5 Lessons in Disney's Frozen
Fairy-tales, though simple, often have great messages. Disney’s Frozen has inspired a lot of conversation due to the refreshing appearance of two women who not only take on more empowered roles than usually seen in Disney princess films, but who also have more three-dimensional personalities that express relevant concerns around fear, love and identity. While not faultless, Frozen highlights several important considerations:
1. Sometimes the people who are supposed to love and support you, fail.
The king and queen’s response to Elsa’s dilemma results in a fear-bound, tormented life for their eldest daughter and heir. Instead of teaching her to value herself for her unique powers and working with her to control them in a healthy way, they teach her that she is dangerous, even hurtful, and go to great lengths to make sure she denies her emotions and needs. Even as a grown woman about to take authority over the kingdom, Elsa is haunted by her father’s words and afraid that there is something deeply wrong with her. As she says to Anna, ‘just stay away and you’ll be safe from me’.
Her overcoming of this in the ‘Let it Go’ scene reminds us that we can’t be something we’re not: we only find true happiness in being ourselves. We also can’t deny our feelings forever – the more Elsa tries this, the more unmanageable her powers become. To break free of this cycle, Elsa has to admit that she can’t follow her father’s advice any further: ‘“Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know.” Well, now they know’. What follows is a slow realisation that her powers, while needing careful handling, are beautiful and can bring joy to the world, just as it did when she and Anna were children.
2. Sometimes when we shut people out to protect them, we only hurt them and ourselves more.
Anna’s honesty and un-princess like clumsiness is also a refreshing addition to the film, with her loneliness relatable and all too common in the real world: ‘All my life has been a series of doors in my face.’ Throughout the film we see Elsa genuinely trying to protect Anna by keeping her away, but while Elsa’s powers do cause physical damage, it’s the lack of communication and open honesty, as well as the loss of friendship, that haunts her younger sister most.
Not being able to help, not understanding what’s wrong, not knowing if they would be ever close again and constantly being pushed away for no good reason leads Anna to being desperate for love and taken advantage of by Hans. It also leaves Elsa in cold isolation, alone with her fears and frustrations. Lesson: our pain can cause pain in those we love, and pushing them away only compounds our problems. At the end of the day, it isn’t until honest communication opens up that healing comes for both sisters.
3. Fear can be overcome, and it’s okay to have help.
Elsa’s desperate outburst that ‘there’s so much fear!’ conveys a frustration that even now she can’t escape her ‘curse’ and since her freedom was short lived, there is grounds to believe she will always be struggling with her inner demons. Anna’s fear of being alone forever also seems to be turning into reality.
Hans is cleverly able to exploit the deepest fears of them both. In her moment of greatest need, he says to Anna, ‘if only there was someone who loved you…’ and to Elsa: ‘Your sister is dead, because of you.’
This then makes them exploitable. Anna feels she knows nothing of love. Elsa believes everything she cared for is gone. Combine this with the belief that she has become everything she feared (dangerous, worthless, etc.), and Elsa doesn’t even bother defending herself against Han’s attack, when it’s likely she knows what he’s about to do. It is their fear that also leads them to being self-critical throughout the movie, as when Elsa sings, ‘I’m such a fool!’
Luckily, both sisters have someone who helps them out: Olaf teaches Anna about love and Kristoff comes back for her. Anna shows her love to Elsa in a life-saving act, teaching her sister that she does have worth, despite what she’s been told. This also helps Elsa to see she can manage her powers and use them to bring others happiness (perhaps not having the revelation earlier because she hadn't experienced love since her powers became a problem). In return for Anna’s help, Elsa promises complete openness in the future. Once they understand more about themselves and the importance of unconditional love, they can live life free of fears.
4. Women can take charge and handle responsibility, and there are men who will respect them for it.
It is Anna, not Hans, who charges off into the wilderness to bring her sister back. It’s Anna again who rescues Elsa from death. Kristoff, instead of trying to hold her back, seems to enjoy her honesty and sense of fun. Rather than a weaker vs. stronger dynamic or one relying on the other, Anna and Kristoff are instead portrayed as equals.
Adding to this new step for Disney, Elsa is also portrayed as a capable queen and the movie ends with no love interest in her life to take care of the kingdom for her. Instead, viewers are left feeling that she will be fine to govern on her own.
5. Everyone can begin again. We just need to value ourselves for who we are, and share that with others.
Frozen shows us that sometimes we need to trust people with the most vulnerable parts of ourselves. Throughout the film Anna tirelessly pursues Elsa, encouraging her to speak, to share, and showing her loyalty and love even when it’s hard and dangerous: ‘we can face this thing together!’ Olaf tells her that love is putting another’s needs before her own, and that in fact is what both sisters have been doing all along. When Elsa finally lets Anna back in, she is given a second chance at life. The two get their friendship back, and Elsa returns to her kingdom as a loved and respected queen. Instead of being labelled a monster because of her differences, she is celebrated for them. Instead of spending the rest of life behind a closed gate, Anna can finally live openly.
What did you get out of Frozen? Leave a comment below: