Symposium spotlights social issues

Feminist ideas sparked debate at the animation symposium on April 9.
Feminist ideas sparked debate at the animation symposium on April 9.

By Emily Klingman

Frozen fever was found at the final presentations of the Animation Symposium on April 9.

After a presentation on autism and animation, Brianna Gallagher, senior communication studies major, and Jennifer Ligeti, junior English cinema studies major, gave a presentation that led to a debate and discussion regarding Frozen’s role as a feminist movie. Gallagher defended Frozen as having pro-feminist attitudes, whereas Ligeti said she felt the movie wasn’t as pro-feminist as it could have been.

“I’m in favor that Frozen is unintentionally feminist,” said Gallagher. “I do agree more work needs to be done in terms of gender equality. I think the first step to have more diversity is to have more positive representation, not so much, ‘Oh, this character’s good; this one’s bad.’”

“I think it’s given way too much credit,” said Ligeti. “To call it revolutionary is overblowing.”

Gallagher focused on how both girls and boys are fans of the movie.

“I think that the best thing is to be saying, ‘Oh, it’s OK to like something, it’s not just a girl movie or a boy movie,’” said Gallagher.

She also praised the two main characters, sisters Anna and Elsa, as complex.

“I think women are more than just one gender stereotype,” said Gallagher.

Both boys and girls love Anna and Elsa, and Gallagher believes future stories should continue to appeal to both genders.

“I think gender neutrality is the way to go,” said Gallagher, “so that future children and their children have a more rounded representation of how they should treat others.”

Another point Gallagher focused on was Elsa’s character growth, saying that “many people overlook Elsa’s identity story.”

In accordance with her beliefs of gender neutrality in stories, Gallagher wanted to shift the focus onto a simpler character analysis.

“It’s about, what do you contribute to the plot?” Gallaghar said. “Are you annoying? So being a good character is more important than gender.”

Problems Ligeti found with Frozen included that Anna and Elsa were the only two females in the main cast. In addition, Ligeti was frustrated that they were hardly ever on screen together.

“The two women cannot be in the same space without causing one another literal harm,” she said.

Ligeti felt that the storyline undermined Elsa’s character growth in one climatic scene – when Anna went to confront her sister.

“The strongest emotional build is erased by another woman,” Ligeti said.

Ligeti concluded her portion of the discussion saying that “the movie’s not horrible, and I actually like it. It’s just pretty conservative.”

Both Gallagher and Ligeti are hopeful for Frozen’s impact on future movies, looking forward to the influence the movie’s financial success may have on up-and-coming animated movies.

“Little girls are watching it; they’re influenced by it,” said Ligeti. “And because this movie’s so popular, it’s going to influence future films and how they’re going to present women.”

The first lecture, “Three A’s: Animation, Autism and Affinity” by Dr. Chrystina Dolyniuk, a professor of psychology, spoke about animation’s effect on children with autism. She used Ron Suskind’s memoir, Life, Animated, as an example.

Suskind’s book highlights the real-life story of his son, Owen, who clung to his beloved Disney movies at the onset of his autism. Owen became mute and lost his ability to comprehend language, then those animated movies became his lifeline to the world.

Dolyniuk explained that many children on the autism spectrum have “affinities” or strong interests, which can seem like obsessions. For some autistic children, animated films with their exaggerated visuals and predictable characters could possibly be affinities.

But neither Suskind nor Dolyniuk would advocate “animation therapy,” she said. She stressed that scientific research is only beginning into understanding the neural pathways of affinities and that someday such understanding could have applications in therapy.

 

printed in the 4/15/15 edition

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