model role and for members of the community to feel like they can step into the shoes of a Disney princess.
Okay. Why can’t Disney create a new character that is also a strong female role model and have her already established as a lesbian? Why is it “needed” that Elsa come out? Just because she didn’t end up with a guy? What if she isn’t interested in a relationship at all with either gender?
This is a problem I have in regards to diversity in media. It’s not that creators aren’t trying to be diverse, it’s more that diversity is more being forced than being organically created.
People complain that there are not enough diverse role models in comics for instance. Lack of strong female characters, lack of racial minorities, etc. So what should comic creators do? For the most part, it seems to take a previously established character, kick them out of the role, and put a new character of minority status in the role. Let’s use Miles Morales, a Black-Hispanic, taking over the mantle of Spider-Man in the Marvel Ultimate line, for this example. While I’m not saying that Miles Morales isn’t a good character, it feels less like a person taking up the mantle of a popular superhero who happens to of an ethnicity other than caucasian, it more feels like an ethnicity taking up the mantle who happens to be his own character.
Let’s take a look at the recent Ghostbusters controversy as well, shall we? While I attest that the trailer shouldn’t be judged on the fact that it’s just the introduction of a female led cast and should be judged on the fact it’s absolutely unfunny and cringingly awful, there is something to be said about the casting. Not knocking the cast at all, who are all great actors and comedians, but when you watch the trailer, does it feel more like “Wow, these people are the Ghostbusters and just happen to be women” or “Wow, in a bit to try to appear progressive, the produciton company decided to go with female protagonists just to get a little shine on their ‘progressive buttons’”? Do you see where I am going with this?
Forced diversity is just as bad as no diversity, to me. It forces creators to abandon their image and try to appeal to masses. If a creator has the idea for an LGBT character, that’s absolutely fine. But if a creator has an idea for a character and has no plans for their sexuality but is forced to make that character have characteristics of someone on the LGBT for no other reason than to appear diverse, that I have a problem with because the character becomes less a character and more pandering to the leftist, gormless gerbil creatures of Buzzfeed.
That’s the primary reason that I am not a fan of movements like #GiveElsaAGirlfriend or any other campaign trying to get diversity in media (aside from the Star Wars one because Finn x Poe is OTP 4 life), because it seems less like making media more creative driven and more making it consumer driven. It becomes more pandering and psuedo-progressive bullshit that makes it that diversity in media isn’t so much evidence of a progressive society, but more as a selling point to get butts in theaters or eyes on comics. I think Alan Moore said it best: “It’s not the job of the artist to give the audience what the audience wants. If the audience knew what they needed, then they wouldn’t be the audience. They would be the artists. It is the job of artists to give the audience what they need.”
If Elsa does come out of the closet, then I just hope it comes from the will of the creators, and not the will of the consumers.