Frozen – a Meditation by Angela Caldin
I knew the song Let it go from the Disney film Frozen because it’s a favourite of my three granddaughters; I’d even watched the clip on YouTube of the ice princess singing her heart out as she creates a magnificent ice palace with her magical powers; but I had no idea what the story was all about until last Friday when I happened to watch the film the whole way through in the company of said granddaughters.
Based very loosely on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Snow Queen, the film tells the story of two princess sisters, one called Elsa with magical powers which turn everything to ice and the other called Anna who braves all kinds of danger in order to find her estranged sister and rescue the country from the eternal frozen winter that her powers have caused. Anna is helped in her quest by a Sami ice dealer called Kristoff, his devoted reindeer, Sven and a goofy snowman called Olaf.
I was amazed at how transfixed my granddaughters were by the film, in spite of the fact that they had seen it many times before – even the littlest one knew the words to all the songs and they all let rip in unison when the aforementioned anthem Let it go began. I was struck by this, not least because Elsa, who sings said anthem, is not to my mind a sympathetic character at all and causes nothing but trouble. The curse of her magical powers harms other characters both physically and emotionally and almost destroys her own kingdom. She rushes off and isolates herself in a massive palace and there she would have stayed presumably, had it not been for the efforts of her devoted sister. Because it is Anna who is the real heroine of the story, who deals with all the many horrors and hazards of the epic journey to find Elsa’s palace; indeed, it is Anna’s act of love and sacrifice towards her sister which eventually resolves the situation and leads to a happy ending. Yet it is Elsa who my granddaughters prefer to Anna because Elsa is pretty and blond, has a Barbie like figure and wears a most beautiful turquoise sparkling dress while Anna has darker hair and her clothes are more subdued.
I couldn’t help thinking while I was watching that it was possible to see a deeply psychological meaning in the film. I thought it must be about sibling rivalry at the very least, with one sister doing so much damage to the other. Then I thought it must be about emotional repression in Elsa, possibly caused by her parents, leading to an inability on her part to communicate or to make healthy relationships, culminating in her eventual self-incarceration. I really felt that, gorgeous though Elsa might be, she had really serious issues. She did get a bit better by the end but only because of the selfless love and devotion of the grounded and well-adjusted Anna.
Looking on the net, I discovered that I am not alone in seeing a deeper meaning in the film. Some people have interpreted the Let it go scenario to signify that Elsa is gay and that this is her moment of coming out of the closet (they seem to overlook the fact that there’s no-one else there at the time). Others have been convinced that it is all about growing up and coming to sexual maturity – certainly Elsa, when she lets down her hair and flashes a thigh through her impossibly tight dress, looks very sexualised. Still others have seen a Christian parable with Anna’s frozen death and eventual coming back to life mirroring the crucifixion and resurrection. There is even mention of a message about climate change and it has to be said that there is a lot of melting ice at the end.
Clearly, it’s just not possible to predict what different people might read into a book, or a painting or a film. The writers, when asked what they had intended when creating the Frozen story, apparently replied that they hadn’t had anything in particular in mind, they just wanted to make a good story that didn’t suck. As far as my granddaughters are concerned, they’ve certainly succeeded. The littlest one wants an Elsa dress for Christmas and I’m getting it for her, despite all my misgivings about Elsa’s dubious character.