Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Let it Go

The animated movie ‘Frozen’ craze has lasted longer than any typical Irish winter. This is primarily because it breaks the conventional Disney plot of ‘Princess meets Prince, Prince saves Princess from evil Villain, and Princess and Prince live happily ever after’.






Frozen actually empowers females, both young and old, by showing that two sisters can save each other without the need for a Prince.
The breakthrough of the advocacy of female independence in the Disney plot has seen ‘Frozen’ become one of the highest grossing animated films ever.
After watching it a few times I realised there was another reason why I loved it, and then I was hit with a whole different emotional avalanche when I discovered what it was.
I could relate my personal experience of my mental health struggles with this Disney movie.


Let me tell you why...
In Arendelle, young Princess Elsa has strong powers that enable
her to turn anything to Ice. Anna, Elsa’s younger sister adores her, and they play together until Elsa accidentally hits Anna on the head with her power and almost kills her. Their parents bring them to magic trolls in order to save Anna’s life and make her forget that her sister has any such powers. Elsa returns to the castle and shuts herself up in her room for fear of hurting Anna with her increasing power. Later, their parents die and on her coronation as Queen, Elsa is forced to open the gates of her castle to celebrate with the people. Anna meets Prince Hans at the party and wants to marry him. Elsa does not accept the marriage and loses control of her powers freezing the town of Arendelle. Elsa flees to the mountain and Anna teams up with the peasant Kristoff and his reindeer Sven and the snowman Olaf to seek out Elsa and plead with her to stop winter in July.

They find Elsa in her icy castle who tells Anna to leave due to the fear of hurting her again but she accidentally hits Anna in the heart. Only true love can save her sister from death. At the end of the movie it shows that the true love comes not from a Prince, but from the love and protection of her sister. Anna is saved as an‘act of true love that can thaw a frozen heart’ and realises that Elsa can save Arendelle.





After watching ‘Frozen’ I sat and I reflected on how remarkably well I could empathise with Elsa, an animated character with magical powers. Not that I have magical powers like Elsa, but because I too have a burden that I find hard to control.
I never thought I would be able to say that Disney, whether intentionally or not, has shed light on what it’s like to live with a mental health issue.
Elsa’s power is like our own mental health issues. We hear her power being called a “curse’’ and “sorcery’’. But it scares her, like the way we are frightened ourselves by what goes on in our minds.
Like Elsa, we don’t want to burden others and so can inadvertently hurt those closest to us. Elsa’s sister was made to forget and this brought more fear onto Elsa. As our fear grows, the negative power of our minds grow, and like Elsa, we isolate ourselves.
Similar to Elsa’s power there is a certain beauty of the mind. It’s like a snowflake, intricate but hard to understand, and can be painfully cold on us, just like ice.  
Society, like the trolls to Elsa, tells us “You must learn to control it. Fear will be your enemy.’’
Her Father tells Elsa “Conceal, don’t feel it, don’t let it show’’ which actually reinforces the belief of ‘I am different’, and causes more fear for Elsa.
There is a stigma placed on Elsa, just as there is one attached to ‘having a mental health difficulty’, which causes us to retreat from being ourselves due to fear and the belief that we are ‘different’. 
We create a prison for ourselves. Like Elsa who sits in cold ice, we sit in pain, not talking, becoming worse; sacrificing ourselves for the emotional safety of others and to bring no shame or fear.



As Elsa is expected to fulfil her duties and roles as Queen, we too, are expected to live normally. Since her parents have died we are also reminded that sometimes we are on our own to deal with our mental ill health, and that sometimes we have to rely on ourselves because others won’t understand.
During her coronation Elsa doesn’t want to take off her gloves because it will reveal what she wants to hide. Similarly, sometimes we fear having to take off our smiling masks as it may reveal our mind and our pain.
As Elsa’s power is revealed she is called a ‘monster’ by someone who doesn’t understand. She’s afraid of herself and she runs from others shouting “stay away from me’’, which reminds us that sometimes we don’t have to be told anything, we just have to see the fear and shock on other people’s faces. This causes Elsa to run away up into the mountain where she can be herself.
Elsa becomes isolated once again, she’s Queen of the kingdom of isolation but she’s happy because she is “alone and free” because society now knows and she decides to ‘let it go’. However, can we really be alone? Does the isolation not remind us of the sometimes cold and barren plain of mental illness?
We, like Elsa, feel the freedom and relief when we can be ourselves and when people know who we really are without having to hide anymore. Yet, we can become defensive and continue to push people away, but what we don’t realise is that friends and family are the ones who will actually save us. Anna’s love for Elsa makes her go up into the mountain and face obstacles to get to Elsa, and Anna tells Elsa “We’ll make the sun shine bright, we can face this thing together and everything will be alright.’’ But we don’t realise that pushing our loved ones away can actually hurt them, like Elsa hurts Anna. Over time, when things are at their worst, we realise that family and friends and people who won’t let us go are the people with the magic that saves us, and their “act of true love can thaw a frozen heart.”



We can be strong like Queen Elsa, but we’re stronger with our loved ones around us. We shouldn’t let society and its ideals of personality and pretences of sanity scare us from being who we truly are. We shouldn’t hide and we shouldn’t think we’re different, because we’re unique.

We soon realise that the support of those around us is actually stronger than the power of our mental illness, and that kind of support is magical. Just ‘Let it go... and rise like the break of dawn’’





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