Inspirational

Gasp! There ARE Hidden Messages in Disney’s Frozen!

Elsa grapples with an inner turmoil.

Elsa grapples with an inner turmoil.

I’ve seen a lot of posts about the hidden messages in the Disney movie Frozen. Make no mistake about it, there most certainly are hidden messages in the movie. But perhaps they are much deeper than you think…

For those that haven’t seen the movie, here’s a little background: Elsa, princess of Arendelle, has a magical ability to create ice and snow. Her parents forbid her from using this power so she doesn’t hurt anyone. After years of keeping her powers to herself, Elsa decides to “let it go.” She flees the kingdom of Arendelle and builds a solitary ice palace in the mountains—a place she can truly be herself.

Some have claimed that Elsa’s decision to “Let It Go” and unleash her powers is akin to someone coming out of the closet and announcing their homosexuality. While that’s a perfectly valid interpretation, I personally didn’t interpret it that way. You see, after struggling with chronic depression for almost twenty years, I saw a reflection of myself in Elsa’s inner turmoil. The feeling of being trapped, alone, misunderstood, and isolated in solitary confinement? Yeah, that’s depression.

Then again, after years of working with troubled youth in Arizona, I can see how Elsa’s struggle might speak to those who have dealt with bullying or abuse. But it could also be appreciated by children who want to please their parents, but simply have different career and education goals.

My point is this: good art should have multiple meanings and interpretations. To declare one interpretation as the “correct” interpretation is to disenfranchise its value for everyone else. Truly, art is filled with meaning. Our task is to extract the best interpretation for ourselves and help others do the same.

Elsa and Anna

Elsa and Anna

Because (and correct me if I’m wrong) with that mindset, couldn’t a lot of Disney movies have positive, hidden messages? Remember that scene in The Lion King when Simba’s father appears to him in the heavens and tells him “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me.” Isn’t that an allusion to each of us being a child of God? Doesn’t Aladdin show us that there is royalty and nobility within each of us? Isn’t Beauty and the Beast about the transformative power of repentance?

And what about The Chronicles of Narnia? (Also a Disney movie.) Isn’t Aslan universally understood to be a symbol for Christ?

But why stop with Disney movies? Is Harry Potter’s sacrifice for his friends in The Deathly Hallows a symbol for the Christian sacrifice? Isn’t Gandalf’s triumphant return a symbol for the Resurrection? Is the One Ring a symbol for the sinful nature of man? Isn’t Superman’s origin remarkably similar to the story of Moses?

Again, art is filled with messages. What messages will you choose derive from it?

All that being said, the message in Frozen which I saw is the ultimate power of family and love. For although Elsa’s song preaches “No right, no wrong, no rules for me,” that philosophy—like her frozen palace—ultimately crumbles when she realizes that her isolation has put her loved ones in danger. When Elsa’s sister, Anna, risks her own life to save Elsa’s, the spell is broken.

The wintry spells of my depression have been broken many times by the love of family and friends. If the “hidden message” of Frozen is learning to reach out and love individuals that are struggling with feelings of isolation, then I wholeheartedly support this “hidden message.”

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127 replies »

  1. my interpretation of the movie is very different from those I have read about. I really like Frozen and I believe the movie to be very successful because I interpret it as a metaphor for the path to happiness (enlightment). My interpretation would be as follows: Elsa and Anna represent a different side of the same person. They have complementary characters and represent the conscious side (Anna) and the subconscious side of the person (Elsa). The movie starts with the young childhood where Anna and Elsa are one, are complete. But then the “accident” occurs (what the Bible would call the original sin): the happy childhood and the magic of being one is forgotten and only are left the sweat memories of childhood that are represented by Olah (the Snowman). This is explained very clearly by the Troll when he says he will make Anna forget about Elsa’s power and explains to Elsa that the path to control her powers (enlightment) is full of hardship and that the biggest enemy is fear. From that accident life moves on as most of us know it, in a dual world. Elsa and its powers represent the subconscious, the shadow. Anna represents the consciousness aware that something is missing. With time the shadow (Elsa’s magic) grows bigger and bigger and becomes so difficult to control that one day (coronation day) the symptoms become visible. Anna learns about her need to address her subconscious fears and travels to the North Pole to “save herself: Elsa”. At that point we can see Elsa’s approach where she isolates herself and Let’s Go of her past with that wonderful song. Anna, decides to go through the travel to look inside, (which is represented by a hard trip to the north and discussing with Elsa in the Ice Castel and talking to the Throlls). After that hard trip and the second accident (with Elsa striking Anna in the heart), Anna realizes she has to learn to love. The path is full of hardship (snow monsters, heavy storm, pressure from everyone, but also there are good companions: the memories of the Childhood (Olah) and Cristof. In her path to happiness Anna looks for true love outside her (Hans and Crhistof) but finally realizes (just before dying from a Frozen heart) that she needs to love herself before being able to love anyone else. And it is this ability to love herself that saves her and completely changed her perception of the outside world. The movie finishes the same way it has started, at home with both sisters holding hands and playing together in the ice.

  2. I myself as something of an artist appreciate the connection the movie has to defeating depression and the role of others in helping the sufferers. That is very definitely there. You have the living snowman in there as the clueless, happy-go-lucky, summer-loving boob giving his two cents at just the right time to help the younger sister see that she has to reach her sister in the dark place and bring her home from the mountain of suffering. I am not myself a manic-depressive, but three members of my family are. I find myself needing to be that clueless snowman depending on serendipity to come up with healing words. And yet, I can also see the movie being about something completely otherwise. The young snow queen is an artist, never before allowed to express herself through her own artistic power. She has to let it go and risk destructive side effects to find her true power. She uses that power wisely by the end of the film. Your article is very thoughtful and full of insight. It is the kind of movie discussion I always try to have with my own family after seeing such a wonderfully complex film.

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