Analysis, Reflection

I watched “Frozen” 4 Times: Anna Through the Gates

I watched “Frozen” to prepare to cosplay Olaf, then three more times, and I’ve been digesting it ever since (“Being Olaf”). All of us begin our lives innocent of antecedents. I highlighted a silence in my previous reflection (“Elsa Ungloved“). Now, I celebrate the character whose voice changes everything.

daily-disney-scenes_anna-tick-tock“Nobody tells me why!” says childhood-Anna, collapsing onto her back in exasperation. So much of what affects us deeply happens before we are born or outside of our understanding. Parents make decisions without our consent. Siblings decide to be distant but not to offer a rationale. Even understanding the source of tension does not instantly heal. We meet people with ulterior motives during our lives, or else good people with their own difficult histories to overcome, and hope they can fill the gaps left by our antecedents.

Now especially, I resonate with the image of girlhood-Anna following the pendulum of a clock with her eyes: my friends left me to house-sit, again, allowing me to continue my reflections on “Frozen” the way I started them a month ago. Solo. Anna’s loneliness seems a travesty when we consider her personality. I am starting to believe that I didn’t deserve to be discarded, denied, and in so many ways isolated, either.

Amidst all my literary/film analysis, I wonder “why does writing this matter to me? What value do I find in parsing this story for myself?” I wanted to write something about “Tangled” when I saw it in the theaters but balked — despite my background in English-Lit and Creative Writing, I thought others’ perspectives would do it more service. Now I’m a dude into his thirties, climbing out of my tower to discover– what? I chose a heroic arc at twenty-five, on a mission and flinging myself into a conflict-zone, yet not quite able to resolve the primary conflict in myself. Friday morning I mumbled into a voice-recorder about the protagonist of the novel I started in November and abandoned (NaNoWriMo): “Neil goes to the middle-East, mirroring my own arc, trying to break his funk by doing something significant and brave. But he’s unable to see how his restlessness and dissatisfaction originates — he could have un-diagnosed…”. I choke on it. I still dislike calling it ADD. “…that would explain his ambivalence about [his sister] Kendra and her successes– he feels like he should have a clear trajectory but his future is full of forking-paths — ‘how’, he wonders ‘is it so intuitive for her?'”

I want to believe that, as my sense of Hope is restored, my determination and perseverance can break spells. Anna’s did.

* *[Spoilers]* *

Philip-creepsA character becomes heroic when her agency — her abilities and choices– resolves the main conflict in the story. Thinking about Disney princesses, I notice there is also a ‘princess-arc’; a young woman either rises to regency or is restored after being usurped. Some Disney princesses aren’t the heroine in their own plot; they need intervention from a fairy godmother or ‘true love’s kiss’ (Sleeping Beauty cannot even legally grant consent). “Beauty and the Beast” is different: Belle’s choice to stay with Beast and her eventual love and consent break Prince Adam’s spell [main conflict], restoring both of them to regency. She displays both arcs. raqpun1-300x169Likewise, in “Tangled” we watch Rapunzel discovering for herself how strong and clever (and quirky!) she is freed from isolation — a princess with agency. (I shouldn’t need to tell you that Moana epitomizes the heroine arc*.) “Tangled” is a more direct commentary on the intersection of the princess and heroine arcs. Regency only obliquely connects to the primary conflicts in “Frozen”, so the princess-arc is not in play — despite double princesses.

No doubt, we can find multiple articles about “Frozen” asserting (rightly) that sibling bonds are central to the film and how Anna’s hasty ‘engagement’ to Hans highlights a common problem. Like many of us, Anna thought she could break her lonesome “spell” with a romance, unaware of the antecedent spell in her family. Elsa was correct: “You can’t marry a man you just met.” Yet I want to defend Anna’s initiative: she was outside the gate. Hans didn’t come ‘calling’, she found him while in town, exploring. Unfairly, their parents died unexpectedly and Elsa’s reticence took away opportunities for sisterly mentoring. Anna committed a mistake but at least she wasn’t paralyzed. Throughout the entire film, Anna takes action: she is on the heroine arc! Anna is the one who seizes Elsa’s glove, precipitating the advent of Elsa’s full power and an instant winter. The results are terrible, terrifying, and ultimately terrific (see that?). Falling for Hans is part of Anna’s heroine arc and key to plot development– heroines commit blunders, whereas inert princesses are perfect… ly helpless.

Anna-elated-gassy-pinterestAnna is our beloved heroine because she is one of us blunderers! On her sister’s coronation day we discover her sleeping-in (then, exuberant to be dressed and among the festivities). During “For the First Time in Forever,” she runs around the castle casually breaking stuff during her solo, like any of us would if we could! She stuffs chocolate in her mouth and complains about having gas, like people we might know personally. Her character is constructed so we can identify. anna_stuff_some_cIn media studies, this is called “fictional involvement”. I am also prone to play-acted day-dreams and to singing when no one is watching. Anna is an example of ‘spunkiness‘ in the British sense: a blend of tenacity and vulnerable authenticity, an essence that is paradoxically durable and sensitive. Of the party to come, Anna speculates “there will be actually, real, live people/it will be totally strange!” As she moves toward an open window and gazes at the sails of a docking ship she says “wow, am I so ready for this change!” Anna is fun-loving (though a bit clumsy and blunt) and ready to embrace changes! She merely thinks she wants to be rescued; as soon as the gates open, she runs through them.

After taking initiative in her love-life, with disastrous results, Anna takes responsibility; she mounts a horse and chases Elsa of her own volition. “Of course, none of it would have happened if she [Elsa] had just told me her secret — she’s a stinker!” *loses horse* Oh. Now on foot, Anna makes her way to an outpost in the woods to gather supplies and regroup. I cannot stress enough how much I love the scene in Oaken’s Trading Post; it has a ‘sit-com vibe’. A blizzard in summer would affect retailers and ice-block hustlers, leading to the comical confrontation between Christoph and the store’s proprietor. What matters, here, is that Anna is there to make deals. Christoph seems to know where the North Mountain is, so when he gets thrown out of the store Anna is fast on his heels, with the supplies he wanted. “Take me to the North Mountain” she says, hurling a sack of goods into his guts (she beans him in the face with a bag of carrots after that — it’s hilarious).

Anna-climbsScene-by-scene, Anna is in active pursuit — first, of her sister. When they reach a rock wall, she immediately starts to climb… and climb poorly. Olaf finds some stairs. Yet Anna brings a sincere can-do attitude all the way up the mountain to Elsa’s ice-palace; she believes Elsa can return and everything will be okay. If it weren’t a ‘Disney Princess’ film, perhaps it would stink of naivete. The little sister wants to close a deep chasm with songs and hugs. Rebuffed, rather than behave like a perfect little princess (or a wiser heroine?) Anna throws a snowball at the giant, hostile snowman guarding her sister’s palace — a spiteful parting shot that, again, any of us would take if we have Anna’s spunk.

“You just tell me when, I’m ready to go– I was born ready!”

tumblr_static_annasidebarThe concentrated extract of Anna’s role in the plot is that she funnels good-will and determination through a quirky, human personality.  Anna shows us how to take action without needing enchantments and princess-perfection. After Elsa strikes her, she must go into a phase of self-preservation. Many viewings later, I wonder if that moment of being struck and the whitening of her hair afterward were symbolic of Anna going beyond caring for Elsa to experiencing true empathy– Elsa’s pain is profound.

annas-frozen-hand-broke-up-hans-swordIf you’ve seen the movie, you know that Anna steps between Elsa and the blade of a sword. ‘True love’ in “Frozen” was an act of self-sacrifice by the film’s heroine rather than a magical intervention. Anna’s hope, perseverance and determination broke spells. The senior troll explained that healing brains was relatively simple but hearts were a different matter; it brought a smile to my face. Sometimes the best justification is to just name the reality and trust the audience will accept it. I think the troll’s words express the underlying truth about altering a person’s knowledge versus transforming attitudes, emotions, and similar intuitive pieces of our selves. Societies try to make facts from faith or else put their faith in facts — searching for ‘truth’ — but meaningful impact (and impactful meaning-making) requires still more. I suggest that Art’s role starts here… what do you think, readers? How might Art bring us to ‘more’?

Anna’s chief mistake was wanting Hans to be a solution to her loneliness; her hasty trust was misplaced (as Elsa warned). Anna’s kiss with Christoph at the end dampens the realism. Even when we put things right with our kin, romance is not often immediate. Still, Anna’s love for Christoph is satisfying because she rode a wave of choices during her heroine-arc that brought her in contact with many people, dissipating her isolation. Christoph is also constructed to be identifiable (note how he protects his sleigh like some men protect their cars) and explicitly named as a “fixer-upper” with un-princely flaws. He’s also part of us as much as he’s part of the happy-ending, where he retains his occupation as an ice-cutter-and-hauler. I have to admit, I didn’t really want them to end-up “just friends” because I want to believe that when I am ‘being Anna’ (effervescent, taking action) I will find this-sort-of-love and when I am ‘being Christoph’ (honest, open to the journey) I can be loved-in-that-sort-of-way.

*  *  *

Anna’s character attributes entice me to wonder about and discover parts of my ‘self’ that I had trouble accessing during a profound down period. Watching “Frozen” four times partly thawed my own frozen-heart after being ‘struck’ this February. Anna was connected to her ‘self’ from the beginning in a way that was difficult for Elsa but because of her courage they both found space to be loved and be themselves at the same time. In the process of writing this, I did start to pontificate on a love lost. Glad to have written it, I am relieved to cut that in my edits. I’m not sure if that reflection helps my article and I want to be a classy ex. In the past two days, I’ve realized that I wasn’t wholly responsible– that I’d tried to use what agency I had at the time to love steadfastly but the other person relented when I was in need. Now, I relent: “the past is in the past”. Let me replace those thoughts with other anecdotes.

@FunnyLadyMars suggested I audition for a dinner-theater company with whom she works. My most recent improv-theater class just finished, so I drove from our student-showcase to their home-venue in Baltimore that Sunday — I had a grand time auditioning. The day before, Mars and I were out canvassing on behalf of a progressive candidate for governor in Maryland. The doctors are still figuring-out how much ADD medicine I need, so I am on a minimal dose; a fog rolled over my brain just as we reached the neighborhood we needed to prowl. Seeing me lean against the side of her truck, Mars asked if I was okay — I was honest with her about the medicine situation. Her eyes lit-up and from her bag she pulled a sort-of locket filled with pills… and offered me a chunk of one. I accepted: solidarity. That small moment of trust felt like a buoy, a marker indicating I was now further from the life I was mourning than I was from… new developments. My condition and vulnerability didn’t make me abject to Mars; she saw an opportunity to use her agency. She’s #ProtestPrincess.

*If you haven’t seen Moana: she chooses to leave Montinui, insists that Maui help her restore the heart of Tafiti, then restores the heart herself when he balks. Those are just her major heroine-arc choices. The climax of that film should be required-watching for everyone– she has Vision to see a problem differently and Courage to execute the solution. Moana = superb heroine.

Photo Credits:
Anna watching the minutes pass via
Philip creeps on Aurora via
Rapunzel interrogates Flynn via
“..elated or gassy, but I’m somewhere in that zone” via a broken link on Pinterest (sorry?)
“..stuff some chocolate in my face” via
Anna climbing via
Anna with white hair via
Sword-shattering via

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