What's So Bad About Needing A Man? Kirsten Dunst, Gender Roles And "Frozen."

3 years ago


Last weekend I finally sat down to watch "Frozen."  I've always been a fan of the Disney princess movie and after all of the fantastic reviews, I was psyched to watch it with my 22 year-old daughter; a born and raised Disney princess herself.

When it was over, my thought was, it was nice, not thrilling, but nice. I could listen to Idina Menzel sing all day, but it's no "Beauty and The Beast," "Pocahontas," or "Aladdin."  Not even close. But before I could say anything, my daughter said, "So do you get it?  Her true love was the love for her sister and not the prince!  She didn't need him to save her."

This got me to wondering.  What does that mean for Belle, Jasmine and Pocahontas?  Are they considered weak because they fell in love with a man?  Unless I missed something big, I think Belle saves the Beast, Jasmine chooses her true love from the wrong side of the tracks over a Prince, and we all know what we can thank Pocahontas for...So, call me crazy, but I've thought the Disney princesses were always pretty strong role models for girls.

So what makes "Frozen" different?  Because, let me be clear; women are empowered by this movie. We've rallied around it as a representation of all things feminist.  Writers and reviewers are championing Elsa and Anna as role models for their daughters. Is all of this hype about what my daughter said?  Is it because the act of true love is not a kiss from a prince?  Or, is it something more?  Could we possibly want our daughters to come away from this movie believing that women don't need or shouldn't need men? Because, honestly, to me, intended or not, that's the nuance here.  That's the difference in this movie.  Only, unless I dozed through half of the movie, I saw a story where there would have been no reconciliation between Anna and Elsa, hence, no happy ending at all without Kristoff, who is most definitely not a prince, but still a pretty great guy.

Have we chosen to champion this movie because we've all grown up with "someday our prince will come..." and when he turns out to be your sister, that somehow makes us stronger?  Is it that we want our daughters to believe that they don't need a man and that, if they do, they are somehow less than?  Is it ever ok to need a man or to admit it?  What's so wrong with wanting to ride off into the sunset, or choosing to ride off into the sunset or liking a knight in shining armor?  What's so wrong with women being women and men being men?  When did it all get so hard?

Just ask Kirsten Dunst!

In a recent Harper's Bazaar article, Kirsten had the audacity to pay tribute to the rather traditional gender role her mother played in her life.  With absolutely NO judgment of women who didn't choose motherhood for their career path, (yes, I meant to define motherhood as a career) she praised the environment in which she was raised as provided for her by her mother.

She also stated that women might like a knight in shining armor, and that women need to be women and men need to be men for relationships to work. Certain bloggers and other writers have taken this to a personal level by calling her names, making negative comments about her talent and her looks, and saying that they hated her.  It's shameful how often all the nastiest stuff comes from other women, demonstrating just how little a distance we have traveled since 7th grade.  It seems mean girls never die...

Bashing Kirsten Dunst for her comments is about as anti-feminist as you can get. Figuring out where you fit in, what your role is and what you want it to be is tough these days. Nothing is black and white in this world and gender roles are only one of those very murky things we need to wade through. This is a tough time to be a young girl.

Things used to be simpler.  Swearing was an absolute no-no on TV, seeing naked people in primetime or without X ratings was unheard of and certainly, witnessing a man and his wife act out their version of sexual foreplay while performing at the Grammys was inconceivable, but those clear boundaries are a thing of the past.

Watching "Frozen" and hearing about Kirsten's plight made me think that we need to be careful about how we women talk to our daughters. Our daughters need to believe that they are strong and capable on their own but I also think we need to be careful about how we characterize men and the role they will play in our daughters' lives.

"Frozen" was good.  It was entertaining and it was refreshing to see these sisters save themselves.  But men played a role in their happy ending and I think that it's important for our daughters to recognize that as well.    We don't have to accept movies that portray women as strong only if they don't need men and we don't need movies that say men need to ride in to save weak, incapable women.  We don't have to be pigeon holed into specific roles and we can we can be smart, capable women who stay home with kids.  We can love men, want them in our lives and still be the CEO.  It's the ability to choose what's right for us that provides the strength.

I applaud Kirsten Dunst for what she said, because, let's face it; she knew she'd get what she got. Her mother and father must be very proud of the very strong woman they raised.

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