parent opinion

'My 3 year old son is obsessed with Frozen, and that doesn't sit well with everyone.'

I have a three-year-old son who loves superheroes, swords and play fighting. He has also recently discovered he loves Frozen.

I mean wanting to watch it on repeat every time he’s allowed screen time until we can all repeat the lines by heart. Not to mention the songs…

Watch the trailer for Frozen 2 below. Post continues after video.

Prior to his obsession I had watched and enjoyed Frozen when it was released kid-free and recalled the worldwide Let it Go moment, but now I felt a different kinship to those poor long-suffering parents.

We made plans to take him to see Frozen 2. Finding his newfound zeal for it was adorable if a tad much, and I mentioned it to some family and friends. The reaction was also sweet but more often than not accompanied by an additional comment: “Oh, it’s really cute he enjoyed that because it’s so girly!” and “I’m surprised he enjoyed that… so many boys didn’t. That’s sweet.” and “Just let him be a boy! No, just kidding, it’s good he’s taking on your values.”

Huh? I must have missed the “G” for girly in PG. I didn’t know movies could be gendered?

Except, of course, I knew exactly what they were saying. I was just surprised that people were still saying these things. I thought in the wake of #MeToo we were all looking closely at ourselves and the assumptions we’ve made that allow regressive gender norms to become so prevalent they cause harm.

Maybe when we discuss gender inequity between adults it’s somewhat easier to grasp, but we all get a bit confused when we’re talking about boys and girls and the toys, stories and characters that they love. It’s important to recognise it can be tricky and often a work in progress, even for those of us who really want to do better.

Since watching Frozen I’ve noticed some different themes enter my son’s world and questions such as, “What is true love?” and “Will you marry me, mum?” emerge.

frozen 2 plot
Anna and Elsa. Image: Walt Disney Animation Studios.

I think this is fantastic and allows different conversations within our family unit. It is not about forcing certain interests on him, just exposing him to diversity of stories and characters and seeing what captures his imagination and interest. He loves Elsa’s superpowers, the scary ice monster, Olaf’s goofiness as well as Anna punching the ‘bad Prince’ at the end of the first movie.

I recently saw even satirical website The Shovel had a piece titled, “Little Girl Ready For Frozen 2, After Quick 46,262nd Rewatch Of Frozen 1” and felt I could relate as my son has been doing the same.

I know it’s more likely to be a girl re-watching Frozen in anticipation of the sequel, but here was another example of the myriad ways in which we are unconsciously gendering movies, characters and shows. All of which is limiting the reach of certain ideas, social norms and values to children of different genders.

We will then expect these boys to grow into respectful young men. We will (rightly) demand them to be kind, compassionate partners who value and respect the women in their lives.

The emotional building blocks for boys need to be similar narratives to girls, so when they’re older they’re talking the same language.

While girls are often encouraged to watch and admire Luke as much as Leia or Batman as much as Wonder Woman, boys aren’t given as much encouragement or acceptance to love Wonder Woman. Think I’m wrong? Imagine a four-year-old girl dressing up as Captain America for superhero day at her daycare – how adorable!

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Now imagine a 4-year-old boy dressing for the same event as Wonder Woman. It’s cute but… there’s a "but" for most people.

It’s okay to acknowledge this – that overall, we still collectively find it hard to wrap our heads around boys adoring female characters as much or more than male characters, but we’re okay with it the other way around.

This isn’t about being woke or the PC police or not letting boys play wrestle or mimic sword fights. It’s about giving boys a chance to explore other human stories and experiences.

It’s a reminder that the next time a little boy tells you he loves Elsa or wishes he was Anna or Wonder Woman or Peppa Pig, to not patronise him with a ‘cute, but…’ Drop the but.

There’s a wealth of experiences that make up a happy and full life, the best of which are narratives of love, and boys need to hear these all the way through childhood, adolescence and into adulthood. Let’s not wait to begin conversations about respectful relationships when puberty hits. Let’s give boys the space to love and admire and emulate female heroes without comment and certainly without judgement.

Feature image: Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.