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Elsa needs a girlfriend like a fish needs a bicycle

Yes, Disney should move toward LGBT inclusion — but the Ice Queen might like being on her own


May 17, 2016

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    At dinner the other night, a friend of mine looked me square in the eye over our Thai food and asked, "What do you think about the #GiveElsaA Girlfriend thing?"
    For those of you who have missed it (although, if you're nerdy enough to be reading this, you probably haven't), there is a movement going on social media where fans are actively campaigning for Disney to give one of its most recent princesses, Elsa of Frozen, a girlfriend in the confirmed sequel to the 2013 box office smash (which was really more of a box office obliterator). The tweets in favor of the move number in the 10,000s and will likely keep growing.
    And, of course, the movement has inspired a countermovement of those who resist same-sex inclusion and claim it's a threat to traditional values and will topple the norm as we know it and all the other tired arguments I tend not to listen to anymore.
    But for totally different reasons, I agree with them on this one: I don't think Elsa needs a girlfriend.
    Before you jump on me as an enemy of the same-sex movement (I'm not, I promise), let me tell you a story.
    I took a children's literature seminar class during my senior year at Mercer. The class focused on fairy tales and fairy tale retellings, and one of the books we read was Ash, by Malinda Lo. The book blurb described a plot in which this bewitched Cinderella character gets her "capacity for love and desire to live" reawakened after she meets a huntress named Kaisa. I was looking forward to a story of strong female friendship. Instead, I got a story of lovers.
    I didn't care that Ash and Kaisa were both women, or that they got together, or that they kissed. None of that mattered to me one way or the other. What bothered me was that, even though the love interest was a woman this time around, once again, romance was the main, driving motivation in a girl's narrative.
         And after a semester solid of characters falling in love left and right, I was bored of it. When Frozen ended with Elsa skating happily off with her sister, I cheered. Elsa, after spending most of her life in isolation terrified that she could only be a destructive force in the lives of others, was building a good and healthy relationship with her sister. Elsa, after thinking that being alone was the only way she could be free, has learned to let herself love and be loved. She is surrounded by people (and a reindeer and sentient snowman, but whatever) who care for her. Not just no man required, but no romance required.
    I will never, ever dispute that media needs more healthy LGBT relationships on display. We need more Mikeys and Tituses, more Delphines and Cosimas, and we need to introduce them to children early if we want to build a society that recognizes same-sex relationships as normal.
     I will also never deny that romantic relationships are awesome. Learning to love and be loved is one of the greatest joys of being human, a gloriously selfless exercise that can, paradoxically, be one of the best things you could ever do for yourself. Regardless of whom you are loving, the very act of loving is, I think, the holiest thing we as people are capable of.
    But there are plenty of people in the world who are perfectly happy with remaining single. It's a valid lifestyle decision, but there are very few healthy bachelors and bachelorettes in fiction. If a character remains single, it's usually because they have some weird baggage to deal with or a reason to think they can't have/don't deserve a romantic relationship. Few, if any, main protagonists are single because they choose to be, and I can't think of a single one that's happy about it. Society looks at people who are romantically unattached and thinks there is something wrong with them or that they are unsufferably selfish.
    That's what I loved most about Elsa, and what I still love about her. She hasn't had a whole lot of practice with relationships by the time Frozen ends, but — while, again, falling in love is a fantastic experience — she is still whole and happy without any romantic entanglements. If any Disney character could live her life happy and fulfilled without a love interest, Elsa would be it. And I'd love to see a female character whose arc is never, not even once, defined by romance.
    To be honest, I don't think I'll care what Disney decides to do with Elsa's narrative when Frozen 2 blows into theaters. And if Disney concludes that the time is right to work in a same-sex relationship, then I wish Elsa and her girlfriend every happiness. But I hope that a few movies in which the development of close, intimate and completely platonic friendships follow close on its heels, and that we can see some protagonists ride off into their sunsets without needing anyone else in the saddle.  

    Brittani Howell is the editor of Connect Statesboro. If you'd like to reach out, shoot a message to editor@connectstatesboro.com!

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