Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Why Anna is Better Than Elsa

Uh, hi.

I feel like I should explain, I got on the Frozen bandwagon rather late.  That is, I wanted to see it in theaters, but it seems like there's never really time to go.  And then it took me a long time to buy it on DVD, and even then I still didn't watch it for, oh, maybe two months or so.  (Part of the reason was that a neighboring teenage boy borrowed my copy until he could buy his own.)

And yes, I bought it for myself.  Not for my children, or for nieces or friends.  I bought Frozen because I wanted to watch it.  And I liked it.  And yes, I'm planning to train my voice to sing "Let It Go" in all its glory, although it's really not the best song.

Anyway, that's not the point of this post.  I have noticed that the primary character obsession for those who like Frozen is Elsa.  Elsa dresses, Elsa posters, Elsa stickers, etc.  Elsa, Elsa, Elsa!  This bothers me, because Elsa has some serious characters flaws, whereas Anna, who is generally overlooked, is actually pretty badass.  Elsa is primarily self-centered and gives up easily; Anna is loving and devoted and determined.

Starting from just after Anna's memory was altered (which was completely unnecessary, BTW), we see the first hints of her devotion.  For reasons unknown to her, Elsa suddenly shuts the door and won't play with her anymore.  It appears that no explanation is given, not even, "Elsa is ill and can't come out."  This must have felt like complete rejection to the little girl, especially since Elsa won't even speak through the door to her.  And yet, through all the years that follow, she still loves her sister and wants to be close to her.

Do you want to build a snowman?
It's been so long since we last played.
You don't talk to me anymore,
You've slammed the door,
I love you anyway.
 I don't know why you shun me; what did I do?
Is this how our lives should be?
I know I love you, Sister;
Do you love me?

 Even after their parents die, Elsa still offers no explanation for her seclusion.  Anna reaches out and offers comfort while feeling bereft herself, and Elsa refuses to acknowledge her.  Instead of telling Anna what the hell is going on, Elsa allows her to continue feeling rejected and unwanted.  I mean, really, how hard would it be to tell grown-up Anna, "Hey, Sis, I'm freaking out because I'm freezing everything in sight, and I'm really scared that I'll freeze you, too, so that's why I can't hang out with you but maybe we can wave at each other across the hall"?

Nope.  Elsa has to wallow in her own misery.

And then the ball.  Ah, yes, the ball.  Elsa does try to make polite conversation here, but still refuses to explain their seclusion.  Anna, who has been starved for love, basically decides that she is alive and happy, and by golly she is going to act on it!  No more wallowing around the palace for her!  Unfortunately she makes a rather poor choice in fiances, but she's making an effort to get her life moving, unlike her sister.  And when she presents her fiance to the Queen, she is told she can't marry him still without further explanation.

 When Elsa's power is revealed to all, she very naturally runs away.  It's understandable.  She's scared.  But then there's her lovely little song on the mountaintop in which she declares, "No right or wrong; no rules for me!"

Ah.  There's where she shows her true colors.  There is always right and wrong.  Those two things are inescapable.  One cannot justly live with complete disregard for all others--others including her own sister (whom she abandons without a further thought) and her subjects, for whom she is responsible.

Anna, meanwhile, has thoughts only for her sister.  At last she understands the seclusion.  She sets off immediately to find Elsa and tell her, "I love you, I need you, your kingdom needs you, I understand, you didn't do anything wrong."  She delegates the responsibility of running the kingdom to her fiance--a terrible choice, yes, but at least she doesn't run off and leave nobody in authority.  Even in her rush, she takes time to put someone in charge.

Anna loses her horse.  She keeps going.  She finds a trader, gets what she needs, and commandeers a guide and transportation.  She keeps moving, bound by duty and love.  She is making things happen.  She doesn't waste her time sitting around moping.  She finds a snowman and directs him to take her to Elsa.

At the palace, although hesitant, she goes in.  Elsa reverts to her tired old lines:  "What are you doing here?  Go away, Anna."  Anna tries desperately to explain what's happened to the kingdom, but Elsa is so accustomed to ignoring her sister that she talks right over her.  She doesn't ask how Anna will handle running a kingdom when she's had no training for it; she doesn't even consider that maybe her sister really, truly loves her despite everything and wants to be with her.  She spouts again, "I'm fine and happy without you; go away."

Anna still tries.  She says, "Let's work on this together.  We can figure it out."  Elsa replies, "There's no point; I'll just stay by myself."

Anna:  For the first time in forever,
I know what you're going through;
And I know it's hard to deal with,
But I'll always stand by you.

Elsa:  I've been living for this day.
I no longer have to wait.
You're not worth the effort I would have to make.

Oh, Elsa.  You're so sweet and charming.  Think how differently things could have gone if she'd simply said, "Anna, let's sit down and talk about this." Instead, she argues and commands until she loses her grip and once again strikes Anna.  She doesn't even check to see if Anna is okay; she just conjures up a creature to chase them out.

Anna does not give up that easily.  When Kristoff points out that her hair is changing, she does have to make a brief detour, but she has every intention of going back to Elsa.  When Hans betrays her, she barely even thinks of herself--she says, "You're no match for Elsa."  All of her concern is still for her sister.

Elsa, on the other hand, finally takes a little action and blasts her way out of prison, only to run away again.  She doesn't stop to see how Anna is doing; her mind is so wrapped up with her own issues that she doesn't have room to think of anyone else.

Anna staggers along looking for Kristoff, in the hopes he can cure her with a kiss, but she sees him at the same time she sees Hans about to behead Elsa.  Such a sweetie, that Hans.  With no thought for her own safety, Anna flings herself between Elsa and the sword.

Let's stop and take a look at that again.  Anna does not know that she will turn into solid ice in time, and Hans's sword will break on her.  As far as she knows, she'll have a sword plunged into her chest and be leaking partially-frozen blood all over the place.  Even if she anticipates turning into an ice sculpture, she has no idea that she can turn back into a living, breathing girl.  She completely sacrifices herself for a sister who, for most of her life, has ignored her, belittled her choices, rejected her, and told her to go away.

She loves her sister that much.

Elsa does finally notice that, hey, someone besides her has problems.  Oh, look at you, Sister!  I didn't notice you were even here!  Awfully nice of you to get in the way of that sword for me!  Instead of doing something constructive, like freezing Prince Hans, she reverts to her usual emotional state and starts weeping.

Okay, I can forgive her for that.  I'd be weeping, too.

Then Anna revives and Elsa finally says, "Wow, I guess it really is nice to have you around.  I guess you can stay."  It only took her sister literally giving up her life for her for Elsa to accept that maybe she should listen once in a while.

So then the populace, being wonderful sheep, say, "We hated you when you made it snow before, but this time we like it when you make it snow.  Same stuff, but this time we like you and are going to cheer." Elsa struts around and feels fantastic.

Anna, having learned a valuable lesson from Prince Hans but refusing to let one mistake rule the rest of her life, opens herself to the possibility of a relationship with Kristoff but takes it a lot slower this time.  She remains happy and giddy and full of life, and, as far as we can tell, harbors no ill will toward Elsa for her wretched behavior.

Yeah, Elsa can freeze stuff, but Anna is the real heroine of this story.  She has no huge musical number, is made to look like a clumsy and bumbling idiot, and is generally overlooked, and she still manages to be an absolutely amazing, tolerant, kind, loving, and forgiving badass.  That's my kind of girl.

P.S. In case you didn't figure it out, the conversations are paraphrased and I rewrote the songs.