Frozen 2 (Unintentionally?) Reverses Its Original Message, And It’s Glorious

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR FROZEN AND FROZEN 2

Despite all my best intentions, I didn’t make it to see Frozen II until today. I’d meant to see it immediately upon its release so that I could rant, in a timely manner, about a movie I was sure I’d hate. But illness and a (planned) surgery kept me from the theater until today. And, despite the movie’s fairly incomprehensible story line, I found myself completely fascinated. Frozen II totally dismantles the message Frozen I took great pains to convince us of. And this is both confusing, and wonderful.

My issue — as you may recall — with the original Frozen movie was that it tried to convince us that fairy tale romance was evil. It gave us a picture of a naive heroine — Anna — falling for a man she didn’t know who turned out (gotcha!) to be a murderous psychopath. And it recast “true love” — the greatest love of all — as a love between sisters, rather than lovers. I go into this more fully in my book, of course, but the movie failed to understand the symbolism inherent in the kind of love the movie reviled, and missed the point of princess fairy tales entirely by suggesting that the end goal of a princess’s journey was to cleave to her sister — her family of origin — rather than her lover, her new family.

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But Frozen II reverses all of that. Olaf, the silly snowman voiced by Josh Gad, tells his pals at the beginning of the movie (and reminds us later just in case we missed it) that forests are places of magical transformation. Holy fairytale shorthand Batman! Did the creators of Frozen read up on fairy tales in the six years since the first movie and realize their mistake? I honestly have no idea what happened, but I’m not complaining. In Frozen II, the sisters go into a magical woods as children and emerge as adult women — just the way they are meant to, just the way they should have six years ago.

The film opens with Elsa as the very obvious third wheel in Anna and Kristoff’s growing relationship, and shows us that Elsa is certain she was meant for something different. For Anna, this life of idyllic domesticity is exactly where she’s meant to be. She’s met the man of her dreams, fallen in love, and is ready to settle down — to start a new life away from her family of origin. But Elsa — contrary to the original film’s emphatic message — can’t really be part of that. Even though Anna is doing everything she can to include Elsa, Elsa knows this cannot last.

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When Elsa hears a mysterious voice calling her to the magical forest, she is torn between her worry that she’ll ruin her relationship with her sister, and her desire to strike out on a path that will surely lead to her independence and acceptance. It’s the traditional Disney princess dilemma: go forth and follow my dreams, or stay within the safety of what I’ve always known. We all know what a Disney princess must choose, that’s the entire point of the princess narrative. And suddenly, the creators of Frozen seem to have gotten with the program.

This whole scenario, interestingly, casts Anna in the role of the family member holding the princess back. She follows Elsa to a magical realm, reminding her constantly of their promise to stick together, and interrupts Elsa’s quest to discover the source of the mysterious voice and become who she was truly meant to be. Unlike Elsa’s original wrong-headed self-isolation in her ice palace, Elsa is now maturely trying to confront and accept her true self. And Anna’s holding her back. Ultimately, Elsa must literally fling Anna away from her in order to strike out on her own and do the thing she knows she must do — and do alone, like a good Disney princess must.

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Anna, thinking Elsa is dead, has her own realization. Elsa is gone, but she — Anna — is still here. She is her own complete entity, even without her sister. Even in her crippling grief and terrible fear she knows who she is and what she must do. Her bond with her sister is not the thing that makes her who she truly is. And, at the moment of that realization, she reconnects with Kristoff who is willing to do whatever it is Anna needs — he’s not holding her back, he’s holding her close. “My love is not fragile,” he tells her. This bond, the bond of — eventually — husband and wife, is the bond that will sustain and uphold them both.

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When Elsa and Anna find each other again, their love for each other is not diminished but it has changed. They are now two independent beings, on different paths. Elsa has found her true purpose and the reason for her magic, and Anna has discovered that her own existence is not dependent on her sister. Just as all sisters must, they will live apart, but their closeness and their love will live on. Elsa goes to fulfill her purpose, and Anna goes to fulfill hers — as Kristoff’s wife and, sort of tangentially, Arendelle’s queen. 

Sure, the movie also features a sort of convoluted political message about something something something, but honestly who cares about that? The real message here — unbelievably — is that the bond of sisterhood, though strong, is not the ultimate goal. In order to become your true self you must strike out on your own. And, while you might love your sister — love her fiercely and passionately — you must, ultimately, break away from her. You must follow your purpose and become your true self. And, for Anna, that means shifting her allegiance from her family of origin to the new family she will now create with Kristoff. For Elsa, it means striking out to find out who she is and what she wants. (Do I smell Frozen III?)

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Frozen II was primed to rake in the big bucks at the box office no matter what it was about — the first movie was just that popular. So I have no idea why the creators chose to dismantle the manifesto they so carefully presented in the first movie. The only thing I can think is that they actually have no idea that they did. Is that even possible?

8 thoughts on “Frozen 2 (Unintentionally?) Reverses Its Original Message, And It’s Glorious

  1. I think that they were going this direction because the creators wanted to #GiveElsaAGirlfriend….but of course because Disney is too busy sucking up the the commies in China they put a kabosh on it.

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  2. Interesting comments. I think I agree with you, in that the movie is about maturing love. At some point we grow up, and sisters can’t be together forever.

    Personally, I found the Kristoff story line to be oddly forced. It seemed the movie would have been basically the same without him. Especially with his “my love isn’t fragile” line, to me he seemed to be being painted as a good little feminist pajama boy, who knows to take a back seat and let the girl have her time.

    Is love to get your thoughts on our analysis over at TOP:

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  3. Personally, I found the continuation of character arcs to be very weak and unfocused. In fact I’d even argue that the sister’s story lines should have been reversed. It would make sense that Anna having to be the average person with a literal superhero for a sibling would chase after a mystery voice with the promise it might make her feel special or magical for once. While Elsa does have a very strong will, last time it was Anna who helped bring her back so I could see maybe a harboring of an insecurity to exist without Anna there to keep her on the right path.

    If that were the case then you could either make Anna special and make her the fire spirit which would be an easy crowd pleaser or continue with Anna’s special without magic because she’s courageous, kind, and holds inner strength with the master of the elements being a foreshadow with sequel material.

    Overall, I enjoyed getting to read your thoughts, hopefully you have a quick recovery from illness and surgery.

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  4. Thanks for the Frozen 2 review. You’re the only reviewer I’d trust with a Disney film these days. It is quite possible that Disney has, if not reversed course, then stopped moving towards the incorporation of progressive gender issues into their product. They may have gotten a system wide shock from the rather violent reaction of the fans of SWs The Last Jedi. Let’s hope.

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    1. Yeah, let’s hope they’ve at least stopped going forward regarding shoehorning progressive gender issues. Then again, TROS had a lesbian kissing scene, so who knows (and considering TROS bombed, let’s also hope that Iger’s fired and then replaced with someone who will get Disney back on track to such an extent that they explicitly forbid incorporating any woke issues or political elements in any future films).

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  5. Well, there’s still unfortunately some political stuff in Frozen II (apparently, the message entailed promoting reparations to the extent of literally risking a flooding of Arendelle by blowing up a dam), so it still has some black marks, even if it did avoid trying to denounce romance unlike the first Frozen.

    Still, besides actually TRYING to promote romance this time around, one good thing about the movie is that they HAVEN’T made Elsa a lesbian despite the writers clearly teasing it. Making Elsa a lesbian would have been a very huge mistake, since it would destroy what little of Disney’s reputation as a wholesome company it had left (especially when Disney already narrowly dodged a few bullets on that front with that hot tubbing family in the first Frozen, to say little about their infamously making LeFou gay in the 2017 BATB live action remake, and their including shots of two guys kissing in Star vs. the Forces of Evil). I assure you if Frozen II was made by, say, Berlanti Productions instead of Disney, they’d go all in making Elsa as lesbian as one could get and give a half-baked reason for her to be that, like how they treated Alex Danvers in Supergirl (heck, like several characters in the Arrowverse who weren’t originally gay or bi or what have you), not even CARING if most people didn’t want to see Elsa as being gay (I know I was absolutely furious when I learned that they changed Alex Danver’s sexuality starting with Season 2, still am, in fact, and that was part of the reason I quit Supergirl after the conclusion of Season 2.).

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  6. I love that you help carry on the tradition of the true princess narrative, and I admire your faith in Disney, that the light may not have gone out. Before reading your article on Frozen II I had expected new age correctness combined with #metoo sensibilities had superseded any thoughts of returning to what onetime was a strict Disney pattern with their princesses. I hope the princess narrative you have so well defined in your book, thus helping people like me to appreciate it, will see life at Disney again. Or if not, someone else will worthily take up the mantle.

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