Disney’s Frozen and My Rant about the ‘Rents (Spoiler)


The parents in Frozen inadvertently fueled the monstrous side of their daughter’s powers.

So, I’m pretty sure I’ve got a whole book in me about Disney’s Frozen because I like it so much and it really gets me thinking. I’m writing a pair of essays for Life & Liberty about what the movie can teach us about the use and misuse of power, but I wanted to insert this between those essays to expand on a problem I have with the parents in that movie.

*SPOILER ALERT* This essay discusses major plot points of the movie including surprising twists to the story. If you have not seen the movie and do not want to know how the story unfolds, do not read this essay.

In my first Frozen essay, Disney’s Frozen and the Misuse of Power, I wrote the following about the role that fear plays in how the main character misuses her powers:

As we get to know Queen Elsa, we see that she has a great struggle within herself that is grounded in fear. Her particular fear is that she will hurt someone with her powers just like when she accidentally struck her sister, Anna, with them in when they were children.

In all fairness, the wacky troll that heals Anna and the girls’ parents feed right into Elsa’s fears. The troll erases Anna’s memories of Elsa’s magic and warns Elsa that fear will make her powers more dangerous. The parents then keep Elsa away from other people—including Anna—as much as possible.

The more Elsa tries to conceal and control her powers, the more afraid she becomes and the more of a threat her powers present. So primal is her fear, that it manifests violently against others—including her beloved sister—in order to protect them from her.

I mentioned the parents in passing, but the truth is that they played a significant negative role in their daughters’ lives by keeping them apart, isolating Elsa, and hiding the truth from Anna.

I suppose it makes a more compelling story to have the girls grow up with this gulf between them. It makes it more dramatic when Anna–who has been shut out by Elsa for so long–stands between Elsa and the sword intended for her.

Locked Away

Storytelling devices aside, it’s pretty terrible to lock a girl away just because of one mishap with her powers.

As we see early on, Elsa’s powers can be used to create the most amazing, fun and beautiful playscapes. She and Anna enjoy the winter wonderland that she creates in the castle ballroom. The accident in which Anna gets struck by Elsa’s powers was because Anna was so absorbed in her enjoyment of her sister’s creations that she misjudged a jump from one snowy peak. It was only in trying to give Anna a safe landing place that Elsa accidentally struck her sister with her powers.

There was no malicious intent in Elsa’s actions. She was not some monster, she was a young girl with an extraordinary gift that accidentally got out of control once.

I understand that the parents were concerned for Anna’s safety. And they were concerned for the safety of their kingdom. I get that, I really do.

But there had to have been a better way. There just had to have been.

I’m not a perfect parent, but I do make a point to honor my kid for who he is. And I try to encourage his best gifts rather than squash his potential at the first sign of struggle.

The obvious key to Elsa harnessing her powers for good was the emotional support she received from Anna and others at the end of the movie. What if the parents had been giving that kind of support all along?

See, to me, that’s a big part of a parent’s job. As kids discover the range of their capabilities, parents are in a unique position to help their kids learn appropriate applications of their skills. Kids can live more fully into the positive & appropriate applications of their skills when parents come alongside them and allow them to practice using them.

I recognize that practice can be messy. There will be risks, missed marks, and set-backs. These are hard, but the best skills are worth honing for the good they can bring to our world.

But Elsa’s parents didn’t allow her to practice her powers. They decided for her that she shouldn’t because they assessed that the risks of her using them were too great. By imposing strict control on her and isolating her they seemed to think they could eliminate the risks associated with her powers.

At Risk

Risk-elimination, no matter how well-intentioned, is as destructive as it is naive. We can never eliminate all risks and to try to eliminate risks is only to introduce different risks.

People are not meant to live isolated lives of fear. We are given gifts and skills to be used for the good of others. When people don’t get to use their gifts then they are at risk for shame, self-loathing, and depression because of the belief that their skills are bad. And when our abilities are not harnessed and guided for good, then the risks get exponentially greater when our abilities manifest in negative or destructive ways.

And so, by trying to eliminate the risks of Elsa using her powers, the parents in Frozen made the situation worse. Elsa hated herself and her abilities and no matter how hard she tried to stop using her powers, they could not be contained. And not having practiced positive applications of her powers in a loving environment, she did not have the emotional resources to direct them for good.

On top of that, their deception of Anna came with additional risks. Of course, there was the obvious risk of Anna losing her favorite playmate. But beyond that, and I want to tread carefully here because I would not want to crush the spirit of a dear soul like Anna, but the parents never dealt with the risky behavior of Anna that led up to the accident with Elsa’s powers.

Anna was a free spirit and we love that about her. Nonetheless, learning to look before she leapt could have served her well in life. She loved and trusted easily which are admirable qualities, to be sure. But instead of helping her learn to manage the risks of her approach to life, the parents enabled her to remain oblivious to the dangers they posed.

And the risks of Anna’s approach to life were great. Let us not forget that the man who tried to kill Elsa was the man with whom Anna had jumped into engagement after singing and dancing with him for just a few hours. It was not Anna’s fault that Hans was a bad guy, but she was responsible for putting in charge of the kingdom a man she barely knew.

Of course, we know how the story ends and that Anna’s power of love saves the day. So, like I say, I wouldn’t want to squelch this power of Anna’s! But the parents could have been better resources for her as a child by allowing her to see the risks involved in loving and trusting so fully and so readily.

As I say, I realize that the situation the parents created sets up a great story. And this is only fiction. But those parents just bug me.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Robin Hood on January 24, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    I finally did see Frozen, and you are so right! Elsa really did have the most destructive mantra in her head from them. “Don’t feel, hold it in, be the good girl we know you are.” It just doesn’t give her a good way of moving past repression without feeling like she was going evil. The trolls had specifically said she needed to learn to control her powers, not that she should repress them.

  2. I’ve been wanting to say something like this (and did to my daughter after we saw the movie). Well said! –Wendy

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