“Give Elsa a girlfriend,” runs the latest Twitter campaign. The idea is simple. The Disney animated movie Frozen was sometimes embraced as a metaphor for coming out of the closet, because its heroine, the ice princess Elsa, learns not to conceal the qualities that make her different from other people, and brings them around to accepting her. It was sometimes denounced for the same reason. Some fans are saying that the upcoming sequel to Frozen should go beyond metaphor for once, and actually have Elsa fall in love with a woman, just like most Disney princesses fall in love with men. The campaign, started by 17 year-old writer Alexis Isabel Moncada, turned into a popular Twitter hashtag and was taken up by outlets like the Guardian.
Supporters of the idea point out that mainstream Hollywood animation has given us every kind of heroine except a gay heroine. Moncada pointed out to MTV that cartoons have starred “girls who have fallen in love with beasts, ogres who fall for humans, and even grown women who love bees. But we’ve never been able to see the purity in a queer relationship.” This is true, and it raises a question that goes beyond the success of one hashtag campaign: How long can companies like Disney nod toward social progress while keeping it out of their movies?
But while filmmakers could keep this content out of their work, they couldn’t stop fans from theorizing. Many viewers over the years have been frustrated at the lack of LGBT people represented in film and TV, and they often responded by using fan fiction to read those relationships into the work. Perhaps the definitive example is Star Trek, where many fans–gay and straight—have seen Kirk and Spock’s bond as something deeper than friendship. Other character relationships have inspired similar reinterpretations. The Captain America franchise, where the lead character puts himself through hell for the sake of his childhood friend Bucky, has often led fans to link the characters romantically.
Marvel comics, owned by Disney, recently revealed that the X-Men character Iceman was gay–turning a 50 year-old fan theory into canon at last.Read More: Twitter has spoken, but will Disney give Elsa a girlfriend?