Elsa and Anna are out in the wilderness again, having some rollicking adventures with their trusted companions, and like the first movie, Frozen 2 also has some timely and inspiring messages for grown-ups too!
I, a very adult 34 year old woman, have just come home after watching Frozen 2, and am absolutely elated!
The movie, to a large extent builds on the world of the earlier movie, and offers a much more complex plot; some truly endearing and inspiring messages; many more characters, including a super cute fire-lizard (more merchandizing opportunities – after all we live in a capitalist economy!); a lot more Olaf (yaay or nay depending on whether you love him or hate him!) and another magnificent wardrobe change for Elsa (more opportunities to spend for parents whose tiny tots will insist on having the upgraded costume as well!)
Having watched the movie in a packed theatre full of children who were rolling with laughter, and deeply engaged with the storyline (the little girl next to me would have climbed into the screen, if it were possible), I can assure parents wanting to take their children to watch the movie that it is absolutely worth the price. Adult reviewers haven’t been all that impressed, preferring the first movie to this one, but from the reactions of the kids, I can say that they enjoyed it to the fullest.
However, this movie isn’t just for the kids. Perhaps in response to criticism that the first movie was “too white,” the world of Frozen 2 is a more diverse one, with one black character who has a significant part to play in the plot, and an indigenous tribe, the Northuldra, who are said to be based on the real world Sámi, the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions. It is noteworthy that Disney signed a contract with the Sámi to ensure that they and their culture are portrayed with respect on screen.
It deals with some heavy themes like colonization and climate change, intended for the adults, but which can stimulate some deep conversations between parents and children.
Now that is the end of the spoiler-free version of my post. The rest of this post will have spoilers, so if you would prefer not to know any details before watching the movie, this is your cue to leave (but come back after you’ve seen the movie, to read the rest of this!)
First, before getting into what messages the movie has for children and adults, let’s get the big rumour clarified. There was a huge buzz when the trailer for the movie released, that Elsa may be a lesbian. To those who were excited about this, sorry, Elsa doesn’t get a girlfriend. Now, this may just be Disney being careful and unwilling to alienate that section of its clientele that is homophobic. Or (and I really, really hope this is the case!) Elsa may be an aromantic asexual. As of now however, the film simply refuses to comment on her sexuality, leaving Elsa as a rare heroine not defined by her romantic relationships.
Themes of sisterhood and true love are carried on from the first movie, and built upon. In one scene Anna has to choose between following her sister, or waiting for Kristoff, her boyfriend. She chooses to go with her sister (sisters before misters for the win!). A wonderful message for little girls, and grown women, that sisterhood is valuable.
What I found particularly noteworthy though, is Kristoff’s reaction to this is. He feels left out, and wonders if Anna and he are growing apart. However, he doesn’t hold it against her and in a later scene jumps in to assist her, no questions asked. A fabulous message for little boys and big men, (in this world that pressures them into toxic masculinity and misogyny), that women can and do make their own, independent choices, and that to support them in those choices is far wiser and loving than resenting them for it.
Another theme from the first movie that is carried over is that of self-confidence and self-discovery. Once again, Elsa discovers that she is enough for herself –that what she has been looking for all her life, is already within her.
Olaf, mischievous and full of energy, is a clear stand in for child characters, voicing the concerns of children, such as a fear of change and wondering if he will understand the things he doesn’t understand now, when he grows up. In one particularly memorable scene, Elsa tricks both Anna and Olaf. Anna is furious and unloads on Olaf, who says that he too is angry. Anna is taken aback for a second, but acknowledges that Olaf has a right to feel what he does. This is a poignant message for kids, that they should feel free to express their feelings; and for adults who often forget that children too have complex emotions.
The movie also attempts to deal with the very complex and serious question of colonialism (and climate change as a side effect of it) and reparations. It turns out that Elsa and Anna’s mother is from an indigenous tribe called Northuldra, making them mixed race characters. Furthermore, it is revealed that their paternal grandfather, afraid of the near magical abilities of the Northuldra, sought to destroy them, by building a dam on their land which hampered the natural magic. He also murdered the unarmed leader of the Northuldra and started a war. This is a clear reference to how, in many parts of the world, colonialists usurp the land of the colonized and bring environmental pollution and unrest into their lives. Elsa and Anna realize that the only way to bring justice to the Northuldra is to break the dam, even if it means that they have to destroy their own kingdom, Arendelle, in the process.
Needless to say, this is a heavy and convoluted plot for a movie intended for children, and there are already complaints about how it was handled. However, as this article, by Inkoo Kang for the Slate, points out, “It’s admirable that Buck and Lee even attempted a storyline like this, and even though it could’ve used a little more thinking through, introducing the concept of nationalist mythmaking to children—particularly in a “princess movie” that the general public has no expectations for other than to sell even more Elsa and Olaf dolls this holiday season—is commendable.”
The best lesson that I came away with from the movie is “do the next right thing.” This message, that is repeated a few times, especially when characters are feeling afraid or down, can be called the central message.
We live in deeply cynical times, and the state of politics and climate change in many parts of the world leave us afraid of what the future will be like.
Frozen 2 says, “when you cannot see the future, all you can do is the next right thing.” A beautiful, inspiring message for everyone, irrespective of age, race, gender or sexuality. As long as we keep doing the next right thing, we will be okay.
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