Freezing versus wrecking: Reworking the superhero genre in Disney’s Frozen (2013) and Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Eve Benhamou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Tropes of the superhero genre in Disney’s Frozen (Buck and Lee, 2013) and Wreck-It Ralph (Moore, 2012), and the way they impact on the films’ gender constructions will be the focus of this article. 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 portrayal of femininity? My reading of Frozen as a superhero narrative will consist of comparative textual analyses with Wreck-It Ralph, which also portrays an outcast with extraordinary abilities (Ralph). I will investigate the potential gendered particularities of the characters’ extraordinary abilities. 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 (Leterrier, 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-27
Number of pages15
JournalAnimation Practice, Process and Production
Issue number1
Early online date1 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


  • Disney
  • Frozen
  • Wreck-It-Ralph
  • animation
  • postfeminism
  • superhero

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