The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

Month: February 2014 (Page 2 of 3)

Squash concludes successful NESCAC season

Bates squash concluded a successful NESCAC season this weekend with 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the conference tournament by the women and men respectively.

For the women, 2nd place was their best finish ever in the seven-year history of the NESCAC Squash Championship. Junior Nessrine Ariffin, the team’s top seed, was pleased with the team’s performance, commenting, “There have been ups and downs throughout the season, but everyone did well this past weekend.” To reach the finals (in which they were beaten by perennial powerhouse Trinity, 9-0), Bates defeated Bowdoin in the quarterfinals and Williams in the semifinals on Saturday, winning both matches by a score of 7-2.

squashThe Bobcats’ second seed, junior Myriam Kelly, won each of her matches in straight sets. Kelly attributes much of the team’s success this year to their attitude, stating, “I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of work put in before and during the season, as well as on and off the court.” Senior captain Rakey Drammeh also feels the team’s dedication has played a major role in their impressive season, noting, “We have worked extremely hard to get to where we are now and I am very happy with our accomplishments.”

With just the Division III Individual Championships and College Squash Association team championships to go, Drammeh reflected positively on her time at Bates: “Looking back at my squash career at Bates, I couldn’t be happier with the progress not only I have made, but that my team has made as well.” If the Bobcat women can continue to excel in the coming weeks on the national stage, it would be the ideal conclusion to a breakthrough season.

The Bates men have also had a strong season overall so far, although their 5-4 loss in the NESCAC semifinals to Williams was definitely disappointing. Sophomore Ahmed Abdel Khalek has been their standout performer, with an astounding 13-0 individual record. Though Abdel Khalek is proud of his play, he stressed that “me playing well does not mean anything if we as a team do not win.” He knows, however, that the team can gain nothing positive from sulking over the loss to Williams.

Freshman Darrius Campbell, who won both his quarterfinal and semifinal matches as the number seven seed, said, “I was upset at first that we lost to Williams because we worked so hard to beat them before [6-3 on January 11th], but now I have come to terms with it. I think the team including myself just has to work harder and believe that we can win any match, because we can!” Campbell, who emerged this year as a reliable, diligent player, is one of the reasons Ahmed Khalek maintains that, as long as they believe in themselves “This team has the potential to beat the best teams in the nation.”

Although they’ll lose senior captain Kristian Muldoon after this season, young players like freshman Ahmed Sherif Hatata (the number two seed) and Caran Arora at number six will be major contributors for the Bobcats next year. Still, the Bates men, just like their women counterparts, are determined to finish their season the right way in the individual and team championships in the coming weeks.

The Bates Coalition Against Discrimination: Learning a lesson about student initiative

Nine determined Bates seniors set out to change the character of the college from which they would soon graduate during the second semester of the 2010- 2011 academic year. The impact of the students’ exemplary initiative continues to be felt on the Bates campus and their efforts serve as an example for students’ capacity for creating change.

Nine Women and Gender Studies majors from the Class of 2011 Afroz Baig, Rosalie Winslow, Charlotte Friedman, Anna Abelson, Erin Bourgault, Catherine Lary, Shameena Khan, Nikki Rankine, and Emma Posner formed what is now known as the Bates Coalition Against Discrimination, a group that ultimately drafted and presented an official list of complaints and requested change to the Bates administration.

An official list of demands for the Bates College administration was presented on April 4th, 2011. The demands were separated into six  categories: Hate Crimes/ Bias Incidents, Sexual Assault, Queer Support, Office of Intercultural Education, Financial Aid and Work-Study, and Accountability.

During this past MLK Day on January 20th, eight out of the nine coalition  members returned to Bates to speak to an audience made up of current Bates students, faculty, and community members. Conducted in a conversational format, the coalition spoke in regards to  the initial issues that inspired the coalition’s actions, the process that entailed in terms of generating change at Bates, and a look at where Bates has come in light of these continuing concerns.

Coalition member Nikki Rankine ’11 was the head of Bates group OutFront as well as the Women’s Resource Center when she communicated with a Bates student who had been subjected to an act of anti-gay discrimination and verbal assault. During her efforts in trying to aid her classmate, Rankine encountered challenges and discovered that Bates had limited resources available for victims of discrimination.

Among various events that sparked concern, the topic of sexual assault prompted the coalition members into action. The coalition recounted their discontentment in learning about the limited resources available for victims of sexual assault during the MLK Day discussion. One coalition member recalls coming up discouraging facts such as a sexual assault phone line that only operated during the weekday and a page on the Bates website that led to a dead end.

Charlotte Frieman, Emma Posner, and Rosie Winslow published an article in The Bates Student entitled “Students must take a stand against discrimination” in which the three coalition members outlined their dissatisfaction with the school’s available resources.

The writers explained, “In an extensive search on the Bates Web site, it was difficult to find information of the College’s policies and resources for victims of discrimination.”

Apart from simply a contempt for Bates’ resources, however, the article’s authors called the college’s embodiment of its supposed values into question, stating, “For a school founded by abolitionists and proud of its history of egalitarianism, Bates should be ashamed of its disregard for widespread issues of discrimination without our community.”

The coalition organized an open forum for Bates students and faculty to discuss issues of sexual assault and any other form of discrimination. The coalition explained how they had anticipated only a small crowd at the forum; needless to say, they were shocked to have been met by an audience of hundreds. It had become clear that they were not alone; the Bates community was ready to talk, listen, and work toward generating legitimate change against discriminatory behavior.

Part of the mission statement for the Women and Gender Studies department at Bates reads, “The goal of the Program in Women and Gender Studies is to enable learners to recognize, analyze, and transform gender relations as they appear in everyday life.”

The nine seniors and Bates Professor of Sociology and a member of the Program Committee in Women and Gender Studies Emily Kane embodied the stated mission by taking initiative as students and Bates community members in order to address matters of discrimination at Bates.

Professor Emily Kane explains, “Given WGS’s mission, which addresses not just analyzing but also transforming gender relations, and doing that in a manner that’s constantly attentive to the intersections between race, class, gender, sexuality and nation, the faculty and staff involved with the WGS program are very proud of the work the BCAD students did to transform inequalities within our campus community.”

At the MLK Day workshop, the coalition members discussed various frustrations that they encountered throughout the process of formulating and presenting the demands, as their advocation for change at Bates was not without resistance from external parties. Even fellow Bates students had difficulty understanding the need for change. As Rankine ’11 recalls, “I remember at one moment, many of us had friends who didn’t believe discrimination exist. I remember attending a party and a young man approached me and asked me to explain why I held the panel and what types of discrimination existed.”

It is evident that the 2011 Coalition against Discrimination made a valuable impact on the ever important culture that exists in response to discrimination within the Bates community. Resources for victims of sexual assault, for example, have expanded within the past few years. Sabrina Yocono is a current employee of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services and works 16 hours a week as a confidential resource for those in need of personal guidance.

There is always room for further advancement, however. When asked what advice the coalition has for current Bates student who wish to advocate and make a difference toward an area of inequality, the members responded with valuable pieces of advice. Nikki Rankine urges, “get creative; Collaborating with other student groups and social clubs allow for more people to participate in the conversation.”

Professor Kane notes the remarkable continued efforts of the coalition, despite now being alumni of three years. “While they were students and since they graduated and are now alums, they’ve shown a deep commitment to helping the Bates community live up to its ideals and aspirations. They organized in a really smart and labor-intensive way to keep pushing back when they encountered obstacles.”

While the coalition has been pleased to observe more awareness for discrimination and student advocacy on campus, members maintain that there is always more change that can be made. The members note how their list of demands marks one step that has been made, but that it still leaves room for further advancement. For example, they note that, “While improvements have been made in some areas, minimal change has occurred in areas such as race and class.”

The impact from the Bates Coalition Against Discrimination continues to be felt at Bates, and the lessons that can be learned from the nine members and those who supported their efforts are endless. The coalition provided an example for how Bates students have the capacity to advocate for change, and that, with a clear objective in mind and a passion for leaving Bates a better place, it is possible for students to affect the Bates landscape. “It’s your college,” notes the coalition. “Do work while you are there to leave it in a condition that you can be proud of as an alum of the school.”

Swimming & Diving nearly pulls off the upset

The Bates women’s swimming and diving team nearly pulled off an enormous upset, coming up just eleven points short of Connecticut College on Saturday in a 149-138 loss. The women’s team was, however, able to handily defeat Wellesley College in the tri-team meet, which was hosted by Connecticut College.

Standout performances included first-year Julia Smachlo’s winning of the 1,000-yard freestyle in 10:34.51, which nearly broke the team record. Fellow first year Sara Daher won the 400-yard individually medley by more than six seconds, finishing in 4:35.92. Sophomore Melissa Paione also won the 200-yard breaststroke in 2:28.77, absolutely smoking the runner up from Conn. College.

One of the biggest stories of the day was first-year diving sensation Emma Jarczyk’s winning of the 1-meter and 3-meter events with 250.80 and 272.85 points respectively, earning her a national-consideration performance.

In his post-meet comments, head coach Peter Cesares noted that the women’s meet was the closest the Bates team had come to beating Conn. College in recent memory. The women’s team should also be encouraged at the exceptional performances by some of its youngest members.

Unfortunately, the men’s team did not fair as well as the women, as the Bobcats only managed a handful of event victories and lost 205 points to 75. Bates’ sole swimming victory was captured by junior Andrew Briggs, who swam the 100-yard breaststroke in a blazing 1:00.13, just 0:00.30 ahead of Conn. College’s swimmer.

First-year diver Joseph Tocci also won the 1-meter and 3-meter dives, diving uncontested, with a respectable 156.65 and 197.55 points, respectively.

Despite the loss, Bates was competitive in most of the races, and the team appears to be positioned well for the conference meet in February.

Both the men’s and the women’s teams will next swim at home this Saturday in “The Maine Event” against Colby.

Men’s basketball battles, but rallies fall short

Although the Bobcats battled back valiantly in the second halves of both games, the men’s basketball team lost at Wesleyan on Friday and at Connecticut College on Saturday. Sophomore guard Mike Boornazian starred this weekend, scoring a total of 61 points, including 39 against Connecticut College, which is the most by a Bates player in 11 years. bball2With Boornazian playing at such a high level, the Bobcats feel confident that they can finish the regular season strong provided they play as tough as they have so far when tasked with seemingly insurmountable deficits.

Against Wesleyan, the Bobcats were somehow able to force overtime despite trailing by 58-44 with four minutes to play thanks to clutch plays from Boornazian and junior Adam Philpott that embodied a spirited team effort. Though Wesleyan outplayed Bates in overtime to win 76-70, Boornazian believes the furious comeback “shows our resiliency and our ability to come back from any deficit. If we can learn how to come out strong, combined with our natural talent, we are going to be difficult to play with.”

Senior guard Luke Matarazzo conveyed some of his frustrations with the Bobcats’ slow starts, noting that they’ve been able to give themselves a chance to win despite “miscommunicating on defense and missing some easy shots on offense” early in games.

Along with the massive holes they’ve been tasked with digging themselves out of, the Bobcats have also been challenged by the grueling nature of NESCAC road games.  The team is in the midst of a five game stretch on the road that won’t conclude until Bowdoin visits Bates on February 14th. The sheer quantity and uncomfortable atmosphere of these games is undeniably difficult. Still, Boornazian feels that, “Traveling is obviously tough, especially this late in the season, but we’re all tough kids and will be ready to go.”

Unfortunately, the Bobcats again did not appear fully prepared in the opening half against Connecticut College on Saturday. Largely due to Boornazian’s impeccable shooting, Bates managed to stay competitive throughout despite trailing by 18 at the half, but it was again a case of too little too late in the 84-77 defeat. The loss dropped the team to 10-9 on the year, 1-5 in the NESCAC with four conference game remaining. Nevertheless, everyone on the squad recognizes their potential, and is intent on persevering to finish the regular season well.

While junior Billy Selmon says that he’s sure that the Bobcats will respond to the recent adversity, as he “feels like we are the best team in the conference when our backs are against the wall,” Matarazzo is keen on ending his senior season the right way. He believes that, “We just need to keep coming to practice with an optimistic and positive attitude eager to work and get better-there is plenty of season left. I have nothing but confidence in this group of guys.”

The ‘Cats play their next game at Williams this coming Friday.

Sara Bareilles: A true winning artist of grace and eloquence

After hearing the news that Sara Bareilles, one of pop cultures most talented underrated singers, was nominated for Album of the Year for her third record, The Blessed Unrest, and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Brave” at the Grammys, I was absolutely ecstatic.

However, when she didn’t take home a Grammy in either category, I could not help but throw my hands up in the air in anger. Not only does Sara Bareilles create unique music that can be both heart wrenching and inspiring, she employs words in a clever and intelligent way.

Amelia Green ‘17 echoes this sentiment by stating, “Her songs got me through a lot of rough patches in high school, and the song “Brave” is not only inspirational, but it also got me into a cappella.”

In addition to the popular song “Brave”, some of the best songs on this album include “Hercules”, “Chasing the Sun,” and “Little Black Dress”.

When listening to the song “Hercules,” I initially thought that it would be another one of her more sad songs. However, she manages to balance a mellow beginning with a chorus worthy of her powerhouse voice. And let’s not forget to pay attention to the lyrics. Part of her first verse reads, “I used to let my words wax poetic/But it melted a puddle at my feet now/It is a calcifying crime, it’s tragic/I’ve turned to petrified past life baggage.” When lyrics can double as poetry, it’s clear the song is well made.

Similarly, “Chasing the Sun” has lyrics that are incredibly deep. Not only that, but they are amazingly inspirational. The overall message of the song is that people need to appreciate the life they live and chase their dreams while they can. She does this through symbolism, contrasting tombstones and skyscrapers. Somehow she manages to tackle such a daunting task with an upbeat and catchy tune that makes you want to really listen to the lyrics she is emphasizing.

If these two songs weren’t convincing enough, nobody can resist “Little Black Dress,” one of those fun but slightly angry songs that one might listen to when fighting with a friend or significant other. “Little Black Dress” is a classic ‘dance around your room while singing into a hairbrush’ kind of tune. Some of the lyrics that exemplify this idea are, “Now I’m fighting to find the ground again, to steady my feet/Get up off my knees and just remember/That I am more than just somebody’s puppet/I can find the cord and then I’ll cut it/I stand a pretty good chance to dust myself off and dance.” She acknowledges how people may struggle with relationships, but, ultimately, each individual has the power to overcome hardships that have been placed upon them.

If you haven’t purchased Sara Bareilles’ album The Blessed Unrest already, it’s certainly not too late to do it now. All of the songs, not just the highlighted ones, are truly amazing and certainly worth checking out.

“I really enjoy her music,” says Rebeccah Bassell ’16. “She’s truly the definition of an artist through her versatility and range of experiences her songs convey.”

Let’s give Sara Bareilles the recognition she deserves through the appreciation of her music. So get out that makeshift microphone because you won’t be able to help but sing along.

Unveiled brings captivating stories of racism, love, and culture center stage

Playwright, actress, and solo performer, Rohina Malik, brought her compelling one-woman show, Unveiled, to Schaeffer Theater on Monday, January 27th.

Written and performed by Malik, Unveiled tells the stories of five Muslim women living in a post 9/11 world. It is a compilation of Malik’s stories along with others’ experiences and sentiments. Her show won the YWCA “Y Award” and is performed all over the country in mosques, college campus, and theaters.

unveiled 1Malik’s first character, a Bollywood fashion designer, begins the show by instructing the audience about her chocolate chai recipe. Tea becomes a reoccurring symbol for the rest of the show, uniting the five Muslim women and the detailed “spices” they add to make their story their own. The designer continues to tell of her friend’s Pakistani wedding, which is later revealed to be Malik’s own story. Her monologue tells of the misconceptions of veiled woman and the power that these pernicious assumptions have on her children.

Her second narrative is through the eyes of a Moroccan-American lawyer and her story of love, loss, and finding faith. It is powerful, chilling, and emphasizes the shame in being silent against a hate crime.

Malik’s third character is a black, Muslim woman who recites her story of 9/11 as the day she removed her hijab. She remarks how America is the “land of the free and the home of the brave” but not when your religion is under scrutiny. She leaves the audience with the frighteningly truthful notion that “today, it’s my rights, tomorrow it could be yours”.

The fourth narrative is one told by a West London rapper of South Asian origin named Shabanah. Malik does an excellent job switching between raps and monologues, showing the inner pain of her character that goes unnoticed by others on a day-to-day basis. She mentions how the media manipulates messages behind music and how girls are taught to hate their brown skin. Shabanah’s character leaves the audience with the notion of how the veil is controversial on a Muslim woman but not on a nun.

Malik’s final monologue is by Leila, a restaurant owner after the month of Ramadan. Her story tells of the riots that occurred outside of her children’s Islam school on 9/11. She recalls the distortion of the Muslim identity that caused people to act violently out of fear and misunderstanding. Leila urges people to remove the veil over their hearts and how sympathizing with the suffering of others is what makes us human.

“I was completely floored by the performance,” says Sasha Grodsky ’16. “Malik’s ability to complexly portray each of these women blew me away.”

Rohina Malik’s show received a standing ovation from an enthusiastic audience. When asked by the moderator to describe the show in one word, the audience eagerly contributed their praiseful contributions. Malik returned to the stage to talk about her show and the messages behind it. She touched on stereotypes, racist jokes, and theater as a compelling mode of expression.

Carly Peruccio ’16 explains, “I was particularly inspired by Rohina’s message that the arts are a powerful means of promoting cross-cultural understanding.” “Learning to advocate for social justice through an academic lens has been one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned at Bates thus far, and Rohina has proven that theater, hip-hop, music, dance, and other arts are equally valuable tools for justice. I hope that she can return here in the future and perform Unveiled for a wider Lewiston audience.”

All in all, Unveiled was an incredibly powerful and moving performance. From the hardy applause and thought-provoking questions asked by the audience, it was evident that the show’s messages touched the hearts of many. Malik gives voices to women that we hear very little of in the theater and brings current issues of racism and hate crimes to the spotlight that are long overdue.

Track & Field dominates at State of Maine and USM meets

At the 46th State of Maine meet, the Bobcats were a force to be reckoned with. Out of five teams, the men finished first while the women placed in second out of 11 teams at the USM Invitational.

Leading the way for the men in the State of Maine meet was thrower Sean Enos. The junior won the shot put with a heave of 57-04.75. Sophomores Nick Margitza and Rudy Pandora rounded out the top three as Margitza came in second and Pandora followed suit.

trackA multitude of Bobcat runners captured other top spots as well. Junior Mark McCauley finished first in the 800m with a time of 1:56.04 while senior Noah Graboys won the 3000m in 8:40.20. Graboys also finished the mile in second place and junior John Stansel was right behind him in third. Rounding out the top finishers for the men was senior Jarret McKallagat as he won the 60m hurdles in a time of 8:47.

Transitioning to the women who were down in Gorham at the USM Invitational, they too had a great weekend coming in second place. Leading the way for the ‘Cats was sophomore Alexis Dickinson who won the 55m dash with a time of 7.42 seconds. Junior Colby Gail won the 20lb throw and also placed second in the high jump.

A quartet of Bobcats won the 4×800 relay. Sophomores Addie Cullenberg and Isabel Ferguson led the charge while senior Tara Notarianni and first-year Molly Chisholm secured the victory. In other events sophomore Amber Clark finished second in the weight throw and classmate Melanie Ehrenberg took second place in the pole vault.

The women will be back in action for the Maine State Championship meet at Bowdoin on February 7th while the men will travel down to Boston for the Valentine Classic at Boston University.

Nordic skiing has successful weekend at UVM Carnival

As the alpine team had the weekend off, it was time for the Nordic squad to steal the spotlight, and the team did just that as the Vermont course proved to be perfect for the ‘Cats. Even though the men finished in first on day one of the two-day event, the Bobcats settled for eighth on both days.

The course in this past Saturday’s event was perfect for the men as the course is the shortest of the EISA carnival season. The skiiers took advantage of the good conditions and placed first in the 1.4-kilometer event, Bates’ first ever carnival win. A trio of men Bobcat men finished in the top-10 out of 68 skiers overall as senior Jordan Buetow had a time of 3:11.1 followed by senior Alex Hamilton with 3.11.2 and junior Nick Michaud recording 3:13.1.

For the women, junior Hallie Grossman was 18th fastest out of 69 competitors with a time of 4:00.3 followed by freshmen Laurel Fiddler in 30th (4:06.7) and Sadie James in 31st (4:07.4).

Grossman again led the women’s squad the next day in the 5k coming in 15th out of 63 racers (15:20.6). Freshmen duo Fiddler and Tara Humphries rounded out the Bobcats that finished in the top-30 as they both finished in 27th and 30th respectively.

Flipping back to the men, seniors Buetow and Sean Woods finished in the top-15 of the 10k freestyle races with times of 26:44.2 and 26:48.2. Freshman Nathan Moreau rounded out the men’s team’s scoring in 34th place.

The team is back in action on February 7th at the Dartmouth Carnival.

Her is a post-modern look at love

In the tight and impressive Oscar competition for Best Picture this year, there hides a subtle and off-the-cuff romance film. Director Spike Jonze crafted a romantic film in Her, released in 2013, a film in which light and darkness share the screen for all 126 minutes. But here’s the thing: the movie is original. Jonze has taken us into a time in the unspecified near-future where operating systems are capable of independent thought, and ultimately, love. her posterHe shows us a time in which dependence on physical appearance is fading along with face-to-face social interaction. Serious, slow, sexual and beautiful, Her walks us through love in a way we never thought possible.

Theodore Twombly, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a recently divorced man still haunted by images from his married past. A “personal letter-writer’ – a job in which he writes letters from one loved-one to another – Theodore goes about his life immersed in technology, much like the others we see around him. The irony, and a central point to the movie, is that it is in technology that he finds his true love. After failed attempts at anonymous phone sex and a spectacularly ignominious blind date, Theodore purchases the new OS1, a new operating system capable of its own intellectual and emotional freedom. Although his interactions with her at first seem innocent, they begin to fall in love as he shows her the world through the small camera on his handheld device. Their romance builds over time and fails anticlimactically as love is wont to do.

Scarlet Johansson and Amy Adams highlight the film with incredible performances.  Johansson is the voice of the Operating System, who names herself Samantha, and her irresistible voice projects an incredible sensuality and intelligence into what we see as a machine. She even says to Theodore, in their first conversation, “in every moment I’m evolving, just like you.” Her voice brings the system to life and creates a vibrant and emotional half of the couple’s relationship. Adams on the other hand plays a video game designer, Amy, married to a nagging artist. The soft and abrasive manner of her and her husband’s interactions underscores the painful nature of their relationship. This couple’s anguish is manifested, not in the screaming passions of traditional Hollywood couples, but in the real and equally painful passive conflicts that build over time. After Amy and her husband of eight years break up because of an argument about where to put their shoes, she describes love to Theodore as “a form of socially acceptable insanity.” These two leading ladies are powerful and real. They draw Theodore out of the comfortable castle he has built for himself and show him how to love again.

Heartbreaking and beautiful, the power of the film ultimately comes from Joaquin Phoenix’s powerful performance. The nuance of Phoenix’s facial expressiona and tenderness in his voice give ultimate credence to his identity as a reserved and kind man, full of emotion and afraid of confrontation. The love he is capable of when he lets himself go is lasting and haunting. The bright lights and pastels of the movie contrast with the force of the darkness of his despair in the lowest of his lows. Phoenix’s performance is fluid, changing, and shows the definition and character of a man truly in pain and in love, a stark duality that rings extremely true.

Spike Jonze unveils a complicated masterpiece of “unparalleled beauty,” remarks Dan Boyle ’17. His characters come to life as we go deeper and deeper into the quiet and endless depths of love and misery.

As Chris MacDonald ’17 from Bowdoin College puts it, “Her walks you through the complexities of being in a relationship, complexities that were always there and you never noticed.”

That quality of defining creases and highlighting minute details is the power that Spike Jonze brings to the table. And in doing so he reveals truths that are applicable to everyone one of us.

Frozen: A new direction for Disney

Disney’s latest film sensation Frozen has certainly made a name for itself over the past few months. From winning a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature to being nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Feature and for Best Original Song (“Let It Go”), Disney’s Frozen has left people of all ages talking about this hilariously adorable film. But what elements in this movie make it so appealing to such a large group of people?

“Let It Go,” an empowering song about unveiling one’s true nature, is one of the most memorable moments throughout the movie. Shortly after Queen Elsa realizes she has magical ice powers, she is told by her parents to hide her true nature from the world. It’s only until she accidentally exposes her true powers that she has to flee to the mountains and create a world for herself.

During this song, Queen Elsa begins questioning her late parents’ advice to “conceal, don’t feel” and decides she won’t “care what they say” even though she will be shunned by society for being herself. In a scene resembling Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter, one of the first moments of breaking the mold that has been constructed for her is when she tosses her tiara away and lets her long luscious locks of seductive beauty shimmer and glisten in the ice castle she has created using her powers. In this self-liberating moment. She comes to terms with herself for being who she is and by embracing her identity.

frozenStrong allusions have been made referring to this moment as being similar to the struggles of coming to terms with one’s sexual identity, especially when society has pressured a child to suppress his/her true identity. Although some film critics claim this may be a stretch, the song is a mantra of liberation for the socially oppressed.

Even if critics challenge the notion that “Let It Go” wasn’t meant to be a song regarding sexual identity, there is a scene that is much more overt. In a cramped shop resides a large man by the name of Oaken. A robust and heavily bearded man with a gleeful nature and overly warm-natured personality make him one of the most memorable characters, even if he is a minor one.

At one point, Oaken refers to the family, at which point the camera turns to another burly man, surrounded by children who all wave to him. Oaken may very well be Disney’s first openly gay character. By making Oaken arguably one of the most lovable characters in Disney history and then revealing him to be gay is a huge leap forward in children’s films, where there is an apparent shortage of homosexual characters.

Disney has been notorious for producing princess after princess in a graceful and elegant light. One of the most appealing aspects of a Disney film from our generation was when this pattern was finally broken with the spunky arrival of a war hero: Mulan. This heroic superstar showed the children of the world that women were perfectly as capable of doing anything a man was.  Frozen furthers this idea of shattering social expectations apparent yet again with Elsa’s younger sister, Anna. This redheaded powerhouse of a character is certainly a strong female character in every sense, leaving the leading male character, Kristoff, far behind. However, the relationship is not a mere role reversal, but rather a mutual relationship in which they are both respected to make important decisions throughout the film, and more importantly, are able to point out the mistakes made by the other individual.

Towards the beginning of the film, Anna announces with excitement that she is going to marry a man she has met that very same day. Upon confronting her older sister, Elsa, with this news, Elsa swiftly expresses her disapproval saying, “You can’t marry a man you just met.” This itself is a monumental shift from the plethora of Disney films in which the princesses find the loves of their lives in a rather convenient fashion and all other worries appear to disappear. The stance that Elsa takes finally incorporates a hint of rationale into an otherwise rash decision Anna would have made. When Anna tells Kristoff of her engagement, he too promptly begins questioning her impulsive nature in this matter.

Unveiling one’s true identity, introducing Disney’s first openly gay character, scrutinizing pre-existing notions of “love,” and dismantling gender expectations in one movie? Not too bad, Disney. This may very likely be a new direction for Disney and children’s films as a whole. This movie is certainly one that will be remembered through the ages as a pioneer in children’s movies. Is Frozen really progressive though? I don’t think the film is moving ahead. I think it has finally caught up.

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