A few years ago now, Frozen was released in cinemas everywhere. It became a worldwide sensation, and is arguably one of the greatest love stories that Disney has ever released. This fact was largely said to be because it conveyed what true love is; sacrifice. The climax of the movie was the dreadful and then relieving moment we realised that true love had indeed won. The moment Anna made the greatest sacrifice by giving her life to save her sister, and then gained it back through her act of love.
However, in the weeks following its release, Frozen seemed to become popular for all the wrong reasons. Instead of the heroine who gave her life in love, people were idolising the ‘Ice-Queen’ Elsa, and her reckless abandonment of the city she was supposed to rule. Let it Go soared up the music charts, and people found refuge and freedom in its message – ironically, the exact opposite to the message of the film.
Elsa was not the hero, and her new-found “freedom” was fleeting and ultimately a lie. The only reason her song was so popular is because it indulged peoples’ desires to escape responsibility, work and reality. And when I say work, I don’t necessarily mean a vocation or career. I mean the work required to heal, forgive, grow, and move past adversity.
The thing about Elsa is that, at a glance, she seemed to have every right to run away and embrace her perceived freedom. She was wronged by her own parents, the people she served, and her guests. While she was just a little girl, she was cut off from proper social interactions, hidden away, and told that she must never show who she truly is. Her fear was a product of what she was taught, and her fear is what drove her to isolation and lack of control. She cannot be blamed for that, and should rightly stir our hearts in sympathy. However, just because people – we – are wronged in life, no matter how horribly, it does not release us of the responsibility to move on from that hurt, and most definitely does not excuse us of abandoning the people who love us.
In overcoming hurt, we will most often need help; someone to lean on when we feel like we cannot possibly overcome our past. The thing with Elsa is she refused Anna’s help. Time and time again, relentlessly, Anna risked her life to offer her hand, and Elsa continually refused. She refused not only help, but the love that offered it.
Another thing about Elsa is that her “freedom” was not freedom at all. Not only did it damage the people and land that she loved, but it damaged her. Humans are relational beings. Complete isolation, though it is an escape from fear, hatred, and pain of one sort, is in itself fear, hatred, and pain. It is seen as the ultimate freedom only in a delusion caused by prolonged and untreated anxiety and paranoia.
The point in the film was that Elsa was wrong in how she behaved, and that Anna embodied true love in her relentless pursuit of relationship with her sister. Yet somehow, in the marketing and the reception by the fans, Elsa became the hero standing above an immature kid-sister, who empowers others to let go of their hurt by embracing isolation.
The truth of the film is that Anna was the mature, empowering woman of the hour who saved not only her sister but her whole country by putting others first, while Elsa was the reckless sister who ran away and refused, in her immaturity, to resolve her issues properly.
The fact that this message, which is so clear in watching the film, was twisted by others who only saw what they wanted to see speaks volumes of a society which promotes selfishness and self-indulgence above love. It speaks of a generation who refuses to hear, and would rather distort, the truth – however obviously it is presented to them.
So next time you are watching Frozen with children, take the time to talk about the true meaning of the story – of the girl who saved others, and how freedom was found, through love.