My son is young enough that I did not need to endure the instant Disney classics of Frozen and Frozen 2. I chose this journey because I seek to understand the most successful commercial property for children in my lifetime. I like to know what my son will be taught by the stories of his lifetime.
In the kingdom of Arendelle, at the heart of a fjord in some far northern place, some time in the past, two girls find themselves at the center of ruling a kingdom. I find the strange circumstances that would put children too young to drive at the heart of power and order in a society. Ownership of whole kingdoms passes unchcecked and unchallenged from one generation to another despite the girls being far too young for such responsibility. The abuse that is put upon them, when they are young, locking Elsa away for her powers, closing the palace walls to all who would come in, to protect the secrets of a family is a reminder of the consequences of putting impossible power into the nuclear family. Every family has secrets, but kingdoms should not. This decision towards secrecy does not prepare the girls for the world they will be ruling. When the first eligible boy arrives, Anna falls head over heels, and immediately is engaged to marry him. When Elsa goes missing, devastating her own kingdom with her own magic, it is the whim of a ruler to destroy everything she owns, and the suffering of her people isn’t enough to stop anything. Her sister has to stop her, is the only one who can. The people behind them, living in the wake of these young women, are pushed from one disaster to another, and struggle to survive without the leadership they are trained to desire.
Of course, in the first of the series, the sisterly love triumphs over all, and the queen controls her emotions, and by extension her powers, enough to return to the kingdom as rightful ruler. In ruling the emotions they feel, and finding the truth of them, people are able to more authentically and successfully live their lives in this world of dangerous magic and primogeniture. It ultimately brings peace to their kingdoms, and the world of nature returns to balance. How typical that the health of the kingdom’s rulers is tied to the health of the land, itself, as if the land existed to be ruled, and owned. The whole world and skies and seas bend to the magic of ownership by a rightful ruler, and the mental health of that ruler, their fulfillment in life, drives wealth for the kingdom and a safe, normal cycle of seasons. What a lesson to teach our children, then, in these unimaginable times: To heal the world one must first heal the kings and queens. I would prefer to live in a kingdom where it did not matter if the sisters reunited in love and harmony for my own safety.
The second film releases as all of us are waiting for our happily ever after in our homes and facemasks. It opens with a flashback that also contains a flashback, as Anna and Elsa’s royal father tells his young daughters a story of an enchanted forest where their grandfather died, and then their mother sings them a lullaby about a magic river. Both will feature prominently in the things to come. Once again, a kingdom is placed under grave threat because of the magic of their ruler, who feels out of place and uncertain. Soon, the kingdom is at threat to a mighty environmental/magical disaster that cannot be explained adequately, but everyone must evacuate before the whole city is destroyed. They wait while all of their legitimate rulers wander off into the forest together to go face some unimaginable threat. The leadership left behind them are forest trolls who are expected to sort of watch over the gathered people on a cliff, and make sure none of them go back to the city until it is safe. On a scale of 1-10 leadership quality scale, I’d rate this somewhere in the negative. It was, ironically, how in the previous film, a bad ex-boyfriend was nearly able to usurp the throne of Arendelle. But, with all competent and recognized leadership wandering off alone into the forest, including their magical snowman friend, one wonders what kind of rulers these must be. They prioritize the family over the people. Their feelings are the heart of their leadership style. These are despots, then. Adorable, magical, friendly despots.
Further into the woods, when old king’s guards are found alongside tribesmen they have been fighting endlessly for over thirty years, the loyal guards are still loyal to the king and kingdom that abandoned them. Their armor is still polished, and their swords and minds and bodies all sharp. The queen is able to tame the dangerous forces of magic, one after another, while they learn the truth of their family history. Of course, it is easily rectified. A single dam is all it takes to open up the fog of unknowing, heal the forest, and return magic to a place of grace and security. How simple, this environmental recovery, and how conveniently connected to the life and worth of rulers, who once again find their relationship as important as the war they fight and the world they try to heal.
It is a story we are telling our children, then. To heal the world, one must heal the self. One must learn the truth, and break it free, and do the right thing. What is this message to us, now, when oil is upside-down, we have had to close the schools, and our king is mad with a madness obvious to anyone without a vested financial interest in his continued madness. Should we heal the king to heal our kingdom? Should we be concerned about the relationship with his sons and daughter on the road to national healing? What would that do for any of us? The city is closed, but the flowers open, and the world breathes with clear skies for the first time in a long, long time, and we are expected to heal ourselves to heal the world, when a return to the way things were will only make the world sick.
Olaf and Sven, the goofy sidekicks of the series, fumble and stumble and run after children who rule the world, reflecting their madness and folly, confused and frightened and brave. What else can we do? We are the imaginary characters in the whim of kings and princesses and their quest for personal fulfillment.