It’s the biggest movie in years, crossing over from family and little girls who love princesses to being a global phenomenon. It’s a two-time Oscar winner with thousands of YouTube covers of its songs, and beginning its 16th week in theaters, even after it was released on Digital Download, it was number 6 at the box office. It releases on DVD in America today, and finally opens in theaters in Japan today as well. Disney’s Frozen is one of those rare films that comes along once in a generation. The 1990’s had Titanic. The 2010’s have Frozen.
So many different blogs and film sites have written about things they have caught or seen in the film. But I believe there are 10 really big things you learn from Frozen. Here they are:
10. PARENTING ISN’T EASY. Anna and Elsa’s parents are onscreen for a very short time, and in that time they show just how difficult it is to be a parent. I read one site that said that Elsa and Anna’s parents were abusive, which makes me wonder if that person had ever parented a child. It’s tough parenting kids–especially when your kids aren’t cookie cutter, just like everyone else. As a father of four, I appreciate the dilemma the parents face at the beginning of the film. I can’t parent one of my kids the way I parent the other. What works with one does not work for the rest, and there are passions and abilities in one child that can cause stress and irritation for another. Do they make the wisest choice to encourage Elsa to hide her powers? No. But when a magical troll turns the Aurora Borealis into a terrifying vision of the future with your kid as the star, what choices do you have? And one thing every parent knows and fears is exactly what happens in Frozen. Every parent worries, am I screwing up my kid? Should I have taken that advice? (See number 6.) Seriously, as the King and Queen could tell you (if they had survived the opening 10 minutes of the movie): parenting isn’t easy.
9. YOU CAN’T JUST LET IT GO. Sure, Elsa’s big song is all about embracing her powers, which is awesome, and its easily one of the greatest moments in the movie. It’s empowering and nice to see Elsa really smile for the first time since she was a little girl. But it’s also a manifesto that isn’t true: sure, the cold doesn’t bother her anyway, but it sure is ruining the lives of those around her. It’s great to have a powerful mantra that enables you to “be the you who you were created to be,” but nobody can truly be who they are meant to be in isolation. We are created to live in community with others–isolation brings fear, worry, and worse. When Elsa shuts Anna and the world out, bad things happen. It’s only when Elsa realizes how much she needs her sister in her life, that she can’t shut everyone out, that she is able to use her power in the way it is supposed to be, to benefit others, to bring goodness to the world around her. What’s true for Elsa is true for us, too.
8. HANDSOME AND CHARMING DOESN’T MEAN A GUY’S A PRINCE. By now, the big twist in the film is well-known. But just in case: SPOILER ALERT. Seriously, stop reading right now if you don’t want to discover that the guy who would typically be the Disney prince in this film is just as big a jerk as Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. Frozen isn’t Disney’s first film to tease the idea that the guy who should be the prince really isn’t, but it takes it farther than they ever did with Beauty and the Beast. Gaston’s good looking, but he’s a tool. Hans, however, is handsome, self-effacing, sings a knockout production number with Anna (“Love is an Open Door” is a great love song), but reveals himself to be just as self-centered and full of himself as that earlier jerk. What Frozen teaches every girl is to really know and learn about that guy who seems so right, because underneath, he could be so very wrong.
7. APPRECIATION AND RESPECT IS AS IMPORTANT TO LOVE AS ATTRACTION. One of the things every parent of daughters can love about Frozen is what also makes Disney’s Mulan so appealing: the love story isn’t the main story, and it operates on the periphery. Mulan may have an attraction to Shen, but it’s not the main story, and the fact that he shows up at the end of the movie is actually a sweet “extra” to their story. In Frozen, Anna may think she loves Hans, but what she eventually discovers is that the guy she truly should be with is the guy who has shown his friendship to her, the one who smells like reindeer, looks scruffy, and even questions her ability to make good choices. Kristoff is a good friend, and they grow to respect and appreciate each other on their adventures. Just as Shen respects and appreciates Mulan not just because she’s a good-looking woman, Kristoff appreciates Anna for all her strengths–and even weaknesses, not just her looks, which makes their kiss at the end of the movie actually mean something.
6. NOT ALL ADVICE IS GOOD ADVICE. The advice that Grand Pabby (the troll) gives to Elsa’s parents is just plain bad. It’s not even partially good. He freaks them out with a vision of Elsa’s powers gone amok, and then proceeds to erase all of the wonderful memories Elsa has shared with her sister over the years–leaving the fun. What that means is he leaves Anna with no context for why she recalls having fun with her sister–or why, when she remembers all this “fun,” she isn’t able to have it with Elsa now. Concealing the power, shutting her up in her own room, causing what was once a joyful expression to now be one that fills her with dread–this is what happens to Elsa when her parents follow some very bad advice. Doesn’t matter whether the source is a magical troll or a well-meaning friend: just because advice is given doesn’t mean you have to take it.
5. KIDS NEED FRIENDS. One of the best songs in the film is “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” which encapsulates the entire breakdown of the relationship between Anna and Elsa, the loss of their parents, and the isolation in which both girls have been raised. Yes, Anna has been allowed to roam freely in the castle for years, but the gates have never opened–so she has never had a friend her own age. Just as Elsa has been isolated because of her powers, Anna has also been isolated. Without the interaction with other children, without the friendly interaction with her sister, added with that the death of her parents, it can’t be surprising when she falls for the first really friendly (albeit handsome) person she meets in her entire life. You can’t grow up in isolation and expect to understand what a healthy relationship looks like.
4. REINDEER(S) AND SNOWMEN ARE BETTER THAN PEOPLE. They may be “comic relief,” but both Sven the reindeer and Olaf the snowman are also two of the best characters in the film. Sven is the voice of Kristoff’s conscience in the early going of his relationship with Anna, and the one who quickly sees that Anna, while strong, may need a little help along the way. Olaf, the childhood creation brought back to life in a throwaway moment of “Let It Go,” is a wide-eyed innocent who truly sees no guile in anyone. He simply sees people who need help and is determined to help them, even when it could cost him his very life. Both Sven and Olaf risk everything to save the people they love, with no thought of what it could actually cost them in the end. Everyone needs a friend or two like these.
3. SOME PEOPLE ARE WORTH MELTING FOR. One of the best things about this film is the amount of self-sacrifice made throughout the story. Elsa hides her powers for the benefit of the ones she loves (misguided as it may be), Anna isn’t afraid to jump on a horse and run after her sister, Kristoff and Sven give up their successful ice business to assist Anna, Olaf literally melts to save Anna, Elsa gives herself up to save her sister, Anna throws herself in front of Hans to save Elsa, and the list could go on and on. Yes, there’s a lot of heroics here, and sometimes its hard to give up something for someone else–but in a world where kids are taught that what they want is the most important thing, it’s wonderful to see a film that reminds them that sometimes the best thing you can do is to give up something for someone you love.
2. YOU CAN’T FORCE SOMEONE TO CHANGE. Anna’s quest is doomed from the moment she sets out after Elsa on Coronation Day. She can’t make Elsa change at all. One thing that is clear throughout the film, but especially in their relationship, is the fact that change has to be something we choose for ourselves. Anna would love to force Elsa down the mountain and stop the eternal winter, but she can’t make Elsa do it. In fact, it’s the fear that she is being forced to do something again–a stark reminder of her childhood, when she was made to wear gloves and conceal her powers–that causes Elsa to freak out and accidentally freeze Anna’s heart. Even when we love someone, we can’t make them change for the better. We can only love them. And ultimately, it’s that love that causes Elsa to realize she can change. Which, of course, changes everything.
1. PRINCESS DOESN’T MEAN WEAK. There’s a movement today that says that families are damaging their daughters by calling them princess. “You limit your daughter when you call her that,” they say. Because, of course, calling a girl a princess will make them want to always wear pink, have tea parties, dream of boys, and turn into Barbie. Ahem. The princesses (and one eventual queen) in Frozen shows that to be entirely untrue. Both Anna and Elsa are princesses who grow up wearing pretty gowns, live near ball rooms, and all the other trappings. But neither of them can be called weak, or even “girly,” even though they are both extremely feminine. Anna is headstrong, unafraid of challenges, willing to do the dirty work of climbing a mountain on her own, fighting wolves, going after her sister–even when Elsa has just revealed a crazily terrifying ability to freeze anything, create snow, etc. She’s called princess throughout the film, but that doesn’t make her less of a woman. Elsa, also, is a strong woman. She grows from princess to queen, and yes, she may be a little confused about her powers, but nobody in the kingdom even thinks twice about the fact that she will now be their ruler. And yet, both women are beautiful, talented, and look lovely in their gowns. Who says you have to either be feminine or tough? Anna and Elsa teach girls that they can be both. And the number of boys who have helped make Frozen the hit is shows that they get it, too.
There’s a lot more you can learn from Disney’s latest masterpiece. What do you think?