What “Frozen”‘s Message Means on the Other Side of the World

Since its release late last November in the U.S., Frozen’s chilly whimsy has been exalted by the American media and Internet alike, with adoring cover stories, essays and GIFs upon GIFs upon GIFs. Here at HelloGiggles we’ve been JUST as infatuated ourselves. But the way we’ve loved Frozen in this country is a far cry from the OBSESSION the movie is sparking in Japan, where it’s been the the number 1, top-grossing movie for the past 15 weeks, bringing in nearly $300 million since its premiere in that country in March. It is currently on track to become the second-highest-grossing movie ever in Japan, according to a new story in The Atlantic.

So why is this film CRUSHING IT in Japan? Frozen isn’t your typical Disney movie, obviously. Unlike most, which feature a princess in distress and her dazzling, helpful, savior prince, it centers around the relationship between two sisters, and the internal struggle of one sister who has powers she cannot control. For once, the female protagonist has both good and not-so-great qualities—a multifaceted, empowered character like Elsa is pretty rare in the magical, good/evil world of Disney. Either someone is a hero or a villain, but Frozen plays with gray areas, and it’s awesome.

In order to present Frozen as yet another classic Disney movie everyone will enjoy (and pay money to go see) despite its slight rejection of typical Disney character tropes, “Disney marketed Frozen in the U.S. and Europe by playing up Olaf the Snowman and omitting the whole musical thing—likely in a bid to appeal to boys, knowing that girls would see it regardless,” explained The Atlantic.  But Disney took a different approach when marketing the movie to Japan. The company specifically marketed Frozen to women because, according to the Japan Times, “[Women] have the power to spur consumption and create a fad.”

Although Japanese women lead the way as far as trends go, they are unfortunately suffer a great deal of gender inequality and are not as well-represented in the workforce. According to The Atlantic, “Women [in Japan] earn 30 percent less than their male counterparts. Female labor force participation is 63 percent, much lower than in other rich countries.” Yikes.

While Disney succeeded in making Frozen appeal to all genders in America, the movie did better with women in Japan. Why? Well, they saw it as an empowering story that bolsters the independence of women. “Let It Go,” the song we haven’t been able to get out of our heads forever, lends itself as a mantra, as well as a pick-me-up for Japanese women who witnessed two very bold women taking a stand, and letting it be known that their voices matter. An inspiring movie can do a lot to boost the spirits of a group of women who are treated unjustly, but let’s hope that it’s not just Disney films that inspire true change in Japan.

(Featured image via)

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