Tessa Roy ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor
Disney princess movies. They’re all the same, aren’t they? The helpless, cutely vulnerable girl winds up in some kind of trouble, and there is only a certain amount of time allotted for the situation to be remedied. But the girl cannot do so on her own; she needs a man to rescue her by whisking her away from her captor or waking her from a deep sleep with a kiss. Then, the two are obligated to fall in love, get married, become royals if they weren’t already, and live happily ever after.
This kind of storyline is completely unrelateable for most people, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s fun to escape reality and be swept up in the fantasy world of a princess. But other times, it’s refreshing to see a strong princess who deals with real issues that real human beings have.
Thankfully, Disney’s latest film Frozen gives us just that. Sisters Elsa and Anna are not traditional fairytale princesses, and thus are two of Disney’s most admirable and relatable characters yet. This is because…
1. Anna has zero social graces.
Think of Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White, or Jasmine. What do they all have in common? They’re each delicate, graceful girls who have a relatively easy time socializing with others. That’s not the case with Princess Anna, who hasn’t really had much of a chance to interact with others. She trips over everything in sight, stuffs chocolate truffles ineloquently into her mouth, and can’t seem to control her words when she gets excited. Within a few minutes of meeting him, Anna proclaims “I’m awkward!” and “You’re gorgeous” to Hans, noticeably regretting her statements almost immediately after she says them. While we laugh at Anna because she’s such a goof, we might also laugh because we see parts of ourselves reflected in her. How many times have we found ourselves being tragically clumsy, forgetting our table manners, and stumbling over our words when we meet someone new? It’s purely human. We don’t always behave perfectly like Cinderella or Snow White, and Anna lets us know that this is not something about which we should feel guilty.
2. Elsa is riddled with emotional issues.
Princess-turned-Queen Elsa carries a relentless and crippling emotional burden. She is unhappy for the majority of the movie, and it’s pretty easy to understand why. After she accidentally hurts Anna with her freezing powers, poor Elsa spends her life locked in her bedroom because her parents are afraid she’ll hurt someone else. She is consistently told she needs to learn to manage her powers, yet nobody ever teaches her how to do this. Thus, she is led to believe it is her own fault she cannot control them. She constantly fears she’ll hurt someone or that her powers will be revealed. When the latter happens, she is called a monster and is forced to run away. She has a brief liberation (as described in “Let it Go”), but it doesn’t last. She accidentally freezes Anna’s heart, which will freeze Anna’s entire body unless an act of “true love” can save her. Now of course, none of us have secret magical powers, so we can’t connect with her there. But sometimes, we have secrets we can’t reveal for fear someone else with get hurt. Sometimes, things happen that are beyond our control, and we never forgive ourselves for not fixing them even though we can’t. And sometimes, we feel alone, unloved, and unable to accept ourselves for what we are. Our specific problems may be different, but the emotions certainly are the same. We can feel with Elsa, and for this we can ultimately appreciate her.
3. Neither Anna nor Elsa actually needs a man in their life.
Anna, being the younger one, is overeager to find “the one” and is a little naive at first. However, we can forgive her for this. She’s been kept away from the world for a long time, so she’s just eager to meet people in general. She jumps at the chance to marry Hans, but Elsa stops her, proclaiming “You can’t marry a man you just met.” What’s more is Elsa never even has a significant other, and never seeks one out. Why? She doesn’t need one. The only people Elsa and Anna need in their lives are each other. Anna allows herself to freeze to save Elsa from being killed, and Elsa’s resulting breakdown over Anna’s frozen body turns out to be the “true love” Anna needed to unfreeze her heart. Although Anna may develop a relationship with Kristoff, she does so because she wants to, not because she feels she needs to, and Kristoff is still a less important figure in her life than Elsa. The message here? Boyfriends aren’t always the answer. This is a powerful thing we don’t always get from Disney movies, and it’s quite refreshing to hear. The love Elsa and Anna have for each other is stronger than any other form of love, and for that, we can love them right back.
Elsa and Anna prove they have broken the mold of a Disney princess (or queen). They are human characters whose emotions we can understand and whose dedication to one another we can admire. Hopefully, we will see more characters like them in future Disney films because although it can be nice to immerse ourselves in fantasy stories, it can feel even better to revel in a story that is both real and powerful.