I'm not totally sure how this happened, but despite seeing "Frozen" in theaters four times and owning the DVD, I haven't written anything here about it yet. So: "Frozen" makes me cry. So much. Like, you have no idea. I've cried more every time I've seen it, except the time it was playing at work when I was on register, and I only cried a little bit, because I had a line of customers and had to choke it back.
There are a ton of reasons why it makes me cry so much. Like, for the first half of the movie, every emotional beat is deeply moving and evocative for me for a different reason.
- The opening song is just hard and painful when you imagine it being about Elsa struggling to control her powers. (It comes off as creepier if you imagine the ice to be a metaphor for Elsa, which is how my partner read it at first.)
- The scene with Anna and Elsa as little kids is sad all the way from the start, when you know where it's going -- not just for the next few minutes, but for the next decade or more of Anna and Elsa's lives.
- "Do you wanna build a snowman?" -- like, holy crap. That's got to be the most painful question for Elsa to hear, and Anna has no way of knowing why it could possibly be anything but a fond memory. And Anna's loneliness and isolation hurts, too -- she's pushing her sister away, asking her to play like that, but she doesn't know why. She lacks vital information, so she can't learn how to improve her relationship with her sister, or why it's broken.
- "For the first time in forever" is kind of a joyful song, but the fact that it's such an explosion of happiness comes from a place of lifelong loneliness and isolation, and I don't know about the rest of the audience but I have trouble hearing Anna be happy in the beginning without feeling like it's a very, very thin layer of ice over a deep lake of sadness and fear.[1. Ice metaphor: sorry not sorry.]
- Elsa's much more straightforward pain and repression in that scene echoes a lot of my experiences, as a queer person growing up in a homophobic environment.
- And while we're there, I want to point out that this movie does a great job at making the point that even if your parents love you very, very much, they can still totally fuck up as parents and ruin everything. It never quite pins blame on them in a straightforward way, but I'm glad at least that Elsa and Anna don't spend a ton of time somewhere gushing about how much they loved their parents and how great they were.
- After "Love is an open door," when Elsa tells Anna she can't marry Hans, it's hard to hold in your head what she's telling Anna -- what Anna's hearing -- that the gates are going to close, that the one night Anna gets to see the rest of the world is over and she didn't escape, that it's back to hiding in a castle from the world, with her sister hiding from her, for the rest of her life.
- When Elsa's powers are revealed, it's such an incredibly real seeming panic attack, every beat of it makes me sob.
- "Let It Go" hurts so much -- I empathize with the feeling and the experience of believing yourself to be so wrong, so unfit for the normal world, that huge losses are a relief, that every step of progress and achievement is back-handed -- you're deeper and deeper into the closet, and more and more, it feels like there's no way out, that there's nowhere to go but crashing down.
- It's also painful in a happy kind of way to see how immediately, effortlessly Elsa is able to use her powers to create beauty and stability and order, that her first gestures are sweeps of gentle snow, then she creates one of the most loving characters in the series -- how long could she have felt this safe and happy, if her parents hadn't decided that her abilities meant she was fundamentally fucked up?
After that, the sobbing bits become fewer and farther between, but plenty still exist.
I know there's a lot to criticize in "Frozen," from the all-white cast to its context within the larger Disney canon, its appropriation of Sami culture for window-dressing, and so on. Like, it'd be cool if one of these days instead of a character who's a really strong metaphor for queerness, there were an actual queer character.
But I teared up just writing this post, and I think "Frozen" is going last in my life as deeply, personally meaningful movie.