When my daughter and I went to see Disney’s Frozen recently we were prepared for the movie to be devoid of any minorities. I mean it was an animated Disney movie, what else could we possibly expect? But about 1/4 of the way into the movie something happened that was a huge surprise. It was a big ball scene and the newly crowned queen was being presented to a room full of guests. The guests bowed and when the shot opened up I saw that, miraculously, some of the citizens bowing in the front row were BLACK and BROWN. At first I thought I was just seeing things. Perhaps it was an errant shadow. However, my daughter whispered to me, “Did you see the black people?” In a follow up shot we saw a few more black and brown people standing in the crowd watching white couples dance. The black and brown characters weren’t dancing, probably because we only saw women of color. I mean who would they dance with if there were no black or brown men to partner with? DUH! Anyway, the scene cut away from the ballroom action and moved on with the frigid story. However, the brief “people of color” siting left me on high alert, my fingers ready to count the black people. Yet scene after scene my fingers lay dormant with nothing to tally. I became increasingly more disheartened and distracted. It got a to a point where I wasn’t really taking in the content of the movie anymore because I was so hurt by the blatant omission of “POCs”.
Finally we came to the big “Hooray we aren’t frozen anymore!” scene at the end of the movie. The ice melted and every townsperson spilled out of their tundra hideaway to embrace the sunny weather. Surely I would be reaquainted with those black and brown townspeople who had attended the ball at the beginning of the film. But alas, no. They were nowhere to be found. Not a single one. Were they ever really there in the first place? I started to doubt my own eyes and even those of my kid. But after the movie we ran into a family from my daughters’ new school. I asked them, “Did you see the black people?” They said,”Yes, for a moment, but then they were gone!” They were just as mystified by the disappearing act as we were. Although I was no longer just mystified I was miserable. I had been ready for Disney‘s Frozen to be all white. I was mentally prepared for the exclusion. I figured Disney would claim what they always claim, that the setting didn’t lend itself to multicultural casting. I mean whoever heard of black people in Scandinavia, right? But to have a few tokens pop up, bowing no less, early in the film, never to be seen again was 100 times more disturbing than if they had never appeared at all. By including a few black and brown extras in the background of a ballroom scene the designers of Disney’s Frozen proved to me that they in fact did know how to draw people of color. Therefore, not including people of color throughout the rest of the movie meant that the designers of Disney’s Frozen were doing so by choice. They were excluding minorities intentionally and that left me cold. I was looking forward to celebrating the first Disney animated film directed by a woman. I wanted to talk about the feminist slant to the storyline with the addition of an empowered female heroine fueled not by the love of a man, but by her love for her family. But I couldn’t do any of that. The shine from those accomplishments was dulled by the tarnish from the limited perspective of the film. It’s not enough. A female centered story in one color is not enough. I’m tired of my daughter being iced out of animated fairy tales. My heart was frozen by the blatant exclusion of myself, my daughter and people like us from the quilt of the story. Why can’t we be a part of the Disney magic? It’s time we defrosted the Disney heart and teach the company that the real warmth of humanity exists in diversity. Because all of us, of every race, color and creed are better for envisioning a world, even an animated one, that is inclusive not exclusive.
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