In Frozen, the new Disney animated film, a young—you guessed it—princess sets out on a journey after her parents—you guessed it again—die. Throw in a handsome prince or two, a lovable reindeer, and a goofy snowman sidekick, and the formula seems complete. But don’t freeze out this latest contender.
Elsa, the older of two sisters, is crowned the beautiful young queen of Arendelle. But she has a secret. She was born with the ability to make ice and snow, an ability that brings both joy and danger. Experiencing fear magnifies the danger. Her younger sister, Anna, has been kept in the dark and does not remember the time in her childhood when she used to enjoy Elsa’s creations.
In an effort to help her learn to control her power, Elsa’s parents have taught her to be the perfect princess, always the good girl: “Conceal. Don’t feel.” After the coronation, Elsa loses her temper with her sister and her secret is revealed. When she finally gives way to her emotions, the kingdom is covered in ice and doomed to eternal winter.
Elsa runs away to hide herself from the people, and Anna must find her to save the kingdom. As Anna journeys in the mountains and Elsa builds herself a castle of ice, the animation is stunning, weaving a wondrous pattern of ice and snow across the screen.
While men figure importantly in the story, in the end these sisters are doin’ it for themselves, taking stock of the problems and seeking solutions. Elsa must fight her fears and take responsibility for her emotions and how she handles them.
Disney Psychology 101? Maybe. But I spend enough time with young women to know that many, many of them are fighting the pressures to be perfect, to be “good” in the eyes of the world and not let any weaknesses or differences show. In this social media age, where we are all tempted to construct the perfect online “me,” anything that promotes the futility and danger of pretending to be someone you are not is a breath of fresh air.
The animation is lovely, the music is lively, the dialogue is witty, self-sacrifice abounds, and, as a friend summed it up, “Love wins.” That’s about as much as we can hope for.