WARNING: This post assumes a basic familiarity with Frozen II, and continues spoilers. You have been warned!
I’m a little embarrassed to admit how much I love Frozen II. I’m cool! I’m smart! I have discerning tastes! But I’m also very easily won over by emotionally manipulative songs and plot lines. And honestly, there’s a lot to like in Frozen II. Never did I expect to see Disney address imperialism in one of their animated films, yet here we are. And they even showed the (white, European coded) main characters actively rightly the wrongs done by their ancestors! Truly, we live in an age of miracles. And the songs! I’m still grinning over the fact that they gave Kristoff what amounted to a late 80’s/early 90’s power ballad, complete with riffs off of the old music videos. And they gave Elsa not one, but two entire songs! I was thrilled to see them making good use of Idina Menzel’s talents.
But what I really loved about this movie was the way it finished the story told in the original Frozen. Like many people, I enjoyed Frozen. I definitely belted out “Let It Go” while cooking dinner far more frequently than anybody without kids can really justify. But I think that Frozen II is the necessary second act to complete Elsa and Anna’s story.
Frozen shows Elsa moving from a place of fear and isolation (thanks to her parents misinterpreting the trolls’ advice, but that’s another rant), through to accepting her powers but continuing to isolate herself, and finally learning that she can embrace her powers while still being part of a community. That’s a heady journey, but did anybody really believe that Elsa was going to be happy as a queen? Power doesn’t equal belonging, and the role we are born to are not always what’s best for us.
While it’s important that Elsa learned that her family/country of origin could love her for who she is, and while the lesson of communal responsibility is key, she deserved to find a place where she truly belonged. I love that Frozen II showed that it was possible for her to find that, without abandoning her responsibility to Arendelle. It’s important that kids learn that not everybody can bloom where they are planted, and that finding the place where they belong is not necessarily a rejection of the people who loved them.
This is why I absolutely adored “Show Yourself.” While everyone else was fawning over “Into the Unknown” as the breakout hit from Frozen II (and with good reason! It’s a great song!), I can’t get over how “Show Yourself” mirrors “Let It Go” (right down to the magical costume change at the end!), but from such a different place. Now, Elsa is coming from a place of both strength and humility. When the lyrics switch from “Are you the one I’ve been looking for all my life?” to “You are the one you’ve been waiting for all your life,” I get chills. It’s such a powerful message, and all the more poignant for how it takes two whole movies for her to get there.
Anna, similarly, gets to complete her journey. In the first movie, her fierce love of her sister saves Elsa, and she gets to have the kind of sibling relationship she longs for. But in the second, Anna learns that she is strong even without her sister, and begins to find her own future and her own role.
Now, it is distinctly possible that I am overthinking this. Frozen II is not high art – it’s a Disney cartoon. But we are meaning-making animals. I can’t wait any sort of narrative without thinking about this stuff, and when something captures my attention like this movie did… well, the results are inevitable.