Note: I’m no psychologist, this post simply goes deeper in the movie and takes an in depth look at the characters and songs. These thoughts and insights are my own and based on my own life experiences. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, see it, then read this, for there are spoilers!
Bravo Disney. Bravo for making a movie with such a powerful message that anyone in the world can relate to. Bravo for making the main antagonist actually be the protagonist. Frozen is, in one word, a masterpiece. Not only are the songs carefully crafted and thoughtfully written and scored, but the characters are also warm, loving and memorable. Frozen speaks to all of us. As adults, we can all attest that we are our own worst enemy. We all have dealt with the inexplicable power of fear holding us back in our lives. Some of us have learned to overcome; others are in a daily battle. We can all learn many life-changing lessons from Frozen, and most of these lessons come from the brilliant songs themselves.
After the chanting of an angelic choir, the scene opens with ice, naturally. Men in the icing business are cutting through the ice with saws, and the opening song begins.
Born of cold and winter air and mountain rain combining
This icy force both foul and fair has a frozen heart worth mining
So cut through the heart, cold and clear
Strike for love and strike for fear,
There’s beauty and there’s danger here
Split the ice apart. Beware the frozen heart.
This song is a precedent for the entire movie. Once you’ve seen the movie, you understand that the ice they are referring to symbolizes all of our hearts. We are capable of being both “foul and fair” but we all have frozen hearts that are worth mining. These men are doing hard labor, in the freezing cold, commenting on how powerful a force ice is, but that even though it’s challenging, it is worth it. In the movie, one of the main characters, Elsa, has a frozen heart. She was born with magical powers that lets her control ice, but this is not the reason her heart is frozen. This song is a beautiful allegory of someone trying to love a damaged soul. For the person who is trying to show someone their love, they need be aware of this: striking through the frozen heart is no easy feat. When attempting to break the frozen heart, you can only strike with love. That is the only way to thaw a frozen heart. A lot of us have frozen hearts. We don’t believe that anyone could truly love us that much. We fear rejection and betrayal. In the process, we toughen up and build a wall, thick enough that someone would need to strike it with an ax to get through to us. Not everyone in life sees our worth either. Most people would not bother trying to thaw your frozen heart. It’s a scary thing. It requires work, patience, suffering, frustration, and most importantly, love.
Do you want to build a snowman?
This song follows Elsa and Anna after the incident where Elsa strikes Anna on the head with ice. Since it is her brain (which can be easily swayed) and not her heart, Anna survives. The memory of Elsa’s powers, however, has been erased by Papa Troll. Throughout the song, we see Anna continuously beg her sister to let her in, to open the door, to simply tell her what’s going on. Year after year, Elsa repeatedly rejects her sister and ignores her pleas to have a relationship with her. How many times in your life have you shut the door on the people who were trying to have relationship with you? How many times have you let fear hold you back from revealing who you really are to others? In this scene, we see that her parents encouraged her to “conceal” her power, to “not feel it.” Many of us have had this outer influence in our lives, where people closest to us tried to contain the person we really are. Either they didn’t know how to teach you to live to your fullest potential or they served as a barrier, telling you that you would never be good enough or that you didn’t have it in you. They let their own fears dictate their actions and in the process failed to let you become the person you were meant to be. Elsa, from the time she was a little girl to a young woman, shut herself from the real world, scared of rejection, betrayal, and mostly herself and her potential.
For the first time in forever
In this scene, we see Anna as a grown young woman, excited for Coronation Day, mostly because this means she can meet “actual real life people”. She suffered through the tragedy of losing both her parents yet still maintains a joyous spirit, eager to see the good in life and all of the great things it can offer. She is the opposite of Elsa, who sees the world as a dangerous place, where people can’t be trusted and she cannot be free to be herself. Anna, on the other hand, can’t wait to meet people and is thrilled at the possibility of meeting “the one” and living happily ever after. She is optimistic about her future, not letting her past hold her back from experiencing life. Before she asks for the gates to be opened, Elsa has a little talk with herself, repeating the same words her father told her as a child:
“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be. Conceal. Don’t feel. Put on a show. Make one wrong move and everyone will know.”
Elsa was robbed of feeling as hopeful and optimistic about life as Anna, as she was told at a young age that she needed to hide who she really was. As a result, she now lives in fear, with her father’s voice in her head, letting his legacy live on by trying to be a good girl and not let the world see who his daughter really is. A lot of us can relate to this as well. We live each day trying to live to the standard of our parents, even if their actions were questionable. Right or wrong, subconsciously or not, we act out little things here and there that are reminiscent of our parent’s behavior.
Love is an open door
This song is a perfect reminder to us that love is supposed to be an open door. What does this mean exactly? Vulnerability. It’s very easy to slam doors and stay cooped inside the comfort of your own little world. The most difficult part is leaving your door open, trusting that the person who is going to enter the safety of you world is not going to destroy it by betraying you. In order to leave the door open to people in your life you need to be able to trust them. You also need to be able to trust in yourself, trust that you are fully capable of letting someone in because you ARE worth it. Elsa kept her door shut because she didn’t trust the people on the outside, nor did she trust herself. Her fear held her back from letting others in. Let’s all remember that life and love are supposed to be open doors. We gain nothing from keeping them shut. Take a breath, believe in yourself, and take a chance by opening your own door.
Let it Go
The snow glows white on the mountain tonight, not a foot print to be seen.
A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I’m the queen.
The wind is howling like the swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried.
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well know they know
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore,
Let it go, let it go,
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway.
It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fear that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go,
You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand and here I’ll stay
Let the storm rage on
My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back, the past is in the past
Let it go, let it go,
And I’ll rise like the break of dawn,
Let it go, let it go,
The perfect girl is gone
Here I stand
In the light of day,
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway.
Elsa has left her parent’s castle and experiences life for the first time completely free. With nobody around, just the mountains of snow in front of her, she feels safe. She’s letting go of the past, of her parents and their idealizations and expectations of her. It’s time for her to start living to her fullest potential and to see what she’s capable of. What’s so wonderful with this song is that all of us can interpret it in the way that relates to our life story. We all have something that we need to let go. We all know that we need to embrace our full potential, not let the past overshadow or predict the future, and realize our identity apart from our parents. Towards the end of the song, when she realizes “the past is in the past”, with one hand she releases her tightly-wound bun, to expose a long beautiful braid and with the other, tousles her hair to be less constricted. She changes her castle clothes to reflect a stunning frozen-themed dress with icicle sequins that represents her true identity. Her walk is confident as she approaches the light of day. Seeing hope and peace in her future, she is truly beautiful. This is the same for all of us. We become a different person when we let go whatever it is that is not helping us progress in life and see life in an optimistic way. We become the most beautiful version of ourselves when we let go of our fears and live to our potential. At the same time, it’s interesting how she admits that she is the queen of an isolated kingdom. She understands that she is going to live a life in solitary and seems okay with it. Why? Because she has lived this way her whole life. She was isolated in her parent’s castle and she is isolating herself now, the only difference is no one is there to tell her what she can or cannot do. While it is wonderful that she is living to her potential and letting go of all her fear, this is not and should not be the final step in her journey (or ours). And this is exactly why this song isn’t the end of the movie.
For the first time in forever (reprise)
Anna finally reaches Elsa’s gorgeous frozen castle, and is surprised that for the first time that Elsa’s door isn’t locked. Hesitantly, Anna walks in and gazes in admiration of all that her sister is capable of. Her frozen castle is breathtakingly beautiful. Elsa shyly approaches, but you can tell she is excited for her sister to see the new her, how beautiful she looks after letting go of her fear and being true to herself. Anna notices how “different” she looks, and proceeds to tell her to come back home. Elsa, still fearful, tells her no and begins to walk away. Anna sings to her:
Please don’ t shut me out again
Please don’t slam the door
You don’t have to keep your distance anymore
Cause for the first time in forever, I finally understand
For the first time in forever we can fix this hand in hand
We can head down the mountain together
You don’t have to live in fear
Cause for the first time in forever,
I will be right here.
Anna is trying desperately to convince her sister that she doesn’t have to shut her out anymore. She is proving to Elsa that there is another human being out there who loves her and accepts her for who she is. Even though there is a consequence from her sister’s actions (eternal winter), Anna is willing to help her figure it out. Elsa is given the option to trust that someone will not betray her, and trust herself that her own powers won’t hurt Anna again. Elsa takes the easy way out, telling her to go back home, to stay away so she can be safe from her. Anna refuses to accept this answer, and tries again to convince her sister that they can face this challenge together. All her positivity and hope drives Elsa mad for a moment as her final words are a definitive “I CAN’T”. With the realization that her fear is very much still a part of her, she loses control of her power, accidentally striking Anna’s heart with ice. Take home lesson: other people, not just you, get hurt when you shut them out, and if you live your whole life with the mentality of “I can’t’”, horrible consequences will ensue.
Kristoff, similar to Elsa, has lived his life in isolation and the only other living thing he can trust is his pet reindeer. His troll family explains this to Anna (mistaking her as his girlfriend), that although he lives his life isolated, it’s confirmation of his “desperation for human hugs.” He’s a fixer upper, and the only thing that can fix a fixer upper is true love. Mamma troll explains to Anna:
“We’re not saying you can change him cause people don’t really change.
We’re only saying love’s a force that’s powerful and strange.
People make bad choices when they’re mad or scared or stressed
But throw a little love their way…. And you’ll bring out their best. True love brings out the best!
Everyone’s a bit of a fixer upper, that’s what it’s all about!
Father! Sister! Brother! We need each other, to raise us up and round us out.
Everyone’s a bit of a fixer upper, but when push comes to shove
The only fixer-upper fixer that can fix up a fixer-upper is
True true true true true true true love
True love, love, love, love, love, love!
In case you missed it, the answer is…. Love! Truth is we are all messed up. Every single one of us. We all need fixing, and the only thing to fix us is true love. Papa troll tells Anna that she will die unless she finds true love to thaw her frozen heart. At first they assume this means a true love kiss, but as the movie ends, we discover a different story. Are we humans even capable of “true love?” What does it even mean? As Anna finds out, true love means sacrificing her own life for her sister, which is a beautiful image to what Jesus did on the cross for us. He gave up his life, went through unbearable pain and suffering to give us life. He is the very definition of love. Only once Elsa realizes this act of true love from her sister was she able to let go of all her anxiety and fear. Only true love can thaw a frozen heart. Seeing this kind of love for the first time, Elsa knows how to unthaw the city. Letting go of her fears (for good this time) and replacing it with love, Elsa now has the power to restore Arendelle to its beautiful summer-like state. The gates will never be closed again and she and her sister can finally have the relationship they missed out on for all those years.
Which character do you mostly relate to?