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Freezing, Wrecking and ‘Glitching’: Reworking the Superhero Genre in Disney’s Frozen (2013) and Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Tropes of the superhero genre in Disney’s Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph, and the way they impact on the films’ gender constructions, will be the focus of this paper.
Whether it be in popular or critical accounts, Frozen has repeatedly been referred to as a fairy tale or a Disney ‘princess’ film. However, with its marginalized protagonist endowed with extraordinary powers (Elsa), I argue that it also borrows from another very popular genre: the superhero film. How does Frozen rework this genre? To what extent does this reworking influence its portrayals of femininity?
My reading of Frozen as a superhero narrative will consist of comparative textual analyses with Wreck-It Ralph, which also portrays outcasts with extraordinary abilities (Ralph and Vanellope). This will be informed by Scott Bukatman’s work on X-Men’s mutant superheroes, and his characterizations of their bodies as ‘eruptive’, ‘transgressive’ and ‘uncontrollable’. Furthermore, I will investigate the potential gendered particularities of the characters’ ‘superpowers’. Building on Shahriar Fouladi’s concept of superheroes’ ‘underlying monstrosity’, I will pay attention to themes of power, anger, and control. Evident in male-centred superhero films such as The Incredible Hulk (2008), I will explore the extent to which these become more problematic when associated with female characters such as Elsa.
Focusing on gender through a specific genre-sensitive approach – the superhero genre – and relying on comparative textual analyses will allow me to investigate the extent to which Frozen actually presents challenging images of femininity, and aims at opening up new ways of considering this animated feature.