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Frozen’s Elsa (Watch Now on Disney+) is that rare Disney Princess that, to date, hasn’t been at least partly defined by a man. She hasn’t been rescued by a prince, in the same way that the likes of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty‘s Aurora, (Watch Now on Disney+) were, or been seen to be dependent on or controlled by a man in any way. And she hasn’t even had a sniff of falling in love with one.
One of the strengths and talking points of the first film, it’s a trope also absent in the sequel. But, a lack of any kind of romantic interest thus far for Elsa has led to speculation amongst some about her sexuality, and the hashtag #GiveElsaaGirlfriend has been in circulation since 2013 when the first film was released. Live-action Disney Princess, Emma Watson, who played Belle in Beauty and the Beast, recently declared herself “self-partnered” and happily single – perhaps this echoes Elsa’s feelings.
Still, one Fandom community member, in particular, was eager to know definitively whether Elsa’s sexuality would be explored. Come on, Disney, is Elsa a lesbian, asks mio? We put the question directly to Frozen 2 writer/director, and Chief Creative Officer of Disney Animation Studios, Jennifer Lee.
Elsa Has a Lot on Her Plate
Lee responds: “We always say that Elsa will tell us. She told us what she was ready for on this journey. We really trust in [letting the characters guide us]; we ground ourselves with the characters, we journal as them. We did all these character personality questions [to prepare for Frozen 2]. And you really felt that she, in this case, wasn’t ready for any relationship. And she certainly was trying to wrestle with understanding her powers, what she’s meant to do, carrying the weight of the world, her kingdom and the forest on her shoulders, and worrying about her family. So, it was like that was plenty. But, as of now, it’s just ‘We’ll let her tell us’.”
The director adds, “If there’s something more after this, we don’t know.”
Both psychologically and logistically, it makes sense that the idea of a relationship may not have crossed a person’s mind yet — if, as is the case with Elsa, for a big portion of her life, she was in self-exile and burdened with some kind of dangerous power. Indeed, Elsa separates herself from her closest relationship – that with her sister – because of the harm she could cause. So why would she contemplate finding a romantic partner at this stage of her life? Romantic or sexual feelings would be understandably sidelined, or, indeed, as yet unawakened.
Josh Gad, who voices snowman sidekick Olaf in the franchise, says, like Jennifer Lee, that care was taken by the creative team to really get inside these characters’ heads as if they were real people.
“Their process of discovering what the sequel would be about was to literally do an inside-out approach, where they sat down with a psychologist, and had all of these questions,” says Gad. “They would be asked the questions in character on Elsa, Kristoff and Olaf in order to understand where the characters were at, at this point in their lives, and what they still needed answered.”
So far, so as real as possible, then.
Anna’s Love Life Could Spark Curiosity
Of course, Elsa’s sister, Anna, has had two different love interests throughout the two films – one being the duplicitous Hans; the other, the kindly Kristoff. If neither sister had been given romantic avenues to explore, perhaps the topic of Elsa’s love life might never have come into the equation for fans. But it makes sense that audiences would want to see Elsa partner up like her sister, and it makes sense that Elsa herself might look at Anna and wonder someday whether she might want similar.
And with fans and the LGBTQ community clamouring for Elsa to come out, it would be wonderful, progressive, and, frankly, right, for a hugely popular animated Disney franchise to dive headfirst into (explicit and better) representation. None of this implied, is-she-or-isn’t-she nonsense, in other words, and nothing as clumsily depicted as the live-action Beauty and the Beast’s depiction of the relationship between Gaston and LeFou.
Thematic and Psychological Evolution
While Frozen 2 looks at Elsa better understanding and dealing with the growth in her powers, and follows up questions left hanging after the end of the first film, perhaps we can look forward to seeing Elsa’s sexuality explored in a third film. It’s certainly not being ruled out by Jennifer Lee.
For Lee, it was important for Frozen 2 to focus in on answering the questions raised in the first film while staying true to the characters’ current psychological states, and also to stay in thematically similar territory.
“There were questions we had — that audience members had — like, she’s been accepted, but why does she have powers? Where were the parents really going? Why is Anna born the way she is?” says Lee. “Those kinds of questions, I think, we explore [in Frozen 2]. You do look at the past a little differently based on this film, and how the past informs the future. There are ties, so that hopefully you feel like [Frozen] 1 and 2 together feel like one complete journey.
“Thematically, though, we stay in the same universe. [We] looked at fear versus love in terms of being different in the first film: now you’re accepted, but it’s fear versus love, in terms of change and growing up, which are scary subjects for a lot of people. And daring to step into the unknown, but to step into the life that you are meant to live and all the obstacles that come with that.”
Where Frozen 3 Could Be Headed
As Elsa begins, in the next as yet unwritten chapter, to integrate into this life she’s “meant to live”, we could well see her romantic feelings start to develop, then. But for now, we’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope that any next chapter in the franchise could mark an important step forward for Disney.
For Josh Gad, a third chapter would set foot in very different territory.
“I feel like Kristoff and Olaf need to have a buddy action comedy that feels unexpected,” he says. “The two of them basically taking on the Arendellean criminal underworld.”
Co-star Jonathan Groff, who voices Kristoff, is on board: “The Arendellean mob, basically. Yeah!”
This might yet come to fruition.
Watch our complete interview with Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff in the video at the top of the page.
Frozen 2 hits screens in the UK and US on November 22 and in Australia on November 28.
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