Just what is the meaning and/or message of the animated film Frozen? Many have been busily analyzing this question.
First, the plot, in brief, from IMDB: “Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.”
Linda Barnard, Toronto Star, who calls Frozen “Disney 2.0”, tells us some things that work best about the movie:
Better to focus on the stunning icicle kingdom, snowy landscape visuals and the engaging female characters, especially the funny, iron-willed Anna, whose love for her sister propels her quest. With their back stories, quirky personalities and faults, the sisters seem more human than animated, although they do have that big-eyed, wasp-waisted impossible prettiness that Disney just can’t seem to abandon.
As impossible as it may seem, these two even pass the Bechdel test for feminism on film, where two women talk to each other about something other than a man.
(See this previous post about the Bechdel Test.)
You can watch the trailer below:
Many say that the best and main element of Frozen is the sisterly love. Sisterhood of the family kind. Well, “family” often includes parents. So, where are the parents in all of this?
R. Kurt Osenlund, Slant, explains that Elsa’s “ice-emitting powers” are a source of shame for them:
In childhood, she injures her sister Anna during snowy playtime, and the half-stone trolls beseeched with healing Anna’s wound ask if Elsa was ‘born’ or ‘cursed’ with her gifts…Mom and Dad do acknowledge that Elsa was born this way, but after having Anna’s memory wiped, they nevertheless urge Elsa to remain in the family’s castle, its locked gates signifying the girl’s closed-off, guilt-ridden heart. ‘Conceal, don’t feel,’ the princess is taught to tunefully recite in the film, which is based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, and hinges its chief conflict of eternal winter on the dangers of emotional suppression.
Gina Luttrell, Arts.Mic, tells it like it is and calls out the parents as abusive: “Elsa’s parents brutalize her instincts so that even as an adult, she lives in constant fear of herself. Those lessons are so ingrained that she continues hiding even after her parents die.”
Although some see a strong “coming of age” theme regarding Elsa, many others zero in on an even more specific developmental challenge, that of being gay in a homophobic society. Osenlund, for instance, says the movie “(t)eems with gay themes.”
Blogger Steven Salvatore: “The one thing I couldn’t shake as I watched the story unfold was how strikingly similar it felt to growing up gay and learning to find inner peace and acceptance while balancing the fears you have of what others might think about you.”
Catherine Bray, Time Out: “The standout song, ‘Let It Go’, feels like Disney’s most inspired coming-out anthem yet (‘Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know. Well, now they know’).”
Salvatore, again: “In the last chorus of the song, she sings: ‘Let it go, let it go / And I’ll rise like the break of dawn / Let it go, let it go / That perfect girl is gone / Here I stand in the light of day / Let the storm rage on / The cold never bothered me anyway.’”
Added by the blogger, “If that’s not a coming out song, I don’t know what is. Regardless, it’s absolutely empowering.”
(For the complete lyrics to “Let It Go” and a related video clip from the film see my previous post about this song.)
Another theme is the kind of sisterhood that’s not just family-related. I’m talking Female Empowerment. Women’s Independence. “These sisters, both queens in their own rights, are doin’ it for themselves,” says Osenlund.
Margaret Manning, The Huffington Post, hopes “women of all ages” will hear and get the message she did: “Stop trying to please everyone, forget perfection, don’t be afraid to be different and be true to yourself. Stop being a ‘good girl.'”