Unfreezing Our Hearts: Choosing to See the Beauty in Disney’s Frozen

Anna and Elsa embrace at the end of Frozen.

Anna and Elsa embrace at the end of Frozen.

This is a guest post by Raven Haymond, my dear wife.

This life, we are taught, is all about choices. Ultimately, this existence can be framed by the choices made in three gardens. It almost reads like a fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a garden, blooming with all the beauty this world could hold. In this garden lived a prince and a princess who spent their days in the light of the sun, in the shade of the tree, and in the company of Gods. One day, a jealous serpent whispered into the princess’s ear, hissing truths encased in mischief. After listening to the serpent’s words, and after considering the beauty of her present life, the princess made the choice to disobey one of the rules of life in this garden and eat the fruit that would cause her and her children to know the bad with the good, the sorrow with the joy, the toil with the happiness. When her prince found out what she had done, he, too, ate that heavy fruit, for he knew that a life without her was not really a life at all. When their choice was found out, the prince and the princess were cast out of their beautiful garden, into a world of isolation and strife. However, this choice to leave perfect beauty allowed them to know the miracles of family, faith, and repentance.

Many many years pass until, one day, a babe is born. This child has been sent by the One who cast the prince and princess out of their kingdom of peace. You see, this child is their Hero. He lives his life teaching people around Him how to choose the good over the evil, how to spread the gift of love that He offers. One night, in a garden, this Hero makes the choice to perform the ultimate sacrifice. He offers up His perfect life and allows Himself to be wracked by the deepest of pain, grief, and sorrow, by all of the heaviness of this world. The Hero does this because He knows that it is the only way the prince and the princess and all of their family can have their happily ever afters. Days later, he faces death at the hands of those He has just saved. By whip and nail, He is slain and raised upon a cross.

And now, let us turn to the last page of our tale. Three days after His cruel death, this Hero chooses to rise again and show Himself to a worthy princess, in a garden in the spring. He has made it possible for every heir to the kingdom to live again, to once again know perfect beauty.

Any student of literature can tell you that the stories we create trace their lines back to certain universal themes. We call these archetypes. We craft tales that speak of journeys and heroes, death and rebirth. From Odysseus and his cyclops to Alice and her Cheshire Cat, we read, write, and experience stories in order to reinforce certain themes in human thought. A prisoner in this life marked with a number on my skin, who am I? How do I find my way home, through all of the obstacles that line my yellow brick road? How am I to treat the other people, no matter how small, that walk this path with me? We turn to these stories to show us how we can be redeemed from our shackles and be a force for good in this world. How we can surprise ourselves with our own bravery and strength and drown out the evil around us. How we can recognize the divinity in each person that journeys with us.

Disney knows archetypes. Their films are brimming with the big themes—choice, accountability, heroes, villains, bravery, and triumph. Though surrounded by the cloudy issues of profits and business, Disney must be acknowledged as one of the most powerful bards in current culture.

So, what does this bard sing to us? Disney’s latest offering, Frozen, has received a lot of attention. Most people are drawn to this film by its catchy songs and story of sacrifice. Some, however, have chosen to imprint ugly words all over this tale. Words like “hidden agenda,” “immoral,” “indoctrination,” and “false doctrine.” They warn all good parents to stay away from such filth and turn their children’s heads away from the subliminal messages being pelted at them. Since this life is all about choices, writers of such thoughts do have that choice. They can choose to watch this film and see black sin oozing from its pages.

However, I, for one, do not see it that way. Let me tell you what I do see.

I see a child who realizes that she is powerful.

And she ponders the fruit in her hands.

I see a child who crumbles under the weight of the realization that power can sometimes hurt those she loves.

For she knows that though her power can create beauty, it can also create pain.

I see a child who struggles to make the right choices.

Day to day, minute by minute.

I see a child who chooses to lock herself away rather than risk hurting another person.

For she sees no other way.

I see a child who, even though she tries and tries and tries, experiences a moment where she cannot control this power.

And in that moment, it is all just too much.

I see a child who runs, who breaks away from her self-imposed prison sentence.

Her mind coursing between right and wrong, destiny and tragedy, truth and falsehood.

And I am that child.

I see her sister.

A sister that begs to be let in, to share her sister’s solitary burdens.

An offering of grace.

A sister that sees the darkness in the power, but chooses to have faith in the beauty of the heart.

A gift of forgiveness.

A sister that climbs the tallest tower to prove her love.

A whisper of hope.

I see a child who decides that the only way to save, to truly love, is to sacrifice herself.

For her sight has been darkened, and she does not remember who she is.

I see a sister who dies by the blow of a cruel sword because she knows the truth.

That in order to save, she must die.

I see two hearts united as the ice of all that is dark, in the world and in the whispered hisses in our ears, is shattered by the conquering power of love.

And they rise together, to light and to love and to joy.

And I am redeemed.

That is what I choose to see. Is there evil in this world? Yes. Are there plots in motion to capture our hearts and our minds and lead us blindly into eternal chains? Yes. Is Frozen a tool in the arsenal of the ultimate villain, the one who would claim us for his own. No. I don’t think it is.

In this case, I choose to see the echoes of the fairy tale that started so very long ago. In a garden.

10 Comments

  1. Jeff
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure I can get behind this — does this apply to *everything* that comes out of Hollywood? Does this mean that whenever we see evil in the media we consume, it’s really just the evil of our eyes? That we should never critically examine the messages, assumptions, and worldviews portrayed by the films we expose our children to, and that if we find anything troubling there, it’s really just our own frozen hearts refusing to see the good?

  2. Raven
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Jeff. Thanks for your comment. No, this certainly doesn’t apply to everything that comes out of Hollywood. I think that’s taking my view of one film and making a blanket statement out of it. Should we all run out and watch the latest horror flick because it speaks to the archetypal villain? No. In fact, you couldn’t pay me to watch most horror films. There is plenty of filth out there, created for no really good reason. I am simply saying that I, personally, do not believe Frozen is one of those movies. And just because I drew positive parallels in my review doesn’t mean that I didn’t critically examine it. I thought I examined it quite closely, actually. This piece is in response to the allegations floating around that Frozen was obviously created with the intent of pushing certain political agendas and that no good parent would let their children watch it since it is so clearly an attempt from Hollywood to indoctrinate our children in sin. Here, I am simply presenting an alternative view point, the point of view that brought tears to my eyes the first time I saw this movie. When I discuss this film with my children, these are the points I emphasize. I am confident that they do not sense any underlying evil in the film. You are free to draw whatever conclusions you would like to from the film.

  3. forgetting.son
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Had a fairly lengthy response and thank you all written out. I hit delete instead. Really all I can and should say is thank you, thank you. This, I think, is the correct response. That’s all – thank you.

  4. Brad Haymond
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Raven! This is much more poetic than I would have put it. Here are some other thoughts from a film major who deconstructed things critically, emotionally, and as a father.

    I LOVE Frozen, and not just because my kids love it – though they do, especially the music. I have never seen them take to a musical so much before and it gives me joy to see my little daughter belting out Let it Go at the top of her lungs with her eyes closed, dancing in her carseat to the music. Truly an awesome moment for a parent.

    One cinematically-critical aspect I love about the movie is that the characters are very deep and multifaceted and realistic. I love the scene where Anna tells Christof that he will take her up the mountain or else, and she is obviously nervous about being bossy. THIS is how most teenage girls I know would act in that situation. I love it!

    SPOILER ALERT!! Both the Anna and Elsa are not one-sided characters, as well as Christof and Hans. I love that Hans is so truly likeable for almost all of the movie. Even after we know of his treachery, he still acts noble in the last interaction with Elsa. Love it!

    I love how the Elsa character, which they were originally going to make much more of a villain BTW, is not evil, but unsure about herself, a truly conflicted person. So many times in movies the creators make the characters scene-chewing villains, or seemingly perfect heroines. Most real people are not like this and are a mixture of good and bad. But Elsa is a real person, full of insecurity and angst. Powerful and elegant, but sad and unsure of herself too. I really like her character.

    I love the music and the messages it portrays. Freedom, life, living, fun, humor, friendship, caution – all of these are encapsulated in the music. The songs are very catchy, but also can stand the test of time (trust me, I’ve heard Let it Go at least 300 times already).

    I was going to go on about all the great aspects of the movie, but I am running out of time, so I’ll cut to the chase.

    Anyone can read anything into any story or situation. If LGBT want to read a message into this movie, they will. If you want to consider it offensive that actions that most would consider innocent – a father doing something, anything, with his daughter – you can. If you want to think that Disney has a hidden agenda in this movie, you can. Many have.

    As with Raven, I do not believe there is a hidden agenda. Even if there is, I do not see it. I NEVER saw anything like it when I watched the movie or thought about it. As you can tell from above, I did critically look at the movie and considered its plot elements and themes, so it isn’t as if I am some brainless popcorn-eating moviegoer. Just ask Bryce or Raven, I am definitely not.

    And I never saw anything like what some people out there are seeing in Frozen. The first time I heard of this, I was floored. After reading the reasoning, I can see what they are looking at, but I am still floored. It is a childrens cartoon whose heart is in the right place.

    One aspect I feel supports my viewpoint of this is I have not heard or read anywhere that anyone at Disney or connected with the production of the movie has said there is an LGBT bias or message. Nothing. If they wanted to push an agenda they could.

    I’d love to write more, but work calls…

  5. Brad Haymond
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Jeff,

    To be sure there are evil things that come out of Hollywood that DO have agendas. I could go off for a long time about the nudity in Titanic and how that turned the tide for bare breasts in PG-13 movies, but that is another discussion.

    Raven and I are saying THIS movie is not evil. I will also say that some people could find good in movies that most would find evil. Each person really does take away from the movie what they want to.

    I really don’t see why people think this movie, rather than all the others ever made by Disney or anyone else, has a LGBT agenda. Because Elsa doesn’t have a love interest? Really? Her character wouldn’t support it. She is a recluse. Her battles are elsewhere.

  6. chanel
    Posted February 20, 2014 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    beautiful. simply beautiful.

  7. Sylvia
    Posted February 26, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    When I first heard of this movie, I heard good and bad, but a lot more bad. I was hesitant to see it. But I went with my kids and was *pleasantly* surprised! I really enjoyed the movie, especially the underlying themes so eloquently explained by Raven (Thank You!!) –

    I’m glad there are still movies that can bring out some good themes, where you don’t have to compromise your morals or virtue to come out the ultimate victor. Thanks again!

  8. AC
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I am really annoyed by the people who see an LGBT agenda being promoted because two sisters had true love for each other. The last time I saw a Disney production’s curse broken by a “true love kiss” it was on ABC’s Once Upon a Time and the kiss was between a mother and her son. Does that mean that ABC/Disney is now promoting incestuous relationships? I love the way you framed the movie and will watch it over and over with your insights in mind. Thank you.

  9. Posted February 27, 2014 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    We have enough problems in this world without creating some that do not exist. Unfortunately, this essay will not be the one getting attention. Thank you for it!

  10. Raven
    Posted March 1, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the kind words, everyone.

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