After weeks of anticipation, I finally saw Frozen II, and as a mental health professional, was joyously taken aback over and over. From anxiety to the depths of depression, healthy relationships to the joy and healing powers of finding and being true to yourself, this film is beautifully packed with important messages and examples for viewers of any age. I was so moved, I felt compelled to talk about some of them here. If you haven’t seen the film yet, there are definitely SPOILERS below, so beware.
Another scene where feelings are quite blatantly addressed is when Kristoff/Sven states “You feel what your feel, and your feelings are real. C'mon Kristoff, let down your guard.” This is especially powerful coming from a male character, even if Krisotff doesn’t do it directly, but through Sven. Society tends to raise boys to shut off their feelings or else be negatively labeled, leading to some pretty rough coping for them in hard times. This also leads to boys failing to communicate feelings straight through into adulthood, hurting their relationships, as well as themselves. I hope that plenty of boys will see this film and ingest the message that all feelings are normal and okay.
The idea that we can only control ourselves is clearly brought to light in this film. When Anna tells Elsa, “You are not responsible for their choices” around the history of the people of Arrendelle (or, as we discover, her grandfather), it’s such a true statement that most of us need to hear. We cannot control what others do, nor should we feel guilt for their choices. Thank you to the writers for sending this message to those who will watch this movie again and again and have that idea hopefully cemented into their mind. The idea that we are at fault for what others do (our children, etc.) causes unneeded pain for us all. In addition, the fact that Elsa and Anna did what they could to make things right, even if they weren’t the cause of the problem, was a lovely display of good character necessary for the health of today’s world.
Frozen I and II are strong with female power, and though the relationship between Anna and Kristoff is present and a good example of two healthy people, this story line isn't allowed to dominate. The main plot focuses on the development of the strong relationship between Elsa and Anna, and Elsa with herself. No fairytale romance focus here, as with the original Frozen, and it’s what we needed to continue to see. No love interest is more important than family and doing the right thing. Anna states and shows over and over that she believes fiercely in her sister and puts her first. It’s a strong example around staying strong and true to others. When Anna tells Elsa “You’ll always have me” we have no doubt that it’s true, because she continues to prove it, even in the most challenging times. It’s the reason Elsa can fully rise to her true self. May we all have at least one person with whom we serve that role, and at least one who plays it for us.
Continuing with relationships, Kristoff and Anna are also a fantastic model for adults and children alike. Kristoff is clearly completely in love with Anna, as we see with his proposal attempts and heartfelt solo song in the forest, but it’s also a healthy love. Kristoff sees Anna as her equal, doesn’t need to control her, and lets her be herself and do as she feels she needs to. When he comes across Anna running from the Giants in the forest, he states, “I’m here. What do you need?” rather than trying to save the day, it shows the respect he has for her. He knows she doesn’t need him to take over unless she asks. He also states “My love isn’t fragile” and has no upset when Anna apologizes for leaving him in the forest because she felt the need to support her sister. Sure, he was sad and worried, but also knew that was normal and okay. In "Lost in the Woods" he sings "Again, you're gone, off on a different path than mine, I'm left behind . . . .You had to go, and of course it's always fine. I could probably catch-up with you tomorrow.' Relationship goals all over the place here.
Elsa’s solitary scenes, when she’s about to figure out she is what she’s been looking for (and Elsa thereafter), were visually stunning and equally empowering. Elsa doesn’t need a romantic relationship to be whole and happy. She is focusing on herself and figuring out who she is. In today's world, it’s becoming more “acceptable” to not be in a relationship and to define yourself on your own, and Frozen II firmly supports the idea. Sometimes it can be best to develop our basic selves before throwing our lost and confused selves into a relationship. The fact that we have Elsa as a character to look up to in these ways can only make current, and upcoming generations of women, and our society in general, that much stronger.
In the Frozen films, we not only see the depths of depression, but anxiety as well. Since the first Frozen film, Elsa has been suffering from anxiety around her magic, and then the pressures of becoming Queen at a young age. I can’t recall another Disney “princess” who so clearly suffers from a mental disorder, but with over 18% of the population dealing with anxiety, I appreciate a strong character like Elsa demonstrating it. In Frozen II we see Elsa’s continued anxiety around being Queen, as well as trying to fit in as she’d like with her own family and friends (we see this discomfort in the charades scene). Her deep desires for freedom, and something better suited for her, conflict with the roles she’s expected to play. When Elsa decides to follow the mysterious voice, heads off on her own and pushes through challenges through the dark seas and beyond, she faces her fears head-on, discovers herself, and we see the anxiety melt away. Again, the message and example is an important one.
Anxiety impacts our thoughts, and can cause our ideas and beliefs to become distorted, and this makes a quick but important appearance in film. In the moment where Elsa tells Olaf, “That’s just your fear. Fear is what can’t be trusted” it sent the message that in times when we’re afraid, we should check the validity of our feelings a little more closely. Anxiety lies. Past trauma clouds our thinking when triggered. The only quote I have in my counseling office is, “Don’t believe everything you think.” It’s simple, yet deep, and incredibly true. Check and change your thoughts and you can change your behaviors, and therefore your life. It’s a lovely seed to plant in the mind of our children, and a reminder for many grown-ups.
We see in Frozen II that it’s okay to grow and change, find your own path, and be in a place where you’re happiest and fit in best. This also isn’t always an easy journey, as the song “All is Found” near the end sings, “You had to get a little lost, on your way to being found.” Elsa knew in the beginning, “deep down I'm not where I'm meant to be,” but tries to fight the feeling, which we see was a mistake. Moving away from Arrendelle is a huge change for Elsa, and everyone, but she does what’s right for herself, and she has the support of those closest to her...because that’s love...letting others be free to be themselves. This is one of my personal favorite realizations in my adult life, and I love that it’s here for children to normalize from a young age. Again, their “love is not fragile” -- they all understand that their feelings haven’t changed, despite being a bit physically far away. This security is a lovely model in a society today where families, and even spouses, aren’t always living in the same locality due to people living out their dreams, wherever they may lead them.
Thank you to Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and Robert Lopez for creating such an important piece of work supporting the healthy rise of future generations, as well as us adults in tow. This is a DVD that will be added to my collection not only for my son, but to use in my counseling with children, and to enjoy myself. Bravo!
Frozen 2 Official Website: https://frozen.disney.com/