It will come as no surprise to any parent of young children that Frozen is the most successful animated film of all time. Those of us who have had our eardrums assaulted by the screeches of Let It Go every day since December could have predicted the film would break records (and windows!).
Some people, however, have been surprised. And that’s the film critics. They massively underestimated the appeal of Frozen. And to those people who are now scratching their heads and wondering why it’s been as successful as it has been, I say this: It’s the women, stupid.
Finally, there’s an animated film that has two women at its centre, doing cool stuff, and just generally being great. Is it really that surprising that little girls – and little boys – and their parents want to see it? Cate Blanchett, in her speech at the Oscars when she accepted the Best Actress award for Blue Jasmine criticised Hollywood bosses “who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the centre are niche experiences.”
“They are not,” she said. “Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.” She’s right.
Frozen is a brilliant subversion of the fairytale rules. Love at first sight? Rubbish. True love? Absolutely. But it’s the love between two sisters, not between a prince and a princess. It even passes the Bechdel test which asks that a film features two female characters discussing something other than a man (it’s worrying how many films
Of course Frozen isn’t perfect. Elsa’s makeover seems unnecessary and can she really walk in that slinky dress? But it’s a start.
As a writer and a television journalist, I’m really interested in characters and it struck me that some of Britain’s best-loved soaps could learn a few things from Frozen’s use of female leads.
EastEnders is recovering from its slump of last year, when the women who should be the heart of the show were simply sitting around reacting to men. Similarly Coronation Street, despite its recent BAFTA win, is pretty dire at the moment. Tina’s about to meet a sorry end thanks to her dalliance with alcoholic cheat Peter Barlow, his pregnant wife Carla has no idea what he’s doing, Anna’s slept with a sleazebag to protect her son, Maria’s going crazy because her boyfriend dumped her and she’s getting over him by trying to steal her best mate’s man. Even market-trader Chesney has two women fighting over him. Boring.
The Archers, which I love, also seems to have abandoned the strong women ethos. Poor Kirsty, who didn’t want a big wedding in the first place, was talked into it by Tom and then ruthlessly abandoned and humilated by him at the altar. Brilliant engineer Alice needed husband Chris to help her work out a balloon arch. Ruth was grumpy – then pregnant – then grieving when she lost her baby. What was the point of that?
So I agree with Cate Blanchett that Hollywood bosses should learn that films with female leads should be run of the mill, but I hope British TV execs learn that lesson too.