Maybe not in a good way. Maybe you're expecting some schmaltz about the magic of Disney, what a relief it is to see "positive role model female characters," the usual. Or even more trite, a paean to the fabulous music. Well, you've got admit that film's got some catchy tunes, but I promise, this post won't suddenly burst into song. For one thing, the intellectual property police would be on my tail in the proverbial nanosecond…
Nope, instead I'm going to tell you the story of two sisters.
I took my girls to see Frozen during the tail end of a blizzard in February, which also happened to be the tail end of the film's theater run, pre-Oscars. We were dying to get out the house, and once I convinced the six-year-old that she would survive (she doesn't take cinematic dramatic tension well, to say the least), we braved the weather, paid our matinee admission, and enjoyed a screening with two other brave souls, a father and his approximately seven-year-old son. My nearly-nine-year-old had seen the movie once already in November with her father, so she was prepared and enjoyed it thoroughly. While the little one hid behind the seats during the scary bits, both she and her sister could belt out the mangled, off-key lyrics they'd learned on YouTube and the school bus to their hearts' content without bothering anyone else. Seriously, always take your kids to the movies during snowstorms. It's so much less stressful.
Why? Because I saw my girls on the screen, in full Technicolor, and for probably the first time had an eagle's eye view of the challenging dynamic in their relationship.
I'm aware of the problem, of course. How could I not be? I've lived it every second of every day for nine years. But I'm deep in the trenches. I don't get to look up - or look down from above. I see the parts, not the whole.
The first sister in our story is a freak of nature. She's so unlike her parents in physical appearance that in only partial jest I've called her a fairy changeling - until I realized how painful it was for her to be reminded that she's different. White blond hair. Turquoise eyes. Tall and thin.
She's possessed of rare creative talent and abilities, but also possessed by a powerful demon: anxiety. Every moment of every day she lives in terror of people judging her, evaluating her, comparing her to "normal" children. In the rare moments and places where she feels safe, she's a sweet and sensitive person, funny, and clever, but more often she makes mistakes, is clumsy, awkward, and damaging to herself and the people and stuff around her. Other people's success - including her family's - makes her feel inadequate. She's too anxious to make friends, and compensates for her loneliness by clinging desperately to her parents, letting them stand between her and the world. She is especially close to her father, whom she knows won't push her to do or try anything she says frightens her.
Sound like anyone?
Her younger sister is adorable. Cute as a button, she's funny and smart, with an uncanny understanding of what makes people tick. She's a performer, is popular with boys, and though she lacks the ethereal beauty of her sister, she's a mini version of her mom, and generally considered "the perky one." She's been aware of her sister's talent and limitations all her life. They've been what has defined her family's dynamic since before she was born.
Sound like anyone?
In Frozen, Elsa's parents do the very best they can to protect her, but they make a huge mistake: they hide. They shut the world out of their castle, don't tell anyone about their daughter's "curse," and essentially ensure that that curse controls the life of each individual family member. And then, guess what - they disappear, leaving their daughters trapped.
The sisters in our story would be similarly trapped, one by the demon of anxiety and the other by the limitations her sister's condition place upon her, if their parents make the same mistake. I sobbed through Frozen not because of Elsa and Anna's trials, but because I realized that sometimes well-meaning, loving parents screw up big time. Why didn't the king and queen seek help? Were they too proud? Too frightened? Wanting took much to believe that they alone were qualified to "fix" their daughter? Yes, yes, and yes.
But it's not too late for the sisters in our story - at least, I hope not. It's been a huge effort, and frightening for everyone, but their parents have cracked open the castle doors a bit and called out for help. Turns out there are a lot of people out there who are prepared to offer advice, counseling, and potential treatment. It's confusing and frustrating to figure out the best approach, but at least it's doing something, instead of pretending that the problem will go away if we hide long enough.
There are still bridges to cross, old patterns to unlearn, and new ones to develop. There's going to be a lifetime of work to cage the anxiety demon and release the beautiful princess. There will be fights - indeed, there already are - between the sisters, as one struggles and the other one struggles to understand. But, by opening the door we've ensured that the sisters won't be trapped forever.
And, like the line from the song, for the first time in forever, I don't feel alone.