Frozen
Elsa, voiced by Idina Menzel in "Frozen." (Photo courtesy of Disney)

by Christine Urio

Over winter break, I gave into the masses and joined the lines of families standing outside of movie theaters. We all patiently waited to pay $10.50 for our tickets, grab an extra-large popcorn, and spend the next hour and a half of our lives watching another G-rated animation film.

Instead of slinking into the back row with a hood pulled over my face, I proudly sat front and center, excited to see Disney work their magic in the highly anticipated feature, Frozen. Although it’s rare for this franchise to produce a film of poor quality, it’s clear to see why so many were captivated by the children’s movie.

The story tells of the soon-to-be queen of Arendelle: Elsa. Elsa was born with the power to create snow and ice. After accidentally harming her sister Anna with these powers, Elsa is separated from her sister. Anna and the kingdom don’t learn of Elsa’s powers until her coronation when she places an eternal winter upon Arendelle and flees, causing Anna to search for her in the mountains.

What makes this plot unique are the social intricacies subtly woven into it. Although there’s royalty, Frozen is not just another princess movie in which the crown ends up marrying the handsome prince; it’s been modernized—for love is apparent, but not the type of love one would expect to see in a Disney film.

When Elsa accidentally strikes Anna with her powers a second time, this time in the heart, Anna is injured and slowly begins to freeze. She learns that the only way to melt a frozen heart is through an act of true love and, like a majority of the audience expects her to do, she runs to find Hans, whose proposal she had previously accepted. However, the act of love that saves Anna is not between her and Hans, or even between her and Kristoff, the ice seller. The love is between Anna and her sister. Despite her intensifying predicament, Anna sacrifices herself to save Elsa, who is about to be stabbed, instead of running to Kristoff, who has the potential to save her. In spite of her heroic deed, Anna is consumed by her frozen heart, but only momentarily, for she displayed an act of true love by saving her sister.

Frozen’s portrayal of the love between sisters is revolutionary. They show the bond of sisterhood is just as strong, if not stronger, than that between lovers, honing a true and mutual adoration that is unlike any other and is often overlooked. The entire plot revolves around the sisters’ relationship, for it is because of Anna that Elsa removes herself from her sister’s life. Because her powers are fueled by emotions, Elsa does not know how she can reverse the eternal winter she placed upon her kingdom. When Hans lies and tells her Anna is dead, Elsa becomes overcome with such pain that the whiteout halts and snow hangs in the air; it is this passion that the estranged sisters have for one another that is powerful enough to temporarily stop the storm.

Anna’s is a new kind of character to be featured in pop culture since she proves that she doesn’t need a man to save her. In fact, she doesn’t require anyone to fix her frozen heart; she’s able to save herself. Anna’s reliance and dependency on her own self are also a concept rarely portrayed in Disney’s female characters. She takes it upon herself to go off into the mountains to find her sister, and she undertakes the journey single handedly. Anna’s faith in her ability is strong, both to navigate the terrain to find her sister, as well as to rectify the situation at hand. The kingdom’s fate rests ultimately in Anna’s hands.

Anna is not helpless but resourceful, looking after herself and buying the proper supplies to carry out her journey. She takes charge of the situation when she realizes she needs a sleigh to get up the mountain. She then enlists the service of Kristoff. Anna is not a submissive character, responsive to male authority. She challenges traditional gender roles, not letting Kristoff’s dominance influence her. She continues to refute him when he tells her that marrying Hans after knowing him for so little time is ridiculous. Although this may be so, she simply dismisses his opinion, not allowing his negativity to affect her decision.

Some have expressed disappointment in the film’s not-so-traditional “happily ever after” ending—neither Anna nor Elsa finds her true love and gets married. The movie instead ends with the sisters, finally reunited, happily skating around an ice rink Elsa created. Although I’m embarrassed to say I too was slightly disheartened at the non-clichéd finale, but I found it refreshing to have an alternate ending. It’s exciting to see that filmmakers, especially those who produce children movies, are recognizing the impressionability of their audience and feeding their minds with notions of substance.

Disney has had a slew of strong female characters, from Ariel, who defies her father, to Belle, who is a “beauty but a funny girl,” to Mulan, who saves China. More recently, there has been Rapunzel, who saves Flynn on numerous occasions, and Merida, who embraces her independence and opposes marriage. But Anna embraces girl power to a different caliber, even in the way she speaks and presents herself, for she accurately embodies that of a slightly awkward, semi-out-of-her-place, lovable character, making her relatable to young girls who are in the process of discovering themselves. The way she conducts herself in relationships and stands up for what she believes in no matter the consequence is admirable.

Hopefully this sets in motion the continuation of the media not just moving along, but keeping up with the times and playing a role of assistance to the social change we wish to see by creating strong females who can be feminine princesses, as well as positive role models. So, don’t ask, “Do you wanna build a snowman?” Ask the entertainment industry to keep up the good work.