Harry's Gang: With this fairy tale, let the old tropes go
October 8, 2021
There’s a pretty standard formula for fairy tales, it seems, where a beautiful princess finds a handsome prince who sweeps her off her feet, and they live happily ever after.
The formula is so consistent, I had trouble following the movie “Frozen” the first 20 times I saw it.
To be fair, I didn’t actually watch the movie 20 times, but it’s been on in the background as my daughter, Eleanor, watched it. I’d guess 20 times, but it could easily have been 100; Ellie loved the movie and watched it over and over and over when she was younger. Now that she’s 7, it’s a little more nostalgic for her. But she loved the movie then and still loves the characters now.
I recall Tara laughing at me when I remarked to her, “Now let me get this straight: Anna fell in love with Hans on their first meeting but he turned out to betray her and is actually a jerk?” Apparently, the plot got into my head through osmosis or something, because I don’t recall ever actually watching the movie.
In case you are not familiar, “Frozen” is an animated Disney movie about Anna, a princess, whose slightly older sister, Elsa, has a magical power where she can turn things into ice. As children, the close sisters are playing around after lights-out (Theme No. 1: Obey your parents) when, as children will do, the playing turned into roughhousing and Elsa accidently hurt her little sister with her “frozen” powers. All is forgiven, of course, but the incident drives a wedge between the sisters, with Elsa worried she may hurt her little sister again, or worse; and Anna not quite understanding why her sister is no longer close to her.
My daughter and I went to see the touring Broadway production last week in Minneapolis. It’s fun to introduce Ellie to the magic of live theater, although I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed it, too. Ellie wore her magic Elsa costume, complete with pink Elsa cowboy boots with high heels and glitter. She was careful to not wave her hand at me too often, lest she turn me into ice. She was not alone in the theater; there were about 300 Elsas and an equal number of Annas. I didn’t see any Hanses.
About halfway through the first act, Ellie asked to take her dress off. She was wearing appropriate clothes underneath, so I assumed she was too warm or something. It turns out that after getting so many compliments from strangers as we came in, Ellie was worried she was distracting attention from the many younger Elsas in the crowd. “I’m too old to be dressing like a princess, anyway,” she told me.
In the story, Elsa is about to be crowned queen, and a handsome prince, Hans, comes to the party. He and Anna foolishly fall in love, and decide to marry — not 40 minutes after they meet. Fortunately, in the old-fashioned castle ways, Queen Elsa must grant her approval, but she cannot give it. Thank goodness. How many times has a guy convinced a girl to marry him after 40 minutes? Too often, I bet, and it simply isn’t wise. Anna, of course, sees this as a slight on the part of her older sister, and they argue.
During the argument, Queen Elsa allows her hidden power to get the best of her, and she angrily casts the entire kingdom into a frozen winter. Ashamed, she commits herself to exile, while Anna sets out to find her — but she’s not adequately prepared for the harsh winter.
It was fun to see Anna, just a young woman barely 18 years old, learn to survive in the frozen wasteland, looking for her exiled sister in perilous conditions. Eventually, they find each other and discover that Queen Elsa will freeze to death unless an act of true love breaks the spell. Anna turns to Hans, the handsome prince, for a kiss, but it turns out Hans had been manipulating Anna (surprise!) so he could marry her, kill Queen Elsa, and get his own kingdom. But when he tries to kill Elsa, her sister jumps in between them to protect her older sister. And that was the act of “true love” that saved the day.
No wonder so many young girls love this movie. It’s the younger sister who takes the initiative to save her older sister, and she does it on her own: she didn’t need a handsome boyfriend to help her. And the act of true love is the unbreakable bond of sisterhood, not the kiss of a handsome prince. This story of empowered young women, finding success and conquering adversity, is inspiring, especially to young girls. And even to some middle-aged men.