Sunday, November 24, 2013
Frozen Movie Review (Adoption Movie Guide)
*Some spoilers ahead*
Elsa and Anna are princesses of Arondale, a peaceful country with at least some of its industry based on the harvesting and sale of ice. Elsa, the older of the two sisters, was born with the magical ability to create winter – frost and snow come forth from her hands at her whim. Anna loves this, and she and Elsa often play together in homemade, magical snow. Elsa’s parents have always been fearful of her power, and one day, Elsa seriously injures Anna. Healers are able to revive Anna, but in order to keep her safe, they make her forget about Elsa’s powers, and warn that Elsa’s powers must always be hidden.
Years later, when Elsa inherits the kingdom, she has become distant from Anna – and from everyone else. Although she dutifully tries to hide her magical abilities, her secret gets out. Misunderstood by her subjects, she exiles herself. Anna sets out to bring her back to the kingdom. Meanwhile, hurt by her sister’s longstanding unavailability, Anna also seeks love, and gains the attention of two different men.
The Adoption Connection
Elsa has been told to keep her secret hidden. Secrecy is called for – and practiced – in order to protect Anna, but it causes Anna and Elsa great pain and nearly ends their sisterly relationship which had once been so close. Secrecy in adoption is often practiced with kind but fear-based motives (protect a child from pain), and can end up causing more pain than it prevents. Age-appropriate honesty is a much healthier solution than secrecy. Secrecy suggests shame, while age-appropriate honesty allows a person to gradually come to acceptance and integration of difficult truths.
Also, the sibling relationship in Frozen reminds me of how central sibling relationships are to kids in foster care. Our spouses often miss the first twenty or so years of our life. Our parents miss the last twenty years or so. Our siblings can be there for the whole ride. It reminds me of how important it is to keep siblings together and (in foster care) how important it is to have families who are willing to take in sibling sets as a whole.
Well-performed Disney songs (Idina Menzel is one of the leads) and lovable characters (including Olaf, a living snowman and Sven, a personable reindeer) make this an endearing, memorable film. The film is visually smooth, and visually beautiful in the same way that Life of Pi is beautiful.
Love wins out over fear.
So many Disney movies have centered on “love at first sight.” Frozen actively challenges that notion, and suggests other, healthier kinds of love.
Frozen demonstrates the pain and effects caused by secrecy and fear, and shows that honesty brings healing, and (as my wife phrased it), perfect love can drive away fear.
Sometimes, teenagers look to unhealthy sources to have their needs met when they don’t’ feel that those needs are met by their families. Frozen cautions against impulsivity.
Anna eagerly seeks to reconcile her relationship with Elsa, even after years of pain. Even during the pain, Anna sticks up for her sister, saying “she’s not a monster.”
One character observes that Elsa’s power has only gotten into Anna’s head. “The heart is not so easily changed, but the head can be persuaded.” He wipes memories from Anna’s head in order to save her.
With regard to Elsa’s power, a wise character warns her, there is beauty in it, but also danger. Her parents seem to focus on the danger, though. They hide her away from her community and her sister. Anna, not knowing the reason, begs her, “Come out. It’s like you’ve gone away.” Elsa is also pained by the separation, but is unable to share the reason with Anna, believing that the reason will do her harm. Elsa sings her mantra, “Conceal it, don’t feel it, don’t let it show.” At another point she sings, “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Conceal, don’t feel. Put on a show. One wrong move and everyone will know.” It’s a pretty accurate explanation of the shame involved in secrecy. She sings her wish, that we “don’t have to feel the pain of the past anymore.” So is Anna’s explanation, “One day, Elsa just shut me out. I never knew why.” Anna even tells Elsa, “All you know how to do is to shut people out.” When Elsa’s secret comes out, she embraces her identity, but still feels like this will separate her from everyone else. In a way, this kind of makes me think of how, for a long time, adoption was kept secret. Now we talk about it, but often, the talks are in our angry voices and reflect a sense of dualism – adoption is either all-good or all-bad. The film ultimately finds a balance, and I think the adoption community will to, where people can respect each other and work together cooperatively. (Like Kid President says… It’s OK to disagree, it’s not OK to be mean.) The film resolves the issue positively, but make sure that your kids don’t latch onto these songs instead of the resolution. In a nutshell: You don’t have to hide your identity to be in community, and you don’t have to be in isolation to embrace your true self.
Some children might be taken aback when, early in the film, Elsa’s and Anna’s parents die. The scene is sad, but not shocking.
Yes! Frozen is very well-made. Kids will love it, and even teenagers can get something out of the film, and it will be positive. I love the fact that “love at first sight” is not portrayed as the highest love, and I love that secrecy and fear are overcome by love. Although the main characters are female, boys and girls will both like this one. I’d recommend it for kids up to 14.
Questions for After the Movie
What secrets are you keeping? Why? What are you afraid of?
Why did Elsa keep her secrets? What might have happened had she told them earlier? How would her life have been different?
Is there anything about yourself that you’re scared of? How can you be less afraid?
When in your life has “the truth” chased away fear?
Get a snow cone maker, and use that to make snow. Make a snowman, and use leftover candy corn for the nose. Hey! Your own edible Olaf!
Are you new here? Check out our other Adoption Movie Reviews – You might especially like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Meet the Robinsons, and Despicable Me 2.
Want to read more about the history secrecy in adoption? You might like this post: Adoptions in America: Open or Closed; and this one: 12 Things You Can Do to Make Sure Your Adoption is Ethical.
- Addison Cooper, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist with several years of experience in foster care and adoption. He reviews movies through the lens of adoption at www.adoptionlcsw.com and has also written movie reviews for Adoptive Families, The New Social Worker, and Foster Focus magazines. Follow him on Twitter @AddisonCooper