3 ways #frozen gets it right about older sisters

You know I am the mother of a young daughter and therefore I was practically conscripted to see “Frozen” which…was not a chore at all.  In spite of the absurdly small waists and absurdly big doe eyes of the main characters Ana and Elsa, I enjoyed it immensely. I know you have all overdosed on the soundtrack and have gone back to watch it in 3D and you are SUCH a fangirl of the girl power message of the film, but, to quote Princess Anna, “Can I say something crazy?” Because I really think our heroine is Elsa. And here are 3 reasons why (spoiler alert):

1. Elsa gives up a life of interaction in order to shield her little sister Anna from harm.

This is what older sisters do. We have powers that can be used for good or evil–okay, so all of us do. By virtue of being an elder sister, though, we are endowed with a special blend of power and pressure. We pave the way for things. We break our parents in. We are the kids that they test their flashcards on, their ability to negotiate The Terms of Things with us. They tell us stuff, much of which we wish they didn’t. We overhear things and we work awfully hard, just like Elsa does, to shield our younger sibling(s) from these truths.

Anna doesn’t understand this and she gets all the sympathy when she has no one to help her build a snowman. What she doesn’t understand, of course, is that the person who can help her build the best snowman, to help her have the most fun making the coolest things, also has the power to destroy everything, and this is really really painful for older siblings. We want so much to be cool with everything, to give our sibs rides places and teach them stuff that no one else is going to teach them, but we know too much. We know the consequences and they are grave.

2. Elsa has to grieve alone, grow up alone, accept the throne alone.

Think about Princes William and Harry for a moment. Who’s allowed to be the baller? Who’s allowed to run amok in college, to keep calm and frat boy on?

Harry, right? He’s the younger one. He’s free to be. William, on the other hand, he’s no Free Willy. He has to be upstanding. Everyone knows he’s heir to the throne. He carries the burden of eldership, of mentorship. He can’t disgrace the crown in the same way a younger sibling can, a younger sibling who is not as accountable to the lineage as directly as big bro is.

Anna, as the younger sister, could conceivably have left the castle gates and pursued friendships and romantic relationships freely. Instead, we are led to believe that she stays inside the castle until Elsa’s coronation. Elsa, however, was quarantined to her room so as not to harm anyone with her powers to freeze minds and hearts.

I have felt this way for at least 3,004 years. As the oldest of my siblings and all of my cousins, I wish the I did not have to be the first one to leave home, to go to college, to get married, to have children. Okay, so I didn’t HAVE to do all those things. I could have waited, but I chose to do all those things when I did, and that was first in line (I think? Anyone else get secretly knocked up? I’ll find out somehow, I’m the oldest, afterall.) There’s just something appealing about someone else setting up shop in the Promised Land and sending you a postcard “Awaiting your arrival–xoxo, Your Older, Wiser Cousin.”

Anna is the supposed hero of the film because she saves Arendelle. But she’s also terribly hasty and impulsive and creates a whole lotta mess in her wake. Elsa abandons the kingdom, sure. But she also has the best of intentions in secluding herself because she knows a few things, like how you shouldn’t get engaged to some guy the same night you meet him at a party.

Older sisters, and maybe all older siblings, know they are under the microscope. They know their decisions can’t be rash because too many people are affected, too much residue will trickle down. Elsa is a neutral character in Hans Christian Andersen’s “Snow Queen” tale, but Elsa is rewritten as a protagonist in the Disney adaptation. In “Let it Go (The Reprise),” she tells Anna, “Go back home/Your life awaits/Go enjoy the sun and/Open up the gates.”  I just don’t think you can argue that it takes guts to live alone and it’s lonely at the top (of the mountain and the siblings pile).

3. Elsa still listens to Anna.

Her love for Anna does not trump her ability to pull rank on Anna. She listens and cares and knows that ceasing the eternal winter is her job. But she is not so arrogant as to say, “I’ve got this.” In fact, Elsa says the opposite. She doesn’t know how to cease winter. Still, she cares enough about her kingdom and her sister to leave the mountain where she is safe among her frozen sculptures to go try and remedy the deep freeze with Anna. This is also an accurate portrayal of elder sibling heroics. We know we are better with and because of our little sibs. They give us the courage to do what we need to do. They believe in us enough that we can carpe diem or carpe frozen, as the case may be.

I am forever indebted to my siblings for teaching me humility most especially, among other virtues. For loving me when I was and am undeserving. And for sitting with me in the 2nd row of “Frozen” along with my munchkins 🙂

 

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