So, let’s talk about Anna. Once again, major spoilers ahead, so click away now if you haven’t seen Frozen yet.
Alrighty then, still here? Let’s move on.
Has Anna seen Elsa?
Here’s what we know about Anna.
She’s six when Elsa accidentally whacks her in the head with magic. Elsa is eighteen when she’s crowned Queen, and Anna is younger than her, so it seems about right that Anna is sixteen and it’s been ten years since the accident.
The troll leader wipes her memories of Elsa’s powers for no reason. No matter what way I look at it, I don’t get why he’d think this was a good idea, as opposed to telling her ‘you fell and hit your head, so now you’re not allowed to play with Elsa’s powers unless Mom and Dad are there, and NO JUMPING OFF SNOW HILLS’. No matter what way you look at it, a memory wipe and cutting a kid’s sister out of her life is shitty parenting and almost setting them both up for failure. Elsa doesn’t get the very much needed emotional support from her sibling, and they don’t get to grow up together.
As far as we can tell, Anna hasn’t seen Elsa since the accident. She hasn’t seen or spoken to her sister in ten years.
The Big Problem with Anna
So Frozen pretty much hangs on Anna and Elsa’s relationship. But the elephant in the room is this: there is no, repeat NO reason for Anna to think charitably of Elsa at the point where the plot really gets going.
Consider Anna’s perspective: she has an older sister, who was her best friend until she was six. Then, out of nowhere, Elsa stops talking to her, stops playing with her, refuses to even be in the same room as her, and constantly tells her to go away. Then, at the age of thirteen, their parents die unexpectedly, and Elsa doesn’t even leave her room for the funeral.
This is not a recipe for Anna to want to reconnect with her sister. This is a recipe for Anna to hate Elsa for effectively throwing Anna out of her life and then abandoning her when their parents died. So a few years later, when Elsa finally reappears for her coronation, they’re not so much sisters as strangers with a painful past.
So, again, from Anna’s perspective, we see that the sister-stranger suddenly reveals these crazy ice powers and runs away, freezing the whole kingdom in the process. And the writers of Frozen felt that having Anna charge blindly off into the wilderness made perfect sense, ‘because she’s my sister and she’d never hurt me’.
(By the way, at no point did anyone say, hey, Anna, you’re the heir to the throne now, we can’t let anything happen to you. Apparently everyone in the kingdom of Arendelle is flat out stupid.)
No Anger Allowed
It seems to be that there’s a certain trend here. Like Elsa, Anna is never allowed to feel angry about the relative shittiness of her situation. Let’s recap:
- Her sister cut her out of her life
- Her parents died
- She’s apparently imprisoned, in a big castle, with no friends
- The one day that the castle is opened up and she gets a glimmer of hope that things will change, her aforementioned sister (the one who wouldn’t even come out of her room for her parents’ funeral, remember) says NOPE, castle’s being shut up again, sorry, and treats her like an idiot because she wants to have some love in her life.
Again, who the hell would react to this with anything but rage? But Anna just pleads with Elsa in a sort of pathetic way. Are we supposed to believe that this teenage girl, who’s shown herself to be exuberant and active and most importantly suffering from the most epic cabin fever ever, isn’t going to immediately rebel? Why weren’t the next words out of Anna’s mouth, “You can hide in your room if you want, but I am going to keep the gates open and I fucking dare you to stop me”?
Okay, maybe not that exact thing, but you get the idea. It’s like Disney decided that, if the movie was going to run on this relationship between two sisters, then they were not allowed to ever be really at odds with each other. And this is fundamentally fake, when it comes to the vast majority of relationships in general, especially ones with such a truly godawful history. It devalues their reconnection because they were never really disconnected. They are not allowed to reconcile their relationship because there is nothing really keeping them apart.
Anna also doesn’t get a character arc. At the start of the movie, she’s naive, friendly, outgoing, optimistic, and she cares a lot about her sister. At the end of the movie, she’s naive, friendly, outgoing, optimistic, and she cares a lot about her sister. She never once struggles with how she feels about Elsa, even when Elsa almost kills her a second time.
Following on from the last post – what if Anna kept her memories, and grew up as Elsa’s emotional support? What if she helped her practice and learn how to control herself? What if the Duke of Weaselton found out about Elsa’s powers, and left a magical doodad for Anna to find that causes Elsa’s powers to whoosh out of control? What if their fight had resulted from Anna finally wanting something for herself, out of the shadow of her sister – and that plus the doodad caused the accident that freezes Anna’s heart, while Elsa ran away? What if Anna chases her because she has to save herself as well as warn Elsa that the eternal winter over Arendelle isn’t her fault?
What if the soldiers sent after Elsa all came from the Duke of Weaselton, who knows that eliminating both sisters means he will take control of Arendelle? What if Elsa is beyond listening to anyone, ready to become the monster and destroy Arendelle for sending soldiers to kill her, and Anna sees what could happen to her sister, their kingdom, and all its people – and THEN she makes the grand sacrifice, the final act of love for the sister she never meant to hurt, and carries the magical doodad into the way of Elsa’s magic to destroy it. Cue Elsa snapping out of her rage, discovering the truth, grieving (briefly) for Anna until the frozen heart magic turns her back to normal, and both of them returning to Arendelle to free it from the Duke’s asshattery; both having grown as people, their relationship strengthened through adversity, and with a newfound appreciation and respect for each other.
This is what I mean about having a fucking character arc for Anna and Elsa.
Look, I’m not going to say Frozen was complete crap. It wasn’t Battlefield Earth bad and enough people liked it that we’ll hopefully see more movies about women having relationships that don’t revolve around men. That’s good, of course.
But I am not giving it a pass for shoddy writing, and I am not going to laud it for being some progressive feminist triumph when it’s clearly got issues.
Also including the usual caveat, this is my opinion, feel free to disagree or whatever.