Frozen, Disney’s latest tale of two princesses, is cinematic magic. The artistry of the snow, ice, and snowflakes is delightful sparkly glittery technological sorcery in itself. I found myself every bit as mesmerized as my five year old daughter. But the real magic is in the story and themes.
Here’s how the magic worked for me. I admire the storycraft, the talent displayed and of course, the fabulous music. What I didn’t expect, however, was that I would see myself in the characters, the predicaments, and circumstance.
Like Elsa, the Snow Queen, I am the older sister. I am misunderstood and isolated- perhaps gifted, perhaps cursed. Matured by responsibility. An urge to run away from it all. So much burden so much I’d love to let go of. But I can’t. I don’t really know how. Or if I even could. My responsibility is part of me.
I am also somehow the naive younger sister among my circle of friends: vulnerable, yet persistently hopeful. I know that some people perceive my faith as a weakness. But I know the difference between idealism and optimism. And I know that trusting that people are better, somehow makes them behave better. The trolls know this. But I will get back to them.
Disney depicts two princess stories in one. Frozen is a heroine’s journey in which she embarks on quest of personal growth. Was it Elsa’s story? Was it Anna’s? It was both! Elsa experiences the trials and tribulations of living with the curse, her exhilarating journey to the ice castle (beautiful prison of her own design, literally) and back. Elsa grows from princess maiden to Queen mother to eschewed crone in like, a day. And she sings this fantastic song as she climbs the mountain. Who better to voice Elsa than Ms. Idina Menzel, the actress who originated Wicked’s Elphaba on Broadway. For Elsa defies gravity. She defies Disney. A princess-Queen-crone/witch/sorceress in one. How refreshing.
The classic “cookie-cutter” princesses were so unreal. Anna is a distinct departure, quirky and flawed. Anna, first living in isolation and then journeying to the ice castle (the place where her heart is struck) and back. Like Tangled’s Rapunzel, she may find a love interest along the way but that is not the point. Individuation is a personal journey.
The fantastic twist of the film is how Anna saved Elsa. Sisterly love. My Catholic upbringing perceives this as profoundly Christian sacrifice.
The wisdom is expressed by the trolls. Trolls! The charming, sometimes embarrassing family. Can anyone relate? But in their love is Wisdom. The trolls’ big musical number is delightful in many ways: lyrical cleverisms, style fusion, but what really hit me is this line from Mama Troll:
We’re not saying you can change him/
‘cuz people don’t really change
Finally! Disney speaks to that problem which is the Beauty and the beast falsehood. Love doesn’t always transform the beast.
We’re only saying that love’s a force/
that’s powerful and strange
Truth. “Fixer Upper” so lyrically and musically clever, it is easy to overlook its wisdom. We all have flaws, bugs and curses, myself included. I think it’s my opponent who’s the problem, but by verse three, it’s clear that it’s me.
The opposite of Love is fear. Love being the Absence of fear. This is Basic Course in Miracles stuff. As spiritual author Marianne Williamson writes in her book “A Year of Miracles:”
There can be no darkness where I provide the light.
Light is to darkness what love is to fear; in the absence of one, the other disappears. All the darkness in my life – the fears, neuroses, dysfunctions and diseases – are not so much a thing as the absence of a thing. They represent not the presence of a problem but rather the absence of the Answer. And the Answer is love. All fearful manifestations disappear in the presence of love.
Watching this belief play out in this secular story was nothing short of miraculous.
Because Every December I try to honor Advent. Honestly. But this secular society just screams Christmas, and by Christmas, I mean Materialism, at every turn. And although I try to plan, shopping early and consulting my ten year historical gift giving excel spreadsheet, I find myself feeling swallowed whole. I feel torn and pulled in every direction, unable to even imagine a date to celebrate my mid-December birthday amongst my dearest friends. Between choosing to celebrate my own birthday, and taking my children to see the latest Disney movie, guess what I chose. Ironically this is how I first saw Frozen. I cannot choose myself over my children. As Olaf the Snowman proclaims: there are some people worth melting for.
And so my perfect winter storm including, but not limited to, annual Thanksgiving roadtrip to the in-law’s, post-thanksgiving drama, holiday card anxiety, birthday anticipation, shopping obligation, parenting, managing the family, full time job…can I just say Where are you Christmas? I swiftly spiral into the depths of distress as the days decrease and the darkness spills onto the light
And then the natural calendar gifts us with that magic of the winter solstice. The light comes back. Love has come. And my anxiety rights itself. I return from my subconscious underworld journey following the light.
All that advent angst. It was fear. Fear of being late, fear of not giving the best gift, fear of not having enough time (and no wonder, as the light wanes), fear of not looking after myself, fear of ruining my family’s Christmas- somehow.
But in the darkest hour, the light returns. And that’s what faith is. Remembering. That a miracle is a change in perspective. The change from fear to love.
And Elsa learned the power was within her all along. Much like Dorothy. The power of love, the peace of God, is within you. You just gotta have faith. Sing with me, now:
The search is over/
Love was with me all the while
And in case, dear reader, that you are not of 80’s music vintage, but 90’s, there’s always mystic Madonna’s Kabbalah:
when your heart’s not open.
I loved the ending with Anna telling Hans. The only frozen heart around here is you.
How are you frozen?