Cracking “Frozen”

“I’m always bothered when people don’t celebrate what’s different about others. It should be a reason for curiosity, not racism, when someone doesn’t share what you believe in or look the way you or your friends look. This scares me the most.”
– Steven Spielberg

Like millions of people worldwide, my family has fallen under the spell of “Frozen.” The first time I watched the film, it definitely had the feel of an instant classic. But there was also some sort of philosophy and, well, magic, at work in the movie, either deliberately or by some happy accident. There were some excellent elements: Idina Menzel has powerful pipes that can make a song pop, Kristen Bell is a winning and sympathetic voice talent, Olaf the Snowman, voiced by Josh Gad, is gently hilarious. I’ve long been a fan of Robert Lopez, since seeing Avenue Q on Broadway.

Yet, this movie felt special. I have long been on guard against the Disney Princesses after reading Peggy Orenstein, and this movie certainly puts a lot of the tropes of typical Disney heroines through the wringer, but there’s more than feminism at work here.

Ever since I saw the movie the first time, I have tried to understand what the power is – why did the character of Elsa in particular seem so compelling? I asked some very smart writers their opinions, and queried almost all parents I knew who had seen the film. (Lots.) I got many answers, some fascinating, but none really resonated personally.

Tonight, we borrowed the DVD from my in-laws. And I realized that the key to the movie for me was not Elsa after all, but Ana, her sister.

“Don’t let them in.
Don’t let them see.
Be the good girl you always have to be.
Conceal, don’t feel.
Put on a show.
Make one wrong move and everyone will know.”

Elsa, “Frozen”

Elsa’s big secret is she was born with the power to turn things to ice and snow. Not a super relatable difference on its face. But that’s the beauty of Elsa’s “curse” which she was born with – it could be anything. She’s different in a way that scares people, and fear makes her powers strong and scary.

I’ve always been a person who seeks out those who are different, with curiosity in my heart. I can’t claim that this is a choice I’ve made – it seems to be a trait I was born with, shared with my maternal grandmother. My best friends were always outsiders in some way, even though I was born as much of an insider as you could possibly be in this country – my relatives actually sailed here on the Mayflower. Yet I dated and married a man who is an outsider.

I wonder now if that curiosity and attraction to the other was because deep down, I was in fact an outsider. My insides are broken.

Infertility gave me the first-hand experience of being an outsider. The majority of Americans don’t have to undergo what I did to get pregnant. I still feel different. I’ll always feel I am an outsider with other parents who didn’t share my struggles. I was expected to put on a show around everyone while struggling with infertility and I never wanted to let anyone know what was going on.

Obviously, my broken insides made me different, and the things I pursued, the powers I sought to get pregnant are FEARED by many and considered an abomination by some even.

I relate to Elsa, who is feared and shunned. Feared because she’s associated with a power that seems scary, and because she’s different.

“It’s time to see what I can do.
To test the limits and break through.
No right no wrong no rules for me.
I’m free.”
Elsa, “Frozen”

Elsa goes into exile, where she gives into her power and casts off the shame related to it, glorying in what she can do. Who can’t relate to “Let it Go?” It’s thrilling to see a woman realize shame is such a limiting and miserable emotion, and become who she is.

During the worst of infertility, Darcy and I moved back to the city. It was an exile of sorts. It was an admission that we would never fit into the suburbs, where every stroller we saw cast shards of ice into our hearts.

It wasn’t until I found Others, through blogging, that I felt a bit like Elsa building my own beautiful world where I was understood. It was also an exile of sorts.

Yet, we live in the real world, most of the time. Unless you move to the mountains, there is no exile.

So what’s the answer? The answer is Ana. Ana, who is described as “ordinary, in the best way,” never gives up trying to help and understand her sister. There are Anas out there. They may say the wrong things sometimes, but they continue to try.

An excellent thing about the movie was the real villain – a prince who exploits the fear others feel for Elsa to his give himself power. Well, this is (sadly) historically accurate.

The world needs more Anas. There will always be others out there trying to exploit differences, whether based on religion, race, infertility, etc. To the particular end of garnering more Anas for people going through infertility, I’d point to this Disney Baby article by Keiko Zoll that deserves to be shared widely.

And I will continue to try to be an Ana for other causes and differences as well. I hope you will too.

What did you think of Frozen? What lessons, if any, did you take from the movie?



Filed under Parenting After IF

13 responses to “Cracking “Frozen”

  1. I love the movie Frozen but I am genuinely too scared to say anything in this community about liking a Disney Princess…… I don’t think I delved into it as deeply as you did and a part of my enjoyment is superficial – the singing was what won me over the most. However how can you not love a movie about a sister that would do anything to protect her sister, who puts herself in danger (and can fight off wolves and jump over ravines šŸ˜‰ ) and doesn’t necessarily go for the Prince? I might have to watch it again this week. For Molly’s sake of course.

  2. Esperanza

    I love Frozen. I’ve seen in six times and I enjoyed every viewing. I like it for all the same reasons you do, mostly I just laugh through the whole thing–it’s very witty and clever and the delivery of the lines is spot on, by everybody.

    And of course the songs are AMAZING.

    But I think you’re right, that Ana is what brings me back. She is funny and endearing and has a good heart. She never once doubts her sister, never once stops loving her or feels afraid of her, despite being seemingly (and unexplainably) discarded by her when they were kids. She has every reason to dislike Elsa (I’d probably think my sister who used to play with me but then shut me out without any explanation was kind of a bitch) but she never does.

    I also think Elsa’s character, or better said, her situation, is a powerful one. At least it’s powerfully relatable. Everyone has felt like an outsider, everyone has baggage they want to ditch so they can be happy and free. Elsa sings only one song but it is THE SONG. The one everyone knows and everyone has belt out at least once (more likely countless times) alone in the shower or car. Mi.Vida recently sent me an album on Rdio of Let it Go sung in 52 languages. Yeah. 52.

    I also grew up on the inside, but I quickly felt like an outsider, first because of depression and then later because I had never even dated, let alone been in a long term relationship. I thought something was broken inside of me, and I thought I was unloveable (as was evidenced by the fact that no one, outside of my family, had ever loved me). I suppose that’s why it wasn’t that foreign to me to find myself on the outside looking in when it came to fertility. I had felt on the outside for a long time.

    And I think that is the power of Frozen, because everyone, or at least the great majority of people, has felt like they were on the outside looking in, at least once. And everyone hopes that the love of family can pull them through, whether they currently have that family or are still searching for it. They are endearing messages, and relatable, and I think that is why it’s such a massive success.

    Oh, and Olaf is hilarious. šŸ˜‰

  3. I think all of us long for that unclnditional love that Ana has for her sister. I started crying while reading yyour post, I’m so thankful for the Annas in my life.

  4. I really liked the ending, how it wasn’t a stereotypical Disney ending (aka: the true love mentioned is sister love, not husband/wife love).

    But I didn’t love the movie – not the way others have. I didn’t LIKE Elsa. I thought she was incredibly selfish. You say she was feared and shunned, but she wasn’t. She shunned the world around her because SHE was scared of her power. I am the oldest and have always been protective of my siblings, and I feel like that’s part and parcel of being a big sister – no matter what, you take care of your family. She left Ana alone and lonely; even when it was just the two of them when their parents died. “Let it Go” was also that way for me too; her selfishness wasn’t just hurting her sister, then, too, but her people, too. I’m sorry, but if you’re the queen, you don’t just GET to run away and make things hard for everyone. You have responsibilities, and you need to accept that. No matter how scared you are. And did she even REALIZE how lucky she was that Ana loved her so much? After years of being shut out, I still can’t believe Ana went after her.

    I did love Olaf – I know the actor who played him from “Book of Mormon” and he’s just freaking hilarious. And Sven made me laugh too – he is exactly like our golden retriever, especially how he is in the snow.

    So I didn’t hate the movie, for sure, but I didn’t love it, either. I just couldn’t get past Elsa’s selfishness. Did she even realize, or acknowledge how lucky she was to have that kind of unconditional love from Ana? I’m still not certain she did, even at the end when Ana nearly died trying to protect her. I saw her realize: “oh wait, I FINALLY KNOW HOW TO CONTROL MY POWER! LOVE!” It seemed selfish to me, even then. I guess I just never saw her as anything other than a Love Taker instead of a Giver.

    I’m rambling now, so I’ll stop. Thanks for the post on this. I’ve been watching my friends all fall in love with Frozen and I just never really got why before. It’s nice to read an actual analysis on why people think it’s so successful.


  5. We purchased Frozen and I have enjoyed watching it, but I have a feeling I’ll enjoy watching it even more after you drew the analogy to infertility. Ana is my favorite character and the “Anas” in the world are extremely special people, the people who are there in times of darkness and want to know why we infertiles sometimes feel isolated and exiled. Thanks for a great post!

  6. Ana

    I agree with Serenity on this one. I did enjoy the movie, because I love me some sing-able Disney music(I’ve only seen it once, but I’ve listened to the soundtrack 50+ times—in the two weeks since I bought it) but I really had a hard time relating to Elsa . The way she walled everyone off—yes, it happens in real life, and I CAN understand the fear and hurt that led to that—but it also ends up hurting her sister and others. I TOTALLY get running away, that is my M.O.—but its a quality I dislike in myself. Its not brave. Its cowardly.
    But what I REALLY can’t get around is the terrible parenting decision of locking your daughter away in her room for years because she is different. No wonder Elsa is broken. So lucky for her that she had an Ana to help put her back together, not everyone does.

    • Elsa was taught that love = fear by her parents, and boy do I agree that they made some bad decisions.

      I think the reason she stays away from people and her sister and runs away is because she literally knows she WILL hurt them (and she does) with the power she has. She’s never been taught to control the power other than: stay away from people. It’s super sad. And yet another reason to love the Ana character – she does help to “fix” Elsa.

    • I can’t get over the parents actions either. I love the movie, but I just don’t understand why Disney made the parents so awful.

      • Ana

        And at the end of it, I still felt really sad for Elsa. Was she truly happy? Can that damage be undone? Ana definitely is more happy-go-lucky and is going to thrive regardless, but Elsa may always struggle.

      • “Can that damage be undone?”
        Yes. To quote an anime theme song (Fruits Basket), “I can’t be born again, but I can change a little every day.” A strong woman like Elsa can do anything she puts her mind to, including finding peace and happiness, especially with the help of someone like Ana.

        I wonder if they’ll have Elsa’s love story as a full feature film (Frozen 2: The UnFrozening) or if it will be direct to video.

  7. I really enjoyed the movie. I felt relieved for Ana when she could just be herself, even when she was angry. Oddly, it made me feel a bit sad that I didn’t have that tight relationship with my sisters when I was growing up.

  8. I love Frozen too (as does the toddler in my house naturally). The songs and animation are both amazing, but I really love that it both fits and breaks the mold of a traditional Disney movie. I read an interesting piece on HuffPo about the gay subtext of the movie (Let it Go being the coming-out song) and the takeaway from the article to me fits your premise – the movie and many other Disney movies really teach kids to embrace differences in each other.

  9. I’ve only seen it once, so I haven’t really analyzed it, but I was really really glad that they didn’t need the prince to save them. Such a relief.

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