My current book project, Love Is Love Is Love, is an exploration of LGBT politics and Broadway musicals that examines how and (more importantly) which politics are advanced by Broadway musicals as they address LGBT issues, representational strategies, and the changing landscape of LGBT identity.
The chapter featured in this exhibition is an essay on Frozen: The Broadway Musical. It is provisionally entitled “Hygge, Absent Girlfriends, and Frozen Eleganza.” It is about queer readings of Disney’s Frozen franchise and how these readings are (or are not) incorporated into the Broadway show.
Elsa from Disney’s Frozen is a gay icon. Lesbian readings of the movie appeared on the internet almost immediately following the Disney film’s release in November 2013. The film’s sequels and its interpretations via other media – books, action-figures, dresses, streaming audio, live theatre – have only fueled these interpretations, stoking rather than chilling these queer readings.
The original 2013 film, as you probably know – and as everyone who had small children in their lives knows more than they ever cared to know – is about two sisters in a fantastic Northern European kingdom called Arendelle. The princesses Anna and Elsa are best friends when they are very young, but they are separated because of Elsa’s magical power to manipulate water, ice, and snow. Elsa doesn’t know how to control her abilities, and she unintentionally endangers her sister one night when the girls are playing. The parents are disturbed; they see Elsa’s powers as a monstrous malady, and they require her to be kept alone and away from her sister. They also ask her to hide her cryokinetic abilities from those outside the palace. There is much more to the plot, but one element not present is a love interest for Elsa, who remains blissfully unattached at the end of the movie.
Elsa’s anthem in Frozen is “Let It Go”, an out-and-proud song in which the character tells us that she “couldn’t keep” the “storm inside” even though “heaven knows I’ve tried.” Audiences have seen the song as a lesbian anthem, in which Elsa refuses to hide her secret powers and her private desires. In the song, she claims her position as a queen, exclaiming, “Now they know!”
My current book project explores fanart and audience responses to Frozen, especially queer readings of Elsa and the movie’s other characters. I am interested especially in the Broadway musical version of Frozen, which – appearing five years after the original film – incorporates audiences’ queer readings into its dramaturgy, casting, and design.
The fan art, memes, television satires, and corporate product placements you see here represent only a tiny fraction of responses to Frozen’s Elsa as a queer icon.