Racism and Disney’s Frozen

It’s finally happened, “How It Should Have Ended” finally tackled last year’s biggest animated hit, Frozen. If you haven’t seen their video yet, feel free to take a second and watch it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Now as humorous as their videos often are, their jab at the opening music in Frozen (titled Vuelie) really irked me. Why? Well I’ll tell you…

Vuelie, despite what HiSHE claims, most certainly fits the musical themes used in Frozen. While it’s true that most of the other songs featured in Frozen are your typical Disney/Musical numbers; both Vuelie and the coronation song (titled Heimr Árnadalr) are beautiful vocal tracks that emphasize the Sami and Old Norse vibes that Frozen does it’s best the channel. There’s a reason the movie’s goto mythological creatures are trolls. (I’ll give you a hint, it’s because trolls originate from Norse Mythology and Scandinavian Folklore!) Say what you will about the two songs; but Frozen’s composer, Chistophe Beck, did a wonderful job at infusing Frozen’s soundtrack with Norwegian and Sami culture.

Entertainingly enough, Heimr Árnadalr is actually an original song written by Christophe Beck in Old Norse. Translated, it ends up as…

Worthy Queen of greatness
The heart of gold shines
We crown thee with hope, love, and faith.
Beautiful, stony land, home Arendelle
Follow the Queen of light.

Beautiful; and very fitting Elsa’s coronation.

Now I’m not sure how many of you are aware of this, but the indigenous people of Africa aren’t the only indigenous people out there. There are, in fact, numerous indigenous cultures all over the world! The Sami people in particular have inhabited the northern reaches of the world for quite some time, existing in what is now the far northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

So while I too love the opening scene/score of The Lion King, anyone who accuses Vuelie of being a copy of The Circle of Life needs to have their privilege (and ears!) checked. Yes, both movies open with vocal parts that draw from the same cultural heritage that the rest of movie also draws from; but that’s where the similarity ends. Heck, there isn’t even a spoken word in Vuelie! Unlike the rather English heavy Circle of Life.

Vuelie is actually a shortened version of the piece Eatnaman Vuelie, a Norwegian and Sami choral song that has nothing to do with lions or Africa. (Fun fact: The opening two lines of The Circle of Life are the phrases “Here comes a lion, Father” and “Oh yes, it’s a lion” in Zulu.) Both versions of Vuelie were composed by Frode Fjellheim, a Norwegian yoiker and musician of Southern Sámi origin. (For those who are wondering, yoiking is a form of traditional Sami folk music and by no means a made up word.)

Now I get it, I do. We live in a day and age where being politically correct is the way to be and everyone and their mother thinks they have a Sociology Degree with which to point out social injustices whenever they see them. Yet often times life just isn’t as simple as Upworthy, Facebook or any of those other people on the internet would claim it to be. Racism isn’t just something that white people do to non-white people. Racism goes beyond skin color, and is a problem pretty much everywhere in the world.

Is Frozen is a movie about two white princesses? Yes. But if the movie’s soundtrack, architecture and clothing choices are to be believed, those two white princesses are probably of Sami decent; or at the very least live in a kingdom influenced by Sami culture. Now were you aware that the Sami people have been discriminated against for centuries? Or that such discrimination exists even to this day? Indeed, three of the six Sami languages which are, or have been, spoken in Norway are now classified as extinct. You know, as in they don’t exist anymore. What’s more, it’s estimated that Sami individuals experience around ten times more discrimination than their ethnically Norwegian neighbors. Not cool.

My point is that people need to stop freaking out every single time their politically correct meter starts waving around. Is it fun to criticize and make fun of terrible (as well as great) movies? You bet it is! But please be sure to do so responsibly; and always make sure to do your homework.

People don’t typically wake up in the morning and ask themselves, “How can I be racist today?” So if you spot something that strikes you as discriminatory, it’s a good bet that somebody did it for a reason other than to be racist. Could they be in the wrong? You bet! People lead blissful lives in ignorance every day. But try to make sure you get their side of the story before you go jumping the gun and tossing prejudice their way; otherwise you just end up looking like the ass.

So be kind, rewind and just remember to be awesome to everybody! No matter what they look like or where they come from. After all, deep down we all just wanna live our lives and have a good time!

"What is love? Baby don't hurt me..."

9 thoughts on “Racism and Disney’s Frozen

  1. …Now were you aware that the Sami people have been discriminated against for centuries? Or that such discrimination exists even to this day? Indeed, three of the six Sami languages which are, or have been, spoken in Norway are now classified as extinct. You know, as in they don’t exist anymore. What’s more, it’s estimated that Sami individuals experience around ten times more discrimination than their ethnically Norwegian neighbors. Not cool…

    That doesn’t mean they weren’t white. Have you ever seen a Saami person?

    1. I mean, I saw Frozen. Even posted pictures from it; so yes. Yes I have seen a Sami person and I’m well aware that they are white. If your point is that them having white skin somehow makes all the discrimination against them less relevant than the discrimination people of other skin colors face… then shame on you.

      Lumping together all “white people” is just like lumping together all “brown people”. It’s inaccurate and more than a bit racist.

      1. I agree with your point. But the reason many people are calling the movie racist (I don’t, I think its borderline, and as you said, made with other intentions) is because there are NO people of color (PoC) in the movie. I agree that lumping all ‘white people’ is not right, but the problem here is that there are only white people in the movie. Its not representative of today’s world.

        No one is making a case for representation of all ethnicities, if that was the case, then talking about Sami culture makes sense. But its about skin color – I know it seems superficial and even a bit racist, but unfortunately too many western stories/movies have the same issue. Ok, its in a scandinavian setting, so white princesses, fine. (Though that again, doesn’t make sense in today’s world). Why not show some PoC now and then?

        Also, I read a tumblr post about how Sami were not originally white, but were forced to integrate and gradually turned white. It also said that Sami culture has not been correctly captured and Disney’s use is more a case of cultural appropriation. If any of this is true, then most of the argument in this article go down the drain.

        1. What crap, we have always been white and were shunned not forced to integrate! You can’t believe much of what is on the internet.

        2. Why does a cultural film set in 19th century (probably) Norway have to have 21st century American diversity? Most of these characters are of Norse descent, the Norse people were white, get over it. If you want to see a Disney movie with people of color, then go watch Moana. Not a single white person in it. Yet I’m not complaining, I like it.

    2. We are “white” at least our skin is white. We are not European and if you care to Google you will see that we have a different ancestry than Europeans. We came to the arctic as the ice from the last ice age melted and have herded reindeer pretty much ever sincel. We have been hated, our language forbiden, the US could and did refuse entry into America to Saami (we were considered subhuman), we are a people who love our families just like you, we have never had a war or a king. There are a few websites with good information about the Saami people (make sure they are accurate websites.) And yes there is still prejudice against us.

  2. Not really relevant, I suppose, but I’m pretty sure the princesses were Danish, and not of Sami descent. It would only make sense, since the setting is in Norway some hundred years ago. Kristoff seems rather Sami, though. He has a Reindeer, wear Saami-ish clothes, and seems like a bit of an outcast.

  3. Hang on I am part Sami and who says we are all white I am olive toned with the turned up nose my 3time great grandmother was part Sami and she was almost black with the squinty eyes and turned up nose.
    Most Sami’s today ar white because of the mixing with Europeans look at old photos on the internet they have a inuitish look.
    Btw if Disney wanted to do a movie on white people then F ing let em every movie dosent have to be about skin colour if u watched a movie about shakspears the Scottish play I would expect to see scotts in it not another coultur u know what I mean. Thank you for listening to what I have to say!!!

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