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Why does Elsa, in the animated film, Frozen appeals to us so much? Read on about Elsa and what she says about the magic of self-acceptance.
It has been a year since the Disney movie ‘Frozen’ was released and we were enthralled by Elsa’s magic. On the streets, in the malls, at sleepovers – the little girls can’t stop chanting the ‘let it go’ anthem. Frozen has crossed almost $1.2 billion worldwide. The soundtrack has topped the Billboard charts for 13 weeks and is still counting.
The movie has become the biggest animated film and fifth biggest film of all times. This movie is certainly a phenomenon of our times and has performed way beyond the initial speculations of the critics and analysts. When such a phenomenon happens beyond cultural boundaries, the reason lies somewhere much deeper; not in the business logic, clever marketing, release timing, animation quality or another good story line.
What was it about Elsa and the song ‘let it go’ that connected with each one of us across the globe? Wasn’t Elsa just another princess from a Disney animation movie added to the already long list of her pretty predecessors? Usually, a princess character becomes our aspirational self; someone who is perfect in her looks and in her very nature. Someone, anyone could fall in love with. She might face hardships with all the villains in the plot, but help would appear in the form of a Fairy Godmother or prince. The prince mesmerized by her beauty and heart of gold would rescue her to live happily ever after. When the show ends, the little girls watching the movie gasp, “Oh! I wish I could be like her.”
However, here was princess Elsa who could be no one’s aspirational self. Well, how could she be? She is the one with flaws, the one with her own complexities and internal struggle, one without even a smile. She just opts to shut herself out from her sister and the whole world as she has been asked to conceal her flaws.
“Conceal; don’t feel. Put on a show. Make one wrong move and everyone will know.”
Most of us in some way or the other related to her inadequacy and her struggle to conceal her inadequacy. We saw ourselves in her struggle for self-acceptance. This princess wasn’t a girl’s aspirational self but she personified a bit of each one of us. The reluctance to accept ourselves as we are, the societal pressure to conceal the flaws and the standards set by previous princesses – the epitomes of perfection, resulted in the outburst – namely, the Frozen anthem ‘let it go’.
The moment of her self acceptance in the movie; I’d call it the ‘let it go’ instance; Elsa accepting herself as she is, with her flaws. It’s the moment when she pulls her gloves of pretense out and decides to tackle the true villain of the movie – her own guilt and shame, head on.
It’s the moment when she pulls her gloves of pretense out and decides to tackle the true villain of the movie – her own guilt and shame, head on.
Our internal struggles might be different with respect to our age, lifestyle and the cultures we belong to; but we all felt a moment of liberation with the ‘let it go’ instance in the movie. That universal connect made it a phenomena and not just a blockbuster. Disney revealed that in the initial stages of the script, Elsa was the villain of the story – an evil snow queen. But as the script progressed, they questioned the stereotype. They questioned why someone should be a villain just because she’s in a very difficult situation and repressed. From there on, Elsa’s character took on a more symbolic nature as a misunderstood individual and the world identified with her!
The key take away of the movie was ‘self-acceptance‘. But self-acceptance is a term commonly confused with self-esteem. Self-esteem is about how valuable we see ourselves to be, our sense of worth; however, self-acceptance is accepting our worthy and unworthy selves as it is. Self-acceptance is critical to happiness. In a study by a psychologist (March, 2014) who studies happiness, self-acceptance was found to be the habit that most strongly predicted happiness; but it was also the one that was least practiced.
Self-esteem is about how valuable we see ourselves to be, our sense of worth; however, self-acceptance is accepting our worthy and unworthy selves as it is.
Why is self-acceptance the least practiced trait? I think it is because we have been conditioned to be self-critical. We fear that self-acceptance might halt self-improvement. We want to be our own self-improvement dictator who pushes the little child in us to do better all the time. But believe me, the frightened child would not respond favourably all the time. On the contrary, self-acceptance is about having self-awareness, which provides us insights on why we are the way we are and as Carl Jung said, “We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”
In a relationship, knowing our own limitations and problems enables us to have a more compassionate attitude toward others’ limitations and problems. Self-compassion brings in compassion towards others. When we are aware and have accepted ourselves as we are, we tend to present our authentic self in a relationship – with our vulnerabilities and imperfections.
In essence, self-acceptance becomes the precursor for authentic, compassionate relationships. I truly believe in Brene Brown’s words – “Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
Pic from promotional material for the movie
Sophia is the founder of Soul Cafe, a mom, a travel and life enthusiast. She
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