Sunday, 26 January 2014

Disney Diversity: Mental illness

With frozen in cinemas, it has received its fair amount of criticism from the internet. With it being so loosely based on ‘the Snow Queen’, people are asking how is it really an adaptation, especially after losing all the strong female characters that the story had and seeming to replace them with male characters instead. It seems to some that Disney has a lot to answer for.

But with one of its main characters having serious depression and anxiety, it seems Disney is finally realising that people aren't all the same. But if you look back it becomes more obvious about their changing stance on mental illness. Starting with Wreck it Ralph, with Vanellope Von schweetz, Calhoun and Wreck it Ralph himself having some sort of mental illness or metaphor for it. Ralph has depression from the 30 years of neglect, with his light being Vanellope in the film he starts his journey to recovery. Calhoun has a more interesting and rarely seen mental illness. She experiences a trigger from the words 'Dynamite gal' causing her to relive those traumatic memories from her past, it was amazing to see post traumatic stress disorder being shown in such a strong female character. But Vanellope is the most interesting mental disorder. While it's half a metaphor and half a character trait, her 'glitching' extremely resembles a mental disorder in the tourettes scale. It's uncontrollable and random, but the greatest thing about Vanellope is how relatable she is. She is absolutely loved by the public, with children to fully grown adults identifying with her, because of her experience of her disorder and the bullying it caused.

And Frozen with Queen Elsa, the girl who was told by her parents to hide her skills and fear them, not to nurture them. She developed anxiety by the pain she caused Anna and became depressed because of the shut in life for Anna’s protection. Elsa is not a typical Disney princess, she is scared and hurt. Even in her main song she sings about herself letting go, but really she is running away from her problems and shutting everyone one out even more than she is. By embracing her Ice powers, she decided to shut the doors again. Elsa isn’t perfect, anything but, she almost kills three people in the course of the movie and lets not count the people stuck in Arendelle, who would of died if the winter had not of thawed. Her face becomes strained in anger at points, and is all about self-preservation for a section,  creating a giant snowman fuelled by her anger to protect her from everything. Elsa is incredibly flawed, with the majority of her flaws being in her mental illnesses. But she is loved for these flaws. Elsa gets angry, Elsa gets anxious, Elsa is powerful and amazing and people want to be like Elsa, able to realise that she needs to take responsibility for what she has done and that she can no longer hide in her head full of worries and depression.

And so maybe Disney is behind other animation companies on diversity, but they are taking baby steps, with such a loved and powerful character being loved. They’ve come a way since snow white, but Disney have still a way to go till they catch up with their competition.


  1. Friendly correction: Tourette’s isn’t a mental disorder it’s a neurological disorder