A literary and theological look at what's really going on.
“Some people are worth melting for.” –Olaf the Snowman
Why do we like the movies we like? I think that whenever we watch a movie, on some level, we judge it based on how well we think it presents some aspect of reality. Different viewers naturally focus on different aspects: feminists look to see how the female is portrayed, Marxists look to see how economics and history appear, and so on. I must admit that I, as a twenty-one year old Catholic liberal arts student, when analyzing how Hollywood blockbusters present the world, often ask myself to what extent they display a classical Judeo-Christian morality. You can imagine my joy, then, when I stepped into the movie theater to see the newest animated Disney film, Frozen, and found that I could have mistaken it for something written by Karol Wojtyła, had he dedicated himself to writing Oscar winning children’s fantasy movies instead of becoming Pope John Paul II.
Why do I think this movie is so Christian? It’s simple: the sort of love displayed by the film’s characters and the way those characters grow (if you need a summary of the plot, Wikipedia will do). The two most developed and interesting characters are naturally the two protagonists, the princesses Anna and Elsa. The two are foils to each other, showing the viewer how our understanding of love and self-fulfillment affect us. Anna attempts to find happiness in the embrace of a man she’s just met, while Elsa cuts herself off more and more throughout the course of the movie. By the end of the film, however, it is made clear that they can only find happiness in sacrificial love.
Hans and Anna become engaged, in traditional Disney fashion, on the first day of their acquaintance. Unlike many of its predecessors, however, Frozen shows the foolhardiness of these actions in two ways. The first is simple: by making Hans turn out to be the villain. The second is a bit more complicated: by displaying Anna’s development in her understanding of love. Anna and Hans’ duet, “Love Is an Open Door,” which they sing just before getting engaged, is not just extremely fun and catchy—it also showcases an immature and worldly view of love.
Throughout the song, the two “lovers” sing of love as a freeing experience, an idea that is perfectly Christian. Yet the freedom of which these characters sing and the freedom which Christians describe are quite different. Hans and Anna claim that they will “say goodbye to the pain of the past,” as they seek an effortless love that frees them from suffering. For Christians, by contrast, true human development and authentic love occur through self-gift and self-sacrifice. As Venerable Fulton J. Sheen said when speaking of the modern world, it’s no use “Trying to get back in the Garden of Eden without walking up the hill of Calvary.” Love is indeed freeing, but the freedom it gives is from sin. For what is sin but a valuing of the self over the other -the very opposite of love?
After leaving the kingdom being thought a sorcerer, Elsa flees to the North Mountain where she sings the most popular song in the movie, “Let It Go.” This song is, in my opinion, the most misunderstood part of the movie. I have heard it spoken of as everything from a self-esteem anthem to Elsa’s throwing off patriarchy and embracing her lesbianism. No, I’m not kidding. Disney’s marketing decisions haven’t helped people to understand the song either. The company asked Demi Lovato to record a cover of the song, which I think was a mistake, as her delivery simply feeds into the interpretation that the song is simply an anthem of empowerment, self-expression, and self-esteem, rather than a display of where Elsa is personally at one precise point of the movie: a point where she recognizes that her powers are not to be hidden but while still denying her need for human companionship.