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We Need a ‘Frozen 2′ That’s All About Elsa’s “Good Girl” Crisis

Disney’s Frozen, which is as of this writing at the top of the box office, didn’t strike me as a particularly great movie when I saw it. Frozen was competent and in places adorable, and the little girl who sat next to me at the screening I attended quite liked it. And I thought: well, I passed a pleasant evening, I have no real objections, but I’m sure this won’t have any lingering effect. I left the theater secure in the belief that The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, which were the ones released when I was in the just-old-enough-to-get-the-adult-jokes demographic, would remain undisturbed at the top of my Disney list.

And yet: in the weeks since, usually late at night or sometimes early on a bad morning, I find myself sneaking over to YouTube to watch the film’s big musical sequence. In it, Elsa, Disney’s bastardized (which is fine) version of the Snow Queen belts out a big number called “Let It Go” while she builds a castle out of ice. I derive some kind of weirdly primal comfort from this musically-pretty-simple song, and I think I know why: it’s a perfect distillation of the classic female coming-of-age dilemma.

A quick recap for those who’ll only watch the clip: Elsa has just revealed to everyone that she has the power to freeze things at will, and sometimes when emotion wells up in her it happens without her choosing. She had concealed the talent and curse for most of her childhood and adolescence by hiding in her room, afraid. (Her parents command her to do this, which seems a little dark for Disney, frankly, but others can write about that.) So when she sings, “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see / Be the good girl you always have to be,” she’s talking about how, for a long time, the only means of control she had was isolation. Literal isolation.

Elsa’s creators are picking up on a recurring theme in the girls’ coming-of-age genre as a whole. Obedience is required of all children, of course, but from Jane Eyre down to Elsa, the specter of the “good girl” is a major psychological ball and chain. Most of us aren’t locked in a room, of course, exactly; we just become lonely and angry because the thing is, being the “good girl” never works out in the end.  You will never please everyone, because “everyone” doesn’t have the kind of clear desires you can reformulate into a personal set of rules. The only solution is to figure out what it is you want, and run after it.

In a better world, it would not take most of us until our early 20s to realize this. By then, because the path of the “good girl” is doomed to a million small failures, a lot of us are bottling up some serious anger about how hard we’ve tried and how it wasn’t good enough. We can’t fix the thing with a little pop-song belting and ice-castle building, so usually the catharsis of escaping the dilemma for the rest of us involves a bunch of eyeliner and ill-advised PVC/pleather/Spandex legwear. Or a more explosive show of rebellion — see, e.g., Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, etc.

Frozen‘s problem — from my grown-up perspective — is that it doesn’t really follow this theme with Elsa all the way to its logical end. People have made much of the fact that the film’s central relationship is between Elsa and her sister Anna, because that was Disney’s somewhat awkward and conclusory attempt at making Frozen a “feminist” Disney movie. But I think it would have been far better to make Elsa more of a protagonist and have her liberation be a little less ambiguous. There’s something odd about how her liberating moment sees her shutting herself up again into a new castle. She tells Anna she’s perfectly happy alone there, and the movie only shakes her out of it by putting Anna in mortal peril at the end. It’s a moment of connection, but it’s only a brief one. And Anna is so perfect in the film, so full of spark and sisterly devotion, that she doesn’t present a resonant alternative. I was left wishing the whole movie had kept expanding that one song instead of moving off into the Sisters 4Ever plot.

It’s a shame, because, you know, there was a time when it seemed Disney movies were moving towards a sort of radical model of princesshood. After all, what I remember best about The Little Mermaid is not Ariel marrying the perfect Prince Eric but the “Part of Your World” sequence, which was not about dreaming of love above sea level, but about wanting a life beyond the constraints her father had set for her. “Bright young women / sick of swimmin’ / ready to stand,” remember that? There are echoes of it in “Let It Go.” If they make a Frozen 2, I hope they come back to that.

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10 comments
ShaunN
ShaunN

I think that you may misunderstand the point of the song. It is actually, in many ways, the lowest point of Elsa's time. She is free, but only in the sense of having created an even bigger cage for herself. She embraces her isolation. This is not good for her. In fact, Elsa's journey does continue. By the time the film ends, she is in almost the opposite place from where she is in the song. At the end, she learns to stop fearing her power, she stops isolating herself, she learns that love is the key to controlling her power and freeing herself, not isolation. She still learns to love and celebrate herself, but she does so in the company of the people she loves.

timbo
timbo

do you love frozen as I do

JenM
JenM

"There’s something odd about how her liberating moment sees her shutting herself up again into a new castle."  I thought the same thing.  I thought this song was so sad.

"Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know"

Conceal.  Don't feel.  Be the good girl.  I was able to relate to that.  Because of circumstances I was forced to grow up early and take on a lot of responsibility.  I became tired of being the dependable one.  In the movie, Elsa built  protective walls around her heart and shut out the one who loved her.She found herself trapped in a prison of her own making.  She worked hard to make sure nobody could see behind the mask.

"A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I’m the queen."

"You’ll never see me cry."

Finally Elsa comes to the place where she can’t or won’t hold it in anymore.

"It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free"

She says “the fears that once controlled me Can’t get to me at all”

But she was only deceiving herself.She ran away from her problems and decided to live life on her own terms, but still lived in isolation.  She traded one "prison" for another.  And when her problems followed her, she found that the fears had never really left.She had just stuffed them away.  And that's no way to live.

timbo
timbo

@JenM give the makers of the movie some credit

JunJia
JunJia

@JenM  Actually I do not understand why everyone keeps saying Elsa shuts herself in a new castle. First of all, the word 'new' tells me you are saying that Elsa has shut herself in a castle AGAIN, problem is she didn't SHUT herself in a castle in the first place, she was HIDING in them, hiding from people as they could be hurt by her powers, Remember the first time she decided ( that's right, Elsa did it on her own free will) to stay in the castle, she was only like 8,how do you think she would have been acting at 8 , hiding herself in the castle to protect the people of her fathers kingdom, or , going around accidentally freezing people cause she didn't have any idea how to control her powers ?


I have so much more to say but im afraid i'll sound like im complaining or something, so.......

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