For the first time in forever, there’s a Disney animated movie in theaters that has kids and grown ups raving. There’s no debating the point that Frozen has been a smash hit – being the highest-grossing Disney animated feature, winning the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film, beating out Lorde, Katy Perry and Eminem for the number 1 spot on the charts, and now heading for Broadway, it’s hard to deny that the public loves this story and the musical telling of it.
SPOILERS FOLLOW! You have been warned…
I loved the movie, both for it’s sweeping, grand story, and for the points that could easily be missed while we’re singing ‘Let it Go’ in the shower…. again. There’s a lot of juicy, interesting ethical points in the story that are worth talking about, especially with kids who are rapidly falling in love with the sister princesses and their friends. So let’s talk.
1) Fear is Elsa’s enemy… but whose fear is it? The troll tells her fear will be her enemy, but what fear is it that really keeps her isolated? In many ways, her OWN fear forces her to be alone. She’s terrified to go outside and won’t open her door for her sister/best friend, because she fears hurting her again. Ana is increasingly fearless, bicycling off the stairs and running into the mountains despite the danger, but Elsa is constantly terrified by others, and completely isolates herself. It’s only when she begins to feel love again that can she melt her ‘eternal winter.’ In many ways the line from ‘Fixer Upper’ applies to Elsa most of all: “people make bad choices when they’re mad or scared or stressed, but throw a little love their way and you’ll bring out their best.”
2) Yes, it’s an act of true love that saves Ana; her own love. In most stories someone else’s love saves the endangered person. But in this case, Ana saves herself by truly loving her sister, and being willing to sacrifice everything for her. In doing so, she saves Elsa, and in doing that, saves Arendelle. This will hopefully be a trend in story telling – that true love isn’t just something that happens between a leading man and lady, it happens in many shapes and sizes and is just as true and powerful. Love doesn’t mean a man rescuing a woman from dire circumstances – it means a bond that is more important than any other, and it’s great to see that reflected in stories.
3) What does it mean to “be the good girl you always have to be”? The other lines of Elsa’s mantra are “don’t let them know, don’t let them see” and “conceal, don’t feel.” Her parents are the ones who taught her the mantra, believing that hiding her power, encouraging her to feel nothing and show nothing of herself to others, would help keep her and the people around her safe. But how different would the story have been if someone had let her explore her power, and not hide who she is? Yes, there’d be danger from people who were afraid or didn’t understand, but is avoiding their fear worth the price – a life of fear, isolation and pain? When she chooses to reject the “good girl” act completely, we see her proud and strong with an understanding that by not playing the “good girl” act anymore, she now has no place in the kingdom she is heir to. There is a lot going on here about feminine identity that is definitely worth talking about.
4) Ana isn’t jealous & Elsa isn’t snotty about the fact that one of them has super powers and the other doesn’t. At the beginning of the story, these two sisters aren’t jealous or bratty about the fact that one of them has super powers and the other doesn’t. I believe the quote while they’re playing is something like Ana: “I wish I had powers!” Elsa: “I wish you did too!” both of them wishing the other could enjoy the same powers. No jealousy, just a loving, uncomplicated friendship between sisters. That… doesn’t really happen in kids stories. Less so in stories when one has powers!
5) This time a princess is the one with the powers – not a villain – and the powers don’t make her evil. Most often when we see powers in an animated character, they’re the bad guys, or the side characters. We don’t see main characters with powers very often (you could argue that Aladdin’s Genie and The Sword and the Stone’s Merlin would qualify, but these are still technically secondary characters). The powers do cause trouble, and conflict, and they make the malicious villagers call her a monster, but these ring leaders (Hans and the delegate from Weaseltown) use the same voice as Gaston did in calling the Beast a monster – they have clear ulterior motives and want the people to be afraid. This is a beautiful story of someone with power learning to wield it with control, judgement and love. How cool and rare is that?
6) Maybe Hans is a little bit right when he tells Ana that no one loves her. She’s only known Kristoff a day or two, so while they might be growing to love one another, it’s very new and they barely know each other. Elsa is so terrified of hurting Ana, she doesn’t even know her sister anymore and doesn’t know how to let anyone close enough to love her. Her parents are dead. Olaf cares about her (“Some people are worth melting for.” Gets me every time.) but he’s not human, so the jury’s out on that one as far as curse breaking. Maybe he’s right – she isn’t known/loved by anyone. But the lesson here is that she can still love others deeply and truly enough to save her own heart from freezing.
7) Kristoff asks to kiss Ana, which might be the best example of romantic consent in Disney animation… ever. There’s been a lot of discussion about the error of ‘romantic silence’ in dating and relationships, and that articulated consent can be very, very romantic. He lays his cards on the table – he wants to kiss her, but isn’t about to make her kiss him – he holds her up in a celebratory hug, realizes he wants to kiss her, so he puts her down and tells her so it’s HER CHOICE to kiss him or not. Awesome.
8) Giving up and/or wallowing is not an option. Ana sees her sister run away, and it’s moments before she’s on a horse following after her – not lamenting and weeping and taking power in her sister’s absence. Once Elsa knows that Ana’s in trouble, iron shackles aren’t even a match for her as she breaks through to get to her (yes, she does collapse later, but in grief when she learns her sister is dead [a lie] and that there is nothing she can do to help her). Kristoff sees a huge storm brewing over Arendelle and runs INTO the blizzard to save Ana from whatever danger is heading her way. These are people who take action instead of spending their time living in an emotional response, and that’s a very winning quality.
So, those are my thoughts so far, and I hope they help spark helpful conversations!
What did you see that you’d love to talk about in Frozen?
Is there another movie “for kids” that does daring stuff worth talking about?
Leave a comment to start the conversation!