How Anna and Elsa Represent Summer in ‘Frozen’ (2013)

You would think it would be hard to argue that Frozen, one of Disney’s most snow filled movies, could be considered the ultimate summer film. For the most part, you can’t blame people for forgetting that the film takes place in July, but outside of the obvious mentions that pop out throughout the film (I’m looking at you Olaf!), the themes of the hottest time of year are clear to see. Summer movies often feature young people on a journey of self discovery, trying to understand their place in the world, whether that is through their relationships with others or understanding their own desires better. Whether it is through Anna and her naive nature or Elsa and her attempt to reinvent herself, Frozen provides a way to look at these ideas from a new angle. By looking at these two characters, we are able to see the different ways ideas of identity are tackled within summer movies.

Anna

Being the joint lead of Frozen, Anna is the perfect character to introduce us to the world of Arendelle. While Elsa locks herself away, Anna is constantly opening doors to be more connected to the people around her, looking to be more welcoming as a way to counteract her sisters closed off personality, almost as a way to balance their opposing traits. However, her open heart does come with a price, as Anna’s naivety leaves her vulnerable to heartbreak and betrayal. Her renditions of “For The First Time In Forever” and “Love Is An Open Door” both allude to a willingness to accept new experiences, but while she is open to these new experiences, she doesn’t consider the dangers around her, and as a result, Hans takes advantage of that trust to put himself in line for the crown. “Love Is An Open Door” is a perfect example of this in which Hans is able to manipulate Anna within the song to make her believe they are soul mates. Within the second verse they sing:

Hans: “We finish each other’s…”

Anna: “Sandwiches”

Hans:“That was what I was gonna say!

Anna is so willing to believe in love, and that Hans has a pure motives for starting a relationship, that she does not recognise that she and Hans are not quite as synchronised as she would think, and that he is saying what needs to be said as a way to become ruler of Arendelle. Anna’s innocence reflects that of other characters in summer movies, such as Rapunzel in Tangled and Sandy in Grease, who finally step outside of their current situation and fall head over heels for the first person they meet (Flynn and Danny respectively). 

Couple this with the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope that Anna shares with Kristoff within the second and third acts of the movie, and suddenly Anna represents multiple tropes of romance stories which you would have seen before in movies like 10 Things I Hate About You and Me Before You in which a rocky relationship soon blossoms into romance. When they first meet their relationship is already off to a frosty start with them meeting at the trading post. After reluctantly agreeing to take her to the north mountain to find Elsa, the two are at odds as Kristoff explains you can’t be in love with someone you just met, referring to Anna and Hans sudden engagement. Soon their relationship grows warmer as the temperatures drop until reaching the point that they realise that they care for each other and their blossoming love may save Anna.

While some films do not look past the leading women’s relationship to their dashing co-star, Frozen opts to have Anna’s relationship to her sister be the crux of the story, with her blossoming love with Kristoff serving as a strong B plot throughout the film.

Elsa

Falling on the other end of the scale is Elsa, who is far more closed off than her sister, and doesn’t allow anyone into her life. It is not until she breaks away from her responsibilities as the future queen and discards the shackles of her past that she can express herself fully. As children, Elsa accidentally hurt Anna with her ice powers while they were playing one night, forcing their parents to have all Anna’s memories of Elsa’s abilities removed from her memory. Due to this traumatic experience, she feels the need to lock herself away to not only protect Anna, but the world from the danger she could pose. When her abilities are revealed at her coronation as a reaction to Anna and Hans’s surprise engagement, it causes the storm that puts Arendelle under a flurry of snow, and Elsa she exiles herself to the mountains as punishment. It’s only once she has ‘Let It Go’ that she is able to be her true self. Gone are her royal garments which repress her repressed identity and she is instead adorned in a blue, sparkling dress, allowing her personality and power to shine through.

While Anna represents a characters first foray into the real world, Elsa is representative of the character reinventing themselves into their own image, no longer weighed down by the burden of expectations. Interestingly enough Grease once again brings about this trope of reinvention as Sandy changes her dress, her hair and her personality as a way to grow as a person. Susanna Carr argued that:

“…the transformation is not just for Danny. It’s primarily for herself because she doesn’t like how she is viewed. In the “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” reprise that happens right after the car race, Sandy wonders if there is “something more” about her “than what they see”.”

This is similar to how Elsa is not transforming herself as a way to impress anyone, that is what she did when she adorned the gloves to hide her powers at her parents request. Now she is gloveless and able to use her powers freely, with her powers even being used to create her new iconic look.

Elsa’s story has often been read using queer theory, with her powerful ballad of ‘Let It Go’ proving to be the moment she breaks from societies norms and can be open about herself. As a child, she is forced to conceal her true self by her parents, much like how young LGBTQ children are suppressed themselves through abiding to their assigned gender norms. It isn’t until she expresses herself through her powers, that she no longer has to “Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know”. ‘Let It Go’ becomes her anthem to stand up against those ideals that kept her restrained and feeling powerless. She is free to express herself through her powers, creating a new look and home for herself.

Summer offers a time for young people to discover themselves. Outside of the school term they have the chance to dress how they want to, spend time with the people they like and express themselves how they wish.  Frozen also offers that chance for Anna and Elsa, as the titular blizzard provides Arendelle with a blank canvas for our heroines to be themselves, without the pressures of society. , Anna is allowed to be feisty, head strong and passionate while Elsa is allowed to be smart, creative and powerful all without the restrictions laid upon them by their royal lineage. And through finding themselves in this world,they are able to understand each other better, allowing their sisterly bond to grow stronger and break the frozen curse that had befallen them.

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