Disney has historically made their princesses unbelievably beautiful, strong-willed, and able to overcome any conflict they face. This also happens in Frozen 2, but in the age of the celebrated anti-hero and protagonists who are far more flawed and relatable, Disney put a dramatic twist to their newest film with protagonists facing tough obstacles in very real ways, particularly in normalizing mental and emotional health. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
“In more recent years, Disney has changed up their Princess formula and has had the heroine facing the problems head-on, which we love. Frozen 2 takes that one step further and gives the characters a high stakes story-line AND lets them feel the weight of the emotions behind it all,” said Pure Fandom on their review.
In the film, Anna and Elsa both struggle with different types of mental health. Elsa is struggling with anxiety from all the pressures in her life. She lost her parents, had to become queen at a young age, and has powers she still doesn’t know the extent to. She has been isolated, and likely suffering from socialization issues.
Even more saddening is that Elsa is suffering from shame as a symptom of these challenges. According to Goal Cast, ” For someone living with this mental illness, stigmatizing attitudes can lead to deep feelings of shame, which can be as hard to cope with as the symptoms of the disorder itself. ” Even in the opening scene of charades, Elsa struggles to relate to her closest friends and family. It doesn’t help that she also hears voices.
While on the other hand, Anna is struggling with overcoming her Depression. Anna had lost her parents, and towards the middle of the film, she loses Elsa. Her companion in this hero’s journey is Olaf, and in losing him, she comes to the realization that she has lost Elsa as well. Although the first Frozen makes Anna appear more confident and self-assured, long-standing issues are definitely exposed in the second film.
In the first Frozen, Elsa shuts Anna out, causing Anna to be alone in the castle for years. Anna did not have anyone she could talk to about their parents passing or any other problems she was struggling with. This neglect is easily evident in her immediate connection to Hans when he offers attention and affection.
The Next Right Thing
One of the most heart-wrenching, yet easily relatable song reflecting Anna’s struggle is the iconic song “The Next Right Thing.”
By the end of the first movie Anna and Elsa were finally close again, like they were when they were kids. They both seemed to be extremely happy on the outside, but on the inside, it was a whole different story.
By the end of the second movie Anna has to cope with losing her sister. She and Olaf get stuck in a dark cave, but then Olaf gets blown away into flurries leaving Anna all alone in both literal and figurative darkness. Anna then proceeds to sing this song about how she is ready to succumb to the darkness. To fight it, like many who battle with Depression, Anna is focusing on just one breath at a time, one next step at a time. Sadly, the song’s words were inspired by the real grief felt by co-director Chris Buck, who lost his son in a car accident.
While Anna is facing her battles Elsa has some of her own. She battles elements trying to literally end her, and along the way, she starts to feel free and finally starts to feel like who she is meant to be.
In having to find inner strength to make it, her anxiety is lifted off of her shoulders, especially as she passes the crown to her sister.
Elsa has seemingly always wanted to be free and to be able to do what she wants without the pressure of others expectations. This is a testament to letting go of certain expectations and pressures implemented by others to feel free–a powerful statement in a time of rising rates of Depression and anxiety.
The LA Times interviewed Frozen 2 director, Jennifer Lee.
“We think particularly of kids today, they’re wrestling with so much. It’s really about reflecting on all the issues that we’re facing rather than telling you how to face them. Anna and Elsa make their own choices, and I commend Anna for her ability to face a hard past and realize she has to do what’s right for everyone. What courage that takes. It’s an admittance of how hard it is to navigate this world,” said Lee.
This movie brings to life the real struggles of anxiety and Depression. It shows how much these issues can harm people and how easy it is to cover it all up. The mental struggles that Anna and Elsa faced are happening to millions of people everyday. It also testifies how important it is to not try to solely take on these issues alone. Although Anna and Elsa repeatedly tried to take on their challenges without feeling a burden to others, there were many others wanting to be by their side in support the entire time.
You may not notice how someone is truly feeling, because they cover it up so well. Always be sure to check on your friends and family, and look to the resources around you, such as those offered by CHS. You never know what a person could be going through. Even if someone doesn’t come right out and say they have mental health issues, it doesn’t mean they aren’t focusing on just one breath, just one step at a time to take on their own darkness.