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The Cult of Self-Esteem: How Frozen Got it Wrong


The Disney movie Frozen was a mega hit in 2013. It is still a current topic in pop culture. A walkthrough in Target yesterday proved this point. Frozen shoes, toys, books, even cereal and gummy snacks littered all the shelves in every section. My three year old daughter asked through every aisle if she could have something.

I have nothing against Disney making every last penny out of a world wide hit such as Frozen. They clearly know what they are doing, from storytelling to marketing, they know what kids like. But that is where I take issue with Disney. As an adult watching Frozen, I can see the underlying themes and the real life struggles and self esteem issues hidden behind magic and “true love.” They impress these false ideals onto the minds of children, making all evils and failures surmountable by magic and true love.

Without going into every detail of the movie, I am going to give a quick idea of what I am getting at. Elsa has immense powers beyond her control. We don’t know why she has these powers, but coincidently she is also a princess and not a bread makers daughter so she has parents of importance and wealth. Something every young girl can relate to. Elsa hurts her young sister, Anna, with her powers and instead of her parents teaching her, or say, hiring a magic troll to teach her, they put gloves on her hands to hide her powers. The gloves symbolize, to me, the kids soccer game with no goalie, the participation medal, batting gloves, doggy heaven.

For lack of a better term, “kid gloves.”

But it shows how parents avoid the inevitable. That someday Elsa will hurt somebody. Someone will try to hurt Elsa. Maybe someone accidentally takes off her gloves and reveals her true powers to an entire kingdom.

The movie is illustrating the lack of self control and understanding in children, specifically young girls, and how parents fail at addressing the problem, and in turn, deepening the lack of self esteem until one day they aren’t there to witness the unraveling. The parents could have taught Elsa, built up her confidence and allowed her to test her self control. Instead, they hid her from learning about herself. They destroyed Elsa’s self esteem by shunning her and allowing her to hide away in her room. This in turn also alienates Anna, the normal daughter, by not letting her play with her sister.

The top comment on this clip at the time of posting was “Finally a movie where true love is not marrying a handsome prince. But loving your family 😍💗”

I could not disagree more. True love in this film could have been the parents talking to their kids. True love should have been building up Elsa’s self esteem and not hiding her away from being different.

Then, Elsa reveals herself to the world again after being in hiding for years. But, she is “ungloved” and her powers and lack of self control alienates her once again, making her a villain in the movie. The Grammy winning song, “Let it go” which has 414 million views on Youtube, seamlessly allows Elsa to run away from her problems and embrace isolation.  As the song goes, “It’s time to see what I can do/To test the limits and break through/No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!”

By isolating herself, Elsa becomes “free.” Free of what? Free from her parents condemnation. Free from the world not accepting her, the world she was never going to be ready for. Free of self loathing. But she was never given the tools to be accepted. She was never told to learn, work hard, hone her skills.

It comes back to the cult of self-esteem. The idea that if children are hidden from failure, hidden from losing or being different, they will be spared the evils of an unforgiving, win or go home society. But that is not how it works. One must lose, one must learn how to overcome that loss and become better. Frozen says let it go, wait for magic or a false sense of love to save you. I say take off the gloves at the earliest age, heck, never put them on. Maybe then Elsa would never have been angry or vindictive.

But then Anna may never have met Hans.