Why I Love Frozen II

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.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Wish List

July 1 question – There have been many industry changes in the last decade, so what are some changes you would like to see happen in the next decade?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t yet have much experience with the publishing industry. But as a life-long reader, what I’d really love to see is more diversity. At the moment, I am most focused on racial diversity, but we also need more diversity of upbringing, of class, of gender identity and sexual orientation and able-bodiedness.

I want to see more people of color in my books and stories. Everybody deserves to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories, whether those stories are escapist, gritty, or anywhere in between.

I want to see more books by people of color, as well. Yes, authors can (and should!) learn to write characters who are different from ourselves. We should do our research, hire (and listen to!) sensitivity readers when appropriate, and listen when corrected (And if you’re interested in doing that work, might I recommend checking out Writing the Other?). But Black, Asian, Latinx, disabled, trans, queer, and poor authors deserve space to tell their own stories. We can all strive to write about worlds that are full of diverse characters, we also need to recognize that while our imaginations may be limitless, not every story is ours to tell.

I also would love to see more diversity in our editors, publicists, and agents. Even with the best of intentions, it’s easy to favor stories by people who have had similar life experiences, or to believe our experiences are universal. Yes, that’s something that those of us with more privilege can (and should!) improve on in ourselves, but if we want to see more diverse stories, we need more diverse gatekeepers, as well.

I could say more, but as a white woman, it’s not really my place to say exactly what writers of color need from the publishing industry. I just want them to get that support, so that I can read their books.

Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse, or Good Things Still Happen

As you may have seen on twitter, Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse, featuring my short story, “A Witch for the Chrome Furies,” is out! It’s been out for almost a month now, actually. Even in paperback!

This is a weird time to have something good going on.

It’s not that I think it’s frivolous to think about books at a time like this – personally, reading is the only thing getting me through some days, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I want to hear all about what new books are coming out, and what older books people are digging up. Now is the time for more books!

And it’s not that I don’t think I have a right to be happy when bad things are going on in the world. Sadly, there is almost always some horrible slaughter or human rights violation going on somewhere, and while it’s important to stay engaged and aware of that, we can’t wait for the world to be fixed. Happiness has to exist next to despair, or we’re all sunk.

I think I just don’t have the stamina to be excited for very long.

When my author copy of Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse arrived in the mail last week, I was over the moon! The cover is even more vibrant in person, and I picked up on all sorts of details that I hadn’t noticed on my computer screen. And the inside of the book has the most adorable drawings of cats wearing hats and/or goggles between some of the stories. It was absolutely amazing to hold it in my hands, and I get a little frisson of pleasure every time I see it.

But I never even posted to Twitter about having gotten the book. I’m not embarrassed to be promoting this anthology. I just forgot. My excitement keeps getting buried under the weight of Everything Going On In The World Right Now.

I imagine this is happening to a lot of people right now, and for a lot of reasons. To a certain extent, it’s probably unavoidable, given our ambient stress levels. But I also think it’s important that we do our best to hold onto joy and excitement when we can. The world is dark, so we owe it to ourselves – and to everyone else – to create and reflect as much light as comes our way.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Getting in the Zone

May 6 question – Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

Truthfully, the best way for me to get into the zone is writing with other people. Under normal circumstances, one of my favorite things to do it to meet up with a writing friend at a cafe, catch up over pastries and beverages, and then settle in for a nice writing session. Since both sitting in cafes and socializing is canceled for the foreseeable future, I have had to compromise.

Zoom is currently the best tool in my arsenal. I’ve been meeting up with one of my regular writing buddies almost every week, and Cat Rambo has been hosting writing sessions on Zoom for her Patreon supporters and members of her Discord community since the pandemic began. They are well-attended, and it’s nice to see the same faces on a regular basis. She’s set up a really nice format for the medium, and it’s a great community! It doesn’t always get me all the way into “the zone,” but it’s 1.5 hours of writing time that I would not have otherwise managed, which is pretty darn good, especially right now. While I would prefer to be in my favorite cafe, these writing sessions are the next best thing.

Other news

Cat Ladies of the Apocalypse is out! My physical copy arrived in the mail on Monday, and it’s absolutely beautiful. This is my first anthology publication, and the first time I have seen my fiction in hard copy. It’s been a strange experience, to have this happen during a pandemic, but it’s a weirdly appropriate time for a book of semi-hopeful stories about the end of the world.

How are you all doing? I’m looking forward to reading some of the answers to this month’s ISWG question from other people! Maybe it’ll give me the inspiration to create a decent writing ritual of my own.

What I’m Reading: April 2020

I wish I had meaningful advice to offer on getting through this dark time. Things are scary out there, lives and livelihoods are both in danger, and I don’t have answers for you. All I have to offer are some of the books that I’ve been reading, that are helping me to stay sane

The City We Became, by NK Jemisin

This book is amazing, which comes as a surprise to exactly no one who has been following the Hugos the last few years. This book is much lighter than her Broken Earth trilogy, but no less bitingly insightful. It’s a love letter to New York City, and giant middle finger to the xenophobia of HP Lovecraft, and I can not recommend it highly enough. She does things with language here that made me laugh out loud with delight.

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe, by Carlos Hernandez

haven’t read much middle grade fiction since I stopped working at a bookstore, so if I hadn’t read this for a class (Writing the Other: Deep Dive Into Description, which I highly recommend to any other writers out there), I would have missed out on something really fun. Hernandez deals with some heavy themes (loss of a parent, Diabetes, and a sick newborn), but somehow never loses the fun of this story.

I intend to reread this once I’ve gotten farther in my study of Spanish on Duolingo, to see if I can parse any more of the Spanish dialogue. The story is perfectly understandable without that – anything important is explained by Sal in his own voice – but I think it would be fun to do.

The King of Next Week, by EC Ambrose

This is a quiet novella, about a dreamer who marries a djinn, set shortly after the American Civil War, in New Hampshire. It’s everything I want from a historical fantasy: strong details to ground me in the time period, and enough magic to make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. It’s a little bittersweet, but it will make you think without breaking your heart.

Adventures of the Incognita Countess, by Cynthia Ward

This novella reminded me of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but much more sapphic. It’s a delightful blending of Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and a few other classic works of British fiction from the time, all converging on everyone favorite doomed vessel: the Titanic. The narrator starts off with some frustrating prejudices, but is disabused of them by the end. It’s a fun adventure, a send-off on classic horror, and a love story.

I’ll stop here, since I doubt anybody wants to know everything I’m reading right now. I hope you are all safe, and warm, and fed. Take care of yourselves, and each other.