For my Media & Society class (MC101) we were given a unique assignment: “Select, watch and critique a recent film that fits one of these criteria: it has been praised highly by critics, it has had or is having a significant effect on popular culture, or has caused significant controversy. Very briefly outline the plot of the film. Then, dig into it, asking what the films’ main theme is (or themes are) and what we learn about the screenwriter and/or filmmaker’s beliefs about the world. If you are a follower of Christ, describe how should you approach this film. Finally, describe the extent to which your Christian beliefs play a role in your choice of the films you watch?”
So, naturally, I chose to write about Frozen.
After reading some articles, playing Frozen-related games, and annoying my roommate with the soundtrack, I finally knocked out the following paper (with which I am really pleased). So enjoy, as I explain to my media prof (and you) how Anna really “Let It Go” in the movie, Frozen.
Oh, and by the way… spoiler alert.
Disney’s Frozen is a heart-warming film about two royal sisters in the fictional kingdom of Arendale. Elsa and Anna are depicted as fun-loving, inseparable sisters who use Elsa’s powers to play in the snow. As Elsa gets older, her powers increase beyond her control so she is unable to control them. Elsa decides to hide her powers from the world, including her sister. When Elsa is crowned Queen of Arendale, she must appear in public for her coronation and ball. When Anna stresses Elsa, Elsa flees and sets off and eternal winter everywhere. Anna then sets out to save Arendale and bring back her sister to melt to endless snow.
The opening song, Frozen Heart, sets the scene for the movie. As the men are slaving away and harvesting ice in the frozen tundra, they sing about ice’s powers, saying it is “stronger than one, stronger than ten, stronger than a hundred men,” and they must “strike for love [and] strike for fear” to break the frozen heart. This scene so greatly foreshadows later events in the film. When Elsa’s powers are out of her control, people call her a monster and condemn her. As the ice queen, she is depicted as having the frozen heart. Elsa is “beautiful, powerful, dangerous, cold
,” just as the opening song describes. When Elsa accidentally strikes Anna with her powers, Anna is then cursed with a frozen heart, proving that “ice has a power [that] can’t be controlled.”
A main theme in this film is the meaning of true love and its saving power. Elsa accidentally strikes Anna in the heart and Anna discovers that the only way to thaw her frozen heart is by an act of true love. The characters initially assume they need to take Anna to her fiancé for true love’s kiss, but Anna soon finds out that her beloved Hans is only using her in order to get to the crown. Anna is then forced to reconsider the meaning of true love. As she and Olaf (her snowman friend) embark on a journey to make it to Anna’s new friend Kristoff for a second go at true love’s kiss, Anna sees her sister about to be slain by Hans. Instead of running to Kristoff, she sacrifices herself to save her sister by jumping in front of Hans’ sword. Anna’s sacrifice for Elsa is the act of true love needed to save Anna. While most Disney movies and fairy tales use true love’s kiss as the saving power in the story, Frozen breaks this tradition by showing how powerful sisterly love can be.
This movie also focuses on the theme of sacrifice. As Anna sacrificed herself for her sister, Elsa sacrificed her powers for Anna’s safety in the beginning of the movie. Elsa is born and gifted with this magical power, but in order to keep her sister safe, she confines herself to her room and restricts her contact with the outside world. Along with this sacrifice came their parents’ sacrifice; by keeping Elsa from the outside world, they also shut out the world from their own lives, as well as Anna’s, even though she was dying for some human interaction. Anna sings, “I think some company is overdue. I’ve started talking to the pictures on the walls! … It gets a little lonely, all these empty rooms, just watching the hours tick by!” Since Elsa has to conceal her powers, her entire family must also make sacrifices.
I have read several articles lately about this film discussing hidden values and subliminal messages that Disney is trying to expresses, including but not exclusively acceptance of homosexuality, benefits of polygamy, and even the message of Christ. After reading so many conflicting views, I am still under the impression that Frozen
is an innocent children’s film with great morals and messages. It stresses the importance of sisterly love over romantic love through Elsa and Anna’s relationship. It also breaks the anti-feminist traditions of other fairy tales in which the prince kisses the princess and she gives up her entire life
to be with him (i.e., The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and more). Frozen shows girls that they can be independent, and princesses don’t need a prince.
Frozen also seems to have a covert Gospel message. We see in the movie that Elsa has done wrong and broken her relationships with the rest of the world. Anna, however, takes a punishment she does not deserve in order to save her sister. Rather than letting Elsa suffer her deserved punishment, Anna takes her place. Upon this ultimate sacrifice, Anna is then unfrozen. This mirrors the story of Christ. Elsa represents the world, where we have all sinned and broken relationships and done wrong. Anna, however, represents Christ, who is pursuing us all of the time, no matter how much we push him away, just as Elsa shut Anna out of her life for so long. No matter what we do or have done, Christ still saves us, bringing resurrection and reconciliation.
While this movie is seemingly a children’s film, it has an excellent message of the Gospel to which all viewers can relate. Like Lewis’ Asland (The Chronicles of Narnia) or Golding’s Simon (Lord of the Flies), Anna is the Christ figure no one expected. Even if this message was an accident made by the filmmakers, it still gives all viewers a relatable, simple version of the Gospel. As Christians, we should embrace the Christian themes of this film. True love, sacrifice, and salvation are meaningful in both sacred and secular cultures, and it is wonderful to see Disney bridge the gap in this movie.