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Thawing the snow queer : queer readings of Frozen's Elsa Matte-Kaci, Leïla


One of the highest grossing animated films in history, The Walt Disney Company’s film Frozen tells the story of Queen Elsa, a young girl with secret magical abilities which she cannot reveal for fear of being seen as a monster. The story of Elsa’s struggle seems to have resonated particularly well with some audiences as the children’s film has amassed a large queer following over the years. Indeed, many fans have adopted the film’s now famous song “Let It Go” as a “coming-out” anthem. The erotophobia surrounding discourses of childhood has made the queer study of works of literature and film aimed at children more difficult and therefore rare. In this analysis, I seek to rectify this fact by looking at Frozen, and more specifically its main character Elsa, with a queer lens. To do so, I use Alexander Doty’s theory of queer reading, Clare Whatling’s “looking lesbian” strategy, and Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity. I, here, aim to question heteronormative assumptions in this adaptation (queer reading), unveil its possible lesbian desires (“looking lesbian”) and deconstruct the idea of gender (gender performativity) within the film. Results of my analysis show that Frozen can be read as queer. Intertextual knowledge of Idina Menzel’s career (the actress behind Elsa) and of the history of the monster figure in film (especially the lesbian vampire) allows for a queer reading of Elsa. Moreover, a closer look at the film’s use of the symbol of the door, both in the animation and in the text, reveals that Frozen’s narrative journey for Elsa can be summarised as a “coming-out” story, the doors representing the metaphorical closet door. Furthermore, my examination of Elsa’s gender performance shows that the Disney character exhibits an exaggerated display of femininity reminiscent of the gender performance of a Femme. Finally, Elsa’s independence from men and her close ties to her sister contribute to giving the film a queer feel.

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